Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Dan Moser's Florida Weekly column: More about responsibility and use of public rights of way
As I wrote in my last column, Lee Memorial Health System’s Trauma Center provides a twice-monthly class for traffic law offenders who are dubbed “high risk” by the court. Also offered once a month is a Young Driver Program, a short version of the other that’s intended for 15-21-year-olds (parents are encouraged to participate as well). As part of the team that teaches the courses, my part is twofold: help attendees get around using means other than a car, and remind them of the huge responsibility — especially toward the most vulnerable road users — that comes with the privilege to operate a motor vehicle.
The underlying theme for each of the presenters is personal responsibility. This column will highlight a few key facts and laws that apply to motorists that are included in my portion of both courses. To me, three laws make clear this obligation to drive in a safe manner:
1. “Any person operating a vehicle upon the streets or highways within the state shall drive the same in a careful and prudent manner, having regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic and all other attendant circumstances, so as not to endanger the life, limb or property of any person.” (Florida State Statute 316.1925)
2. “Speed shall be controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person… regardless of posted speed” (FSS 316.185)
3. “... exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian or humanpowered vehicle and give warning when necessary and exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused or incapacitated person.” (FSS 316.130)
Other laws and definitions are also telling: All intersections have crosswalks across all roads, unless specifically signed otherwise. Except in rare circumstances, all streets have “sidewalks” on both sides. The legal definition of a sidewalk is the area between the roadway edge and the right of way line (in other words, crosswalks are continuations of the sidewalks across the intersection and exist at every intersection and across all roads, even when unmarked).
One very important law for all motorists to know is that the prohibition of passing in a no-passing zone does not apply when an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway. That means that bicycles may be passed by motorists in no-passing zones when the cyclist is traveling significantly below posted speed and when safe to do so. Additionally, 3 feet is the minimum legal distance that must be granted when passing a cyclist, but more distance should be given when speeds are higher than 30 mph.
We’re all familiar with the phrase “speed kills.” Well, here’s the reality: A pedestrian’s risk of death when struck by a motor vehicle at 20 mph is 15 percent, at 30 mph is 45 percent, and at 40 mph is 85 percent. I think we can all agree that it’s very common in both neighborhoods and business areas for drivers to be traveling at 30 mph or higher, regardless of the posted speed limit. That doesn’t bode well for our children, elders or anyone who shares the public space with two-ton machines. Please remember these numbers the next time you’re behind the wheel.
BikeWalkLee’s gathering at Lakes Park last month was a big success. Many folks came out to provide their ideas, complaints, and praise to those who are developing our bike/ped master plan. Thanks to everyone who came out.
Thursday, April 8, is our annual Florida Bike Summit at the state capitol (www. floridabicycle.org/joinus/summit). I’ll have a report for the next column.
ProBike/ProWalk Florida takes place in Lakeland next month. Kevin Mills, vice president of policy for Rails-to- Trails Conservancy, is one of the keynote speakers who will talk about how advocacy efforts impact the resources we receive from various sources. I hope you’ll consider attending (www.floridabicycle.org/probikeprowalk).
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails.
— Dan Moser is league cycling instructor/ trainer and program manager for Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitn e s. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 334-6417.
>>Running/Walking: • Eagle Valor 5K Road Race & Trail Run, Saturday, April 17, FGCU, Fort Myers (www. ftmyerstrackclub.com)
• For more Lee County running events, visit Fort Myers Track Club (www.ftmyerstrackclub. com) and 3-D Runners (www.3dracinginc. com). For Naples/Collier running, info it’s the Gulf Coast Runners (www.gcrunner. org). Charlotte County running information is at www.zoomersrun.com. Walkers can visit www.meetup.com/Walking-SWFL.
>>Cycling: • Ride for the Red (Cross), Saturday, April 17, Charlotte County (www.FLWestCoastRed- Cross.org)
• Florida Bicycle Safari, April 17-22, Live Oak (www.floridabicyclesafari.com)
• Fight For Air Challenge, May 1, www.fightforairclimbftmyers.org.