Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Dan Moser's Florida Weekly Column: Pedestrians and cyclists need help
When I’m asked what I do for a living I’m often at a loss to put a label on it, even among those who know how involved I am in bicycle and pedestrian matters. But one thing I don’t claim to be is a public safety first responder, a job much more important and difficult than mine.
Whatever capacity I’m working in on a given project or task, be it human service worker, traffic safety professional, injury prevention specialist, nonprofit organization program manager, public policy geek or citizen advocate, it frequently involves interaction with firefighters, EMS, state troopers, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, code enforcement officers and fire marshals, all who have my highest respect and appreciation. In fact, many of my closest friends work in or are retired from one of those honorable professions.
That being stated, over the decades of doing what I do I’m disappointed to say that those of us who are the most vulnerable on our roads are being shortchanged by law enforcement when it comes to protecting us from injury and death, as well as how matters are handled after we are involved in a crash.
From the time I worked in the injury prevention program at a public health agency, where dissecting crash data in order to determine countermeasures to prevent future injury and death was among my duties, I became acutely aware of the second-class treatment non-motorists receive in crash investigations. Law enforcement agencies (some are worse offenders than others) seem to operate under the premise that our roadways and bridges are first and foremost for motor vehicles, thus nonmotorists have some degree of fault when a crash occurs simply by virtue of being where we don’t belong. This mindset must change or Florida’s dubious distinction of being the most dangerous state for cyclists and pedestrians in the country will continue.
Stating this, I’m risking my working relationship with some in law enforcement who will take it personally. But those of us who are striving to improve conditions for exposed road users (and there are many) aren’t looking to criticize for the sake of criticism, but rather offering our expertise and insight to help solve a chronic problem. I’d like to think anyone who’s truly committed to doing the same will look to us as a resource and take advantage of what we offer rather than consider us whiners and discontents who are only trying to justify the unpredictable behavior sometimes practiced by the vulnerable among us.
To that last point, one of the reasons pedestrians and cyclists frequently break traffic rules is self-preservation. Our sometimes-risky behavior results, in part, from poor design, but primarily from motorists’ lack of adherence to laws that are in place to allow vulnerable road users to safely and efficiently share the same space. If drivers operated the way our laws require — with the utmost due care and highest level of responsibility because of the potential for injury and death the motor vehicle is capable of inflicting (see FSS section 316) — and if police, deputies, and troopers enforced those basic legal requirements, pedestrians and cyclists wouldn’t need to get creative just to get across the street. Some of the most problematic motorist infractions, such as failing to stop on red before making a right turn, parking on sidewalks, and ignoring the stop bar so as to obstruct the crosswalk, are but a few that are easily enforced because they are so obvious and common. So, too, are cyclists riding against traffic, failing to stop at red traffic signals and having no lights when required. Post-crash investigation issues are another matter altogether and need to be reexamined.
My plea is for our law enforcement agencies to take us up on our offer to assist them in doing their job. We’re not attempting to tell you how to do it, only to help you better understand our plight and the frustration we face so you can make our roads safer and easier for all users to navigate. Granted, law enforcement is only part of the solution, but it’s a vital element that clearly needs improvement. Locally, the Lee County Injury Prevention Coalition (www.leecountyinjuryprevention.org) would be a great place to jump-start the process.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails.
— Dan Moser is a league cycling & CyclingSavvy instructor/ trainer and programs director for the Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334- 6417.
Running/Walking: ¦ Edison Fest 5K, Saturday, Feb. 18, Downtown Fort Myers (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com) ¦ Hooters Half Marathon, Sunday, March 4, Fort Myers Hooters @ Edison Mall (www.hootershalfmarathon.com) ¦ Lehigh Spring Fest 4-Miler, Saturday, March 17, Lehigh Acres (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com) For more Lee County running events visit Fort Myers Track Club (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com) and 3-D Racing (www.3dracinginc.com). Cycling & Other Events: ¦ Royal Palm Ride, Sunday, March 4, Buckingham Park (www.caloosariders.com) ¦ Fight for Air Climb, Saturday, April 28, High Point Place, Downtown Fort Myers (http:// www.lungusa.org/pledge-events/fl/fort-myersclimb fy12/) Visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club at www.caloosariders.com.