Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, November 6, 2019
Crystal, my guide, herself visually impaired, was also using a white-tipped cane but I knew I was in good hands. Nonetheless, as was the case for all of my fellow blindfolded pedestrians, it was quite harrowing and an informative experience.
This exercise - part of the annual White Cane Awareness Day - was one I’ve took part in a few years ago, yet it was no less stressful or impactful this time. I’ve also participated in a similar undertaking while in a wheelchair, blindfolded and with ear plugs in (not simultaneously), all to experience firsthand what folks with certain significant limitations must deal with on a daily basis simply to get around in the public space.
|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
Design and construction of what’s on the ground is one thing, but the way we treat each other on our roads and pathways is even more important and is something that has an immediate affect compared to awaiting infrastructure improvements. Realizing that our society is an aging one in terms of the overall number of those over 65 means more of us will have health and cognitive issues that have us moving slower and otherwise compromises our ability to react as efficiently as had once been the case.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “In less than two decades, the graying of America will be inescapable: Older adults are projected to outnumber kids for the first time in U.S. history.” Add to the mix very young children who don’t always make the best decisions and that equates to a lot of people out and about who are even more vulnerable than the average non-motorist. As we operate our two- to four-ton potential killing machines - otherwise known as our cars and trucks - we should always keep this in mind.
Specific to those with visual impairments, I’m reminded of the lack of awareness among drivers who encounter those with obvious visual impairments each time I teach the bike/pedestrian portion of the High Risk Driver class, a course that’s facilitated by Lee Health’s Trauma Center. When I cover the law that addresses what a driver is required to do when someone with a white-tipped cane or guide dog makes it clear they want to cross a street it’s rare that even one of the court-ordered attendees is aware of the law.
So, for everyone’s sake, here is Florida statute 316.1301(2): “Whenever a pedestrian is crossing, or attempting to cross, a public street or highway, guided by a dog guide or carrying in a raised or extended position a cane or walking stick which is white in color or white-tipped with red, the driver of every vehicle approaching the intersection or place where the pedestrian is attempting to cross shall bring his or her vehicle to a full stop before arriving at such intersection or place of crossing and, before proceeding, shall take such precautions as may be necessary to avoid injuring such pedestrian.” That’s similar to what is required of drivers when a school bus has its red lights flashing.
Bottom line: As drivers we should treat all others we share the public space with as we’d like to be treated and always keep in mind what limitations vulnerable road users may have that could compromise their abilities - even when it’s not as obvious as using a white-tipped cane or wheelchair. And remember that it will likely be you and me who are in that compromised position at some point.
To learn about this topic and more, visit bikewalklee.blogspot.com and www.streetsaliveswfl.org.¦
For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (caloosariders.org); Florida Mudcutters (mudcutters.org); and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL). The Florida Bicycle Association (floridabicycle.org) is your source for statewide happenings. BikeWalkLee’s blog site has all the information you’ll need to stay abreast of advocacy efforts in Southwest Florida as well as statewide and nationally.