This week's Dan Moser column in Florida Weekly. Click here for one-pager with all who/what/when/how to report (keep this handy).
It happened on a recent weekday afternoon as I was bicycling east on
North Colonial Linear Park, approaching Trailhead Park and the trail’s
intersection with Veronica Shoemaker Boulevard.
I saw a southbound black pickup stopped in the outside lane at the
crosswalk for two bicyclists who were heading west toward me and
awaiting a safe crossing opportunity in the median.
A number of southbound vehicles continued to (illegally) pass the
pickup by going around in the inside lane until a white minivan finally
stopped, allowing the cyclists to proceed. Just as the two cyclists
realized it was safe and entered the crosswalk I noticed a fully loaded
flatbed semi-truck coming from the north at full speed, the driver
obviously unaware of the two stopped vehicles and bicyclists now well
into the crosswalk.
of adequate crosswalk enhancements, landscaping that creates visual
barriers, high-speed roadway design and an unwarranted curve in the
highway make the North Colonial Linear Park crossing difficult and
as the semi was about to rear-end the van or pickup, it appeared the
driver decided to split the difference and positioned his truck between
the two lanes as he simultaneously hit the brakes.
Fortunately, immediately before impact, the pickup driver, seeing
that the two cyclists had barely cleared the crosswalk, accelerated. At
that moment the semi hit the right-rear side of the van and the left
rear of the pickup. All three vehicles came to a stop near the park’s
driveway entrance just downstream.
I was now at the scene and met the two bicyclists as they peeked
behind them and heard the commotion. The looks on their faces made clear
they realized just how close they’d come to death or at least serious
When all parties were gathered at the stopped vehicles I let everyone
know I’d observed the entire thing develop, well before the semi
entered the picture. Once police arrived I reiterated my statement to
them as well and that the semi driver was clearly at fault — most likely
distracted as he approached the crosswalk, one he’s driven across many
times on a regular basis, a fact I later learned.
Having no sympathy for an inattentive driver — especially a
professional driver familiar with the area — there’s something other
than driver misbehavior at play at this popular trail crossing.
North Colonial Linear Park was constructed with federal funds over 20
years ago. Because of that, the city should have given the linear park
preference when it built Veronica Shoemaker about 10 years later. That
would have been the case if the highway’s original route were used,
because it would have had to fly over a water management structure
adjacent to the trail, allowing users to proceed under the highway.
Instead, the city made a deal with property owners that provided them
better access to the highway in exchange for property that allowed for
the use of a box culvert by jogging the highway around the weir. The
curve is at the worse place it could be: right where the linear park
Bike/ped advocates fought to force the roadway overpass based on the
federal requirement that a park built by certain funds could not be
negatively impacted by a roadway project but the city refused to
acknowledge the requirement and essentially ignored it. Later efforts to
have the crosswalk enhanced with flashing beacons and additional
roadway warning signs were also deemed unnecessary by top city staff. To
add to the problem, landscaping was placed in the median that obstructs
the view for both motorists and crosswalk users. Finally, because of
the highway being over-designed for the posted 40 mph speed limit,
drivers routinely travel 10-15 mph over that limit.
If want to see improvements made, contact the city manager at 321-7022 or email@example.com. ¦
- Dan Moser is a long-time bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic
safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for
transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and 334-6417.