Sunday, November 16, 2014

Guest Opinion: Focus for FDOT is reducing bicyclist, pedestrian deaths

Thanks to FDOT officials, Billy Hattaway and DeWayne Carver, for today's News-Press Guest Opinion on bike/ped safety.  In addition to sharing the article below, we're sharing the letter we sent to MPO Board Members and shared with many other officials and partners, urging all the stakeholders involved in bike/ped safety to commit to making bike/ped safety a top priority.

On Sun, Nov 16, 2014 at 8:13 AM, Darla Letourneau wrote:

MPO Board Members:

Today's News-Press featured a guest opinion by FDOT District 1 Secretary Billy Hattaway and FDOT Statewide Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator DeWayne Carver, in response to recent letters to the editor about bicycle fatalities and what can be done to stop these tragedies from occurring.  As the op ed states, "We will have the greatest success when we change roadway users' behaviors through a combination of engineering, education, and enforcement." The article focuses on some of the recently discussed concerns in Lee County--wrong-way riding, riding at night without lights, the 3-foot minimum law for passing bicyclists, the right of cyclists to control the travel lane when appropriate, the need to share the road, and the critical need for enforcement efforts.

There have been 8 bicyclist fatalities and 16 pedestrian fatalities in Lee County so far this year (plus 10 times that number in terms of injuries).  The county hasn't experienced this number of bicycle fatalities since 2005, when there were 9 fatalities.  

The Countywide Lee MPO Bicycle Pedestrian Safety Action Plan adopted by the MPO Board in September 2013 committed to a "vision of a zero-fatality transportation system for pedestrians and bicyclists throughout Lee County, " and set a goal of reducing fatalities and serious injuries by a minimum of 5% a year. The Plan also includes 18 specific action items with specific assignments to all the jurisdictions and agencies in Lee County, including law enforcement agencies. (Link to the Action Plan:  As I've said at numerous MPO Board meetings over the past year, this Plan is not self-executing--its implementation depends on your leadership.

We urge you to share this article with other Council members, your staff, and citizens; to review the Action Plan and the assignments to your agency or jurisdiction; and to commit to making bike/ped safety a top priority.

A special thanks to our FDOT partners, Secretary Hattaway and DeWayne Carver, for writing this Guest Opinion.  Thank you's also go to Mayor Henderson and State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen for their participation in yesterday's "Bicycle Bully Buster" bike ride to raise bicycle safety awareness.

Darla Letourneau
DeWayne Carvery and Billy Hattaway (News-Press photo)
 News-Press Guest Opinion: Billy Hattaway and DeWayne Carver (11/16/14)
 Focus for FDOT is reducing bicyclist, pedestrian deaths
 Recent letters regarding bicycle fatalities express frustration and ask how we can stop these tragedies from occurring.  As bicyclists ourselves, we also feel this way when a cyclist is injured or killed. The Florida Department of Transportation is focused as never before on reducing Florida's rate of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities.

Our Alert Today/Alive Tomorrow program reaches out to all roadway users because we understand there is no single simple solution to this problem. We will have the greatest success when we change roadway users' behaviors through a combination of engineering, education, and enforcement.

Engineering solutions are evolving rapidly, and FDOT is incorporating those solutions with proven safety benefits. Among other changes, we are reducing urban roadway lane widths to provide more space for bike lanes and we're specifying wider bicycle lanes on state roads. Through our new Complete Streets policy, FDOT will require roadways to match the contexts where they are found. We are evaluating our guidance to include options, in appropriate contexts, for off-street facilities (like multi-use pathways) for different types of riders. For instance, how can we design projects that minimize on-street riding for children and others who can't ride in traffic?

In education, we find the data sometimes contradict "intuition." Crash data overwhelmingly indicate riding in the same direction as traffic is much safer than riding against traffic. This is true nationally, not just in Florida, and it's true whether riding on the sidewalk or on the roadway. Cyclists riding on the road are safer operating as vehicles and riding with traffic. Motorists already are looking for traffic going in the same direction. Riding against traffic places cyclists where motorists aren't looking — a common set-up for a crash.

Some bicyclists may not understand riding in a bicycle lane is still riding in traffic, so our engineering efforts and education efforts must work together. For more information about learning to bicycle safely, visit the Florida Bicycle Association ( or the American Bicycling Education Association ( The safest bicyclists and motorists follow the law, so enforcement efforts are critical. Florida law specifies how bicycles must be equipped and how cyclists must ride on the road ( has details).

As one example, bicycles used in the dark must have a white front light and a red rear light. Statistically, we know unlighted cyclists are more likely to be involved in a crash. Law enforcement recognizes the safety threat of unlighted cyclists and must make sure the cyclist also is aware of it. It's an education challenge, too – did we adequately alert the cyclist about the need for lights? It may even be an engineering challenge – how can we light our streets and intersections more effectively? Further, why are bicycles produced without lights knowing they could be used at night?

Though only about 20 percent of bicycle crashes involve motor vehicles, these crashes tend to produce the majority of fatalities. Drivers must be aware that everyone shares the road, and FDOT and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles have added bicycle traffic to driver training materials. In addition to enforcing drunk driving and hit-and-run laws, we must enforce Florida's 3-Foot Clear law and the right of cyclists to control the travel lane when appropriate.

FDOT believes we can make bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers safer through better engineering, education, and enforcement. Changes cannot come fast enough — any fatality is one too many — but changes have begun.
Billy Hattaway is FDOT District One Secretary; DeWayne Carver is FDOT Statewide Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator.

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