Thursday, December 5, 2013

BikeWalkLee: Pedestrian safety is a two-way street

Pedestrian safety is always important, especially in Southwest Florida. / Getty Images/NP

 This week's BWL column focuses on pedestrian safety and what both parties--drivers and walkers--can do to avoid calamity.

The recent rise in pedestrian fatalities on Lee County roadways is reason enough for concern, but the promise of more traffic in the months to come could mean local streets will be even more deadly.
This is wrong for many reasons – Number 1 being that people are dying or being seriously injured, of course. 

But accepting these fatalities and life-altering injuries as the price of more cars and more walkers is also wrong… because it implies that the answer is either fewer cars (like that’s going to happen) or fewer walkers, a sad outcome with multiple bad consequences for our community.

It also sends a message that walking isn’t safe or valued in this area, which will discourage those who want to walk and endanger those who have to walk. In an area with the climate to make walking a year-round activity and one that’s been working to improve its bike/ped infrastructure, having walking perceived as being less safe is a major step backwards.

Speaking of steps, what can both parties in this problem — drivers and walkers — do to avoid calamity (and worse) when their travels intersect?

For walkers, we resurrect the three “B’s”:

Be seen: Wear clothing that stands out, rather than blends in. If you’re walking at night, carry illumination so traffic can see you. If vegetation near an intersection or driveway might obscure a driver’s ability to see you, make sure they actually do know you’re there before entering their path.

Be smart: Notice your surroundings and any hazards. Be able to hear traffic as well as see it (ideally meaning don’t use an iPod, or at least don’t have it up so high you can’t hear anything else). Don’t be a distracted walker, too busy talking or texting to watch what’s happening around you. Crossing a road at a crosswalk is usually safer than crossing mid-block, but if you are going to cross away from an intersection be extra cautious… traffic is moving faster, and drivers are not expecting you.

Be predictable: Walk at a consistent pace if you’re in a traffic-heavy area or crossing at an intersection. Don’t dart into traffic and surprise a driver, who may be distracted. Don’t start crossing a road or intersection then pause in the middle to ponder what comes next… because what comes next might be you getting hit by a car.

Motorists have their own trio of recommendations:

• Pay attention. More than just working with walkers, it’s a good general rule of thumb. Driving is too important to be done while distracted, and the consequences of a momentary lapse can be fatal… for you and the other people using the same road corridor. If what you’re doing takes your attention away from the road for more than a second, then stop doing it and just drive. Pedestrians, pedalers and passengers will appreciate your attentiveness.

Remember who you are. You’re encased in a two-ton block of metal, plastic, and glass, which means you stop slower, go faster and can do much more damage than any walkers on the road. And you’re also the one who’s supposed to yield the right-of-way to walkers… even when they are technically in the wrong.

Expect the worst. If you see walkers along the side of the road, give them some room, If you are approaching an intersection at the same time as pedestrians or cyclists, be ready to stop. If you’re driving near a school or playground or by a crowded sidewalk, drive as if you expect someone to dart into your path. That way, you’ll be ready if they do, and pleasantly surprised when they don’t.

Safety is a two-way street, something all users have to work at to make improvements. But it’s possible to share the road without inconveniencing any of the users... and, since we’re all pedestrians at some point during the day, the good example you set today behind the wheel could help keep you safer when you step out of your car.

Upcoming events


Saturday: River Run 10K, downtown Fort Myers (
Sunday: Everyone Runs, JetBlue Park. 5K and half marathon (
Saturday, Dec. 14: Rotary Park 5K, Cape Coral. (
Sunday, Jan. 5: River Roots and Ruts, half marathon and 5K fun run, Caloosahatchee Regional Park, Alva (
Saturday, Jan. 11: Mud Run, to benefit Golisano Children’s Hospital. 3-mile adult run, 0.5- and 1-mile kid’s runs. Red Neck Yacht Club, Punta Gorda (
Sunday, March 2: Hooters Half Marathon, Fort Myers (

Cycling & other events:
Sunday, Dec. 8: Everyone Rides, JetBlue Park. 15-, 30-, 62- and 100-mile rides (
Saturday-Sunday, Jan. 18-19, Tour de Cape, Cape Harbour Resort, Cape Coral (
Sunday, March 16: Royal Palm Classic, organized by the Caloosa Riders, details to come (

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