Friday, December 13, 2013

Area law enforcement officials meet to discuss bicycle and pedestrian safety efforts

Thanks to Commissioner Pendergrass and the Lee MPO staff for organizing the first ever meeting of local law enforcement leaders from all jurisdictions to begin a dialogue about bike/ped safety and enforcement issues, as part of implementation of the MPO's Bike/Ped Safety Action Plan.

At the request of Commissioner Pendergrass, the Lee MPO hosted a coordination meeting on December 10th concerning bicycle and pedestrian safety with local law enforcement agencies.  All local law enforcement agencies were represented (except Cape Coral), including the State Attorney for District 20.  In addition to law enforcement, there was strong representation from FDOT District 1, along with public attendees from the Injury Prevention Coalition (IPC), LMHS Trauma Center, Stay Alive...Just Drive! (SAJD), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and BikeWalkLee.  MPO Chairman Ruane also attended. This meeting was intended to start a conversation with local law enforcement agencies on enforcement and education activities to help improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. 

FDOT representatives highlighted their Alert Today Alive Tomorrow bike/ped safety campaign and their strong commitment to bring about change from the top down, with FDOT District 1 Secretary, Billy Hattaway, charged with leading the statewide campaign.  FDOT is providing training opportunities for law enforcement officials in bike/ped safety, providing various materials for distribution, and making grant opportunities available.  FDOT emphasized the importance of combining enforcement and education into one strategy, since research has shown that with an enforcement alone strategy you can make a 5% improvement and with an education only strategy you can make another 5% improvement.  However, when you combine them, you can get a 25% improvement.

MPO Executive Director Don Scott presented data on the bike/ped fatalities and serious injuries in Lee County and the historical trend lines and geographic locations.  The MPO's consulting team from Tindale Oliver made a presentation about the region-wide enforcement strategy undertaken in the Tampa Bay area and the results.  The first step in developing an enforcement strategy is analysis of the crash data.  Then the Tampa Bay team focused their enforcement efforts at the high crash corridor locations, on the types of violations that caused the crashes, and at the time of day/season that most of the crashes occurred.

The areas that were targeted for enforcement were also the focus of targeted education efforts as well as quick infrastructure fixes.  By focusing on the three tools in specific geographic spots, they could most quickly get results in reducing crashes.  The consultants also talked about the role that the University of South Florida played through their "Walk Wise" program for education and public outreach, making presentations to community groups throughout the region.

There was discussion about federal and state grant opportunities for bike/ped enforcement initiatives. Lee law enforcement agencies were encouraged to apply and FDOT committed to helping facilitate the process.  As a follow-up to the meeting, Lee County Sheriff's office is now developing a grant application for an FDOT grant.

It was agreed that the next step was to convene a meeting of all the law enforcement agencies again in February for a working session to review the 2013 bike/ped crashes (with focus on fatalities and serious injuries). This workshop will focus on assessing what remedial actions could be taken to prevent crashes there in the future.  The idea is to bring a broad set of stakeholders--from law enforcement, engineers, hospital trauma centers, educators, CTST members, advocates, to insurance industry representatives--to brainstorm and think outside the box to identify a range of solutions.

There's a lot of work ahead, but the meeting was an important first step in beginning to address Lee County's high bike/ped fatality and injury numbers.

Report by Darla Letourneau

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