As a follow-up to the Dec. 10th bike/ped safety law enforcement officials meeting, Commissioner Pendergrass wrote a commentary in today's News-Press about the need for a sustained combined education and enforcement campaign. BWL appreciates Commissioner Pendergrass' leadership on this important effort.
|Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass|
Special to news-press.com
Too many pedestrians and bicyclists are dying on Lee County roads — 21 pedestrians and nine bicyclists so far this year. Lee County is in the top 10 for worst safety record in Florida, and Florida is the worst in the nation. [DJL Note: as of 12/22/13, there have been 22 pedestrian and 3 bicyclist fatalities.]
In an effort to change this statistic, I scheduled a meeting to discuss the issue earlier this month with representatives from each law enforcement agency in Lee County along with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the Metropolitan Planning Organization, Lee Memorial Trauma Center, and citizen advocates including Darla Letourneau of Bike/Walk Lee and members of the Injury Prevention Coalition.
Lee County has made a commitment to safety for our residents by implementing the Complete Streets concept, which provides for adding curbing and sidewalks to our road projects. These changes are intended to make the roads safe for all travelers, no matter how they’re traveling. In Lee County, half of all pedestrian-involved crashes happen when pedestrians are attempting to cross the roadway — with 10 percent of those occurring at a light.
My goal is to encourage a sustained education campaign combined with an enforcement campaign. Around the country, this has proven to be the most effective strategy for change. Think back to the “Click It or Ticket” campaign to encourage seat belt use.
FDOT has initiated a statewide safety campaign called “Alert Today Alive Tomorrow” and has many resources available. They have pledged to assist our law enforcement agencies in applying for grants to facilitate safety enforcement initiatives. Our own Sheriff Mike Scott is already on a statewide task force focusing on this problem, and our District One secretary of Transportation, Billy Hattaway, is the statewide lead for FDOT’s safety campaign — so we have local resources. Now we need a coordinated effort and a commitment from everyone to make this a priority.
In Lee County, we are fortunate to enjoy beautiful weather for biking or walking most of the year. Let’s make the most of it by making it safer for people to be out there moving around. So what can you do? The easiest thing is to be alert to what’s going on around you. If you’re walking or bicycling and wearing earphones, leave one down so you can hear oncoming traffic and respond appropriately.
And next time you’re out driving, take a minute to observe bicyclists and pedestrians around you. When you pull up to an intersection, make sure there is no one waiting to cross before you pull into traffic or initiate that right turn. If you’re out riding a bike, ride with traffic — not against it. In Lee County, 73 percent of bicycle accidents occur when the cyclist is facing oncoming traffic.
Bicycle and pedestrian safety affects the whole county. Accidents are not concentrated in one area over another. Let’s reverse this statistic. Talk to your kids, your spouse, your neighbors and your local law enforcement.
I am committed to making Lee County a model for a well-run government with a vibrant economy and a great standard of living. Making our roads safe for everyone is part of that commitment. I will be asking the stakeholders to commit to quarterly meetings to keep this safety campaign in the forefront of everyone’s mind. Let’s do this!
Cecil L. Pendergrass is District 2 Lee County commissioner.