Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dan Moser's Florida Weekly column: Having the right of way comes with responsibility

Data confirms that we have problems on our roads: high crash and fatality rates have been the norm for many years here. Some of the reasons for this are regularly revealed at Lee Memorial’s Health System’s Trauma Center’s twice-monthly class for traffic infraction offenders who are dubbed “high risk” and who are court-ordered to the course. After almost three years of being part of the team that teaches this eight-hour class, my observation is that personal responsibility is the key thing missing from the public’s mindset when it comes to use of the public right of way.

One way for new drivers to avoid ever having to attend the High Risk Driver class is for 15-21-year-olds to take advantage of the Young Driver Program (parents are encouraged to participate as well). The course is free; it’s funded by the high-risk drivers. Call 336-6797 to inquire and register.

My twofold purpose in both classes is to help attendees get around using means other than a car and remind them of the huge responsibility that comes with the privilege to operate a potential weapon. This column and my next will look at a few key laws and concepts included in my portion of the courses. This week I’ll focus on pedestrians and cyclists, next week on motorists.

..Laws and tips for cyclists and walkers. In Florida, the bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle. Bicyclists have the same rights to the roadway and must obey the same traffic laws as the operators of other vehicles. These laws include stopping for stop signs and red lights, riding with the flow of traffic, using lights at night and yielding the right of way when entering a roadway.

When riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks, a bicyclist has the same rights and duties as a pedestrian. A bicyclist riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks must yield the right of way to pedestrians and must give an audible signal before passing.

Local jurisdictions may ban bicycles from sidewalks (the core of downtown Fort Myers and the river side of West First Street have such a ban)

Pedestrians must use sidewalks when provided. Use crosswalks when available and practical. Walk facing traffic when using the roadway or shoulder. When crossing mid-block, pedestrians must yield to vehicles. Headphones, texting, and other distractions only increase vulnerability, so don’t use them.

Think twice before taking a chance. Here’s a pedestrian’s increased risk of death when struck by a motor vehicle at various speeds: 20 Mph equals 15 percent; 30 Mph equals 45 percent; 40 Mph equals 85 percent.

Advocacy news. A reminder that BikeWalkLee will be offering bike/ped safety sessions and the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization and its consultant, RWA, will be taking your input on the county’s bike/ ped master plan that’s currently under development at an open house on Sunday, March 28. It’s being held at Lakes Park in Shelter B-2, located near the main driveway entrance, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. We hope you’ll ride your bike, run, walk or even drive there to be part of our gathering. There’s no charge, except for parking (if you don’t have a parks pass).

The Florida Bicycle Association is hosting its second annual Bike Summit at the state capitol in Tallahassee on Thursday, April 8. Anyone who would like to get a first-hand look at how our state government works while in session, and who wants to send a message to our elected officials about the bike/ ped environment in Florida, should make the trip — it’s an experience you’ll be glad you had. Go to www.floridabicycle. org/joinus/summit.html for details and to register. 

— Dan Moser is league cycling instructor/ trainer and program manager for Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at or 334-6417.

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