The News-Press, 8/2/2018
by Ken Gooderham
What makes an area a safe area to bike? Two recent reports share some insights into the matter.
Your Local Security, a blog for home security company ADT, compiled the safest and most dangerous cycling cities. Using data gathered from the U.S. Census Bureau, People for Bikes, the League of American Bicyclists, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Association for 790 U.S. cities, they weighed local cycling laws, fatalities, infrastructure, and more.
The actual list matters less than the criteria and explanation to buttress their findings. Said the report: “The trends for the best cycling cities included more bike laws than the national average, a higher percentage of commuters, and a lower percentage of fatal cyclist crashes.”
(For those keeping score, the best biking areas were heavily West Coast and enlightened urban areas. The worst? Los Angeles, NCY and a mix of Midwest metropolises.)
How would our area score? Well, we know we’re among the top most dangerous places for pedestrians, so let’s look at the report criteria to see how we might be ranked:
Local cycling laws & support: Probably stuck in the middle. Our state has a 3-foot law for cyclists, but not much else. Lee County has worked to develop and connect bike facilities (which helps), but local municipalities have really carried the weight on this issue while unincorporated areas often lag behind.
Bike commuters: Weak. If there is safety in numbers (as most data suggests), then the very low number of regular (commuter) cyclists pushes the safety level down. The upside is that some of our communities – Sanibel and Cape Coral come to mind – have strong cycling infrastructure. That encourages more riders (especially during season, when you can make more headway on a bike than in a car), which translates into more cyclists on the roads and paths and more awareness of them by drivers.
Fatal cyclist crashes: Waxes and wanes. Some years we have a lot of fatalities, others years drop off… which probably means it’s driven by skills (or the lack thereof) for both cyclists and drivers, and not by safer facilities or more rigorous enforcement of laws.
A different report – Places For Bikes compiled by People For Bikes – weighed five categories:
• Ridership: How many people in a community bike.
• Safety: Fatalities and injuries to cyclists and pedestrians
• Network: Connectivity and usefulness of the bike facilities.
• Reach: How will all members of the community are served.
• Acceleration: How fast is progress in infrastructure and safety being achieved.
For the state, St. Petersburg ranked the highest (just out of the Top 20 overall), followed by Miami and Tallahassee. The only local municipality included in the ranking was Estero, which came in slightly below the middle of the pack. It ranked higher in safety and lower in ridership and network, with no rating for acceleration. (Too bad Cape Coral and Sanibel weren’t included, as they should have come in higher than Estero… while the rest of Lee County would be lower.)
Again, look at the criteria as the key. More riders, a more connected network of facilities, more equitable benefits across the community spectrum and solid signs of progress are the way to make an area safer for cyclists – and, frankly, for any road user.
That’s good news for, as was mentioned in coverage about the first study, no city has to settle for today’s low ranking when it can invest, educate and encourage its way down the path to a better (safer) ranking.
That’s something our elected officials should find beneficial to our area and its residents and visitors. Safety sells, and good bike facilities are a good draw to visitors as well as residents.
Ready to ride or run?Run? Two runs upcoming: The Cape 5K at Jaycee Park Aug. 9 at 7 a.m. (3dracinginc.com); and the next Fort Myers Track Club Summer Social, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Lazy Flamingo in Fort Myers (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
Ride? Critical Mass rides ahead include the original SW Florida ride Friday night in downtown Fort Myers, the NE Lee ride on Aug. 10 and the Sanibel ride Aug. 11. Lights required for night rides, helmets recommended for all; details at http://www.meetup.com/Biking-SWFL/events/. You can also join the no-drop Wakey, Wakey! Sunday morning ride leaving from Fort Myers Trek. The ride is sanctioned by the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club, so helmets are required, no ear buds, and no aero bar use while in the group.
Both? Upcoming events include:
- Saturday, Aug. 11: Naples Junior Tri, 8 a.m., North Collier Regional Park (gcrunner.org)
- Saturday, Sept. 8: Venice Sprint Triathlon, Sharkey’s on the Pier, Venice (active.com)
- Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 15-16: Galloway Captiva Tri, with the kids’ events (three age groups) Saturday and the sprint tri Sunday. (captivatri.org)
- Saturday, Sept. 22: (“The Original”) Siesta Key Sprint Triathlon, Siesta Key (trifind.com)
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RIDE:Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at email@example.com, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.
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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at www.BikeWalkLee.org.