Thursday, September 21, 2017

Bike safety report echoes need for better roadways, slower motorists

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 9/13/17

On the 200th anniversary of the invention of the bicycle, it’s a mixed bag for users of what is still considered one of the most efficient human-powered machines ever devised.

Bicycle design, materials and construction make it more efficient than ever, and more people are using them for function, recreation or exercise. But the environment for people on bikes has been getting riskier in recent years after several years of steady decline in crashes, injuries and fatalities.

A new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association documents the state of conditions for bicycle users and many other aspects of the dynamics involving bicycles. “A Right to the Road — Understanding & Addressing Bicyclist Safety” ( is a comprehensive and well-written document that details problems, lists potential solutions and links to resources to get to those solutions.

A ghost bike represents the death of a cyclist.
One fact included is that fatalities among users of bicycles are much lower than those for pedestrians. Nationally it’s almost seven pedestrians to each bicyclist. Florida is around five to one and Lee County is closer to three to one (these estimates are from and On a positive note, many states and communities are taking one or more of the actions suggested by the GHSA as potential solutions to reducing injuries and fatalities. Implementing Complete Streets, which includes slowing motorists and improving infrastructure for all road users, is a recommendation with the most potential impact. Locally, we are moving in that direction, at least in the Complete Streets policies that most jurisdictions have put in place.

BikeWalkLee, a community coalition whose mission is to raise public awareness and advocate for Complete Streets in Lee County, recently posted the following about the GHSA report on its blog: “As one of the highest ranked Florida communities for bicyclist fatalities, Lee County is acutely aware of the need to improve safety for cyclists (and pedestrians). This national report again puts this growing national problem on the front pages of national newspapers. The report found that bicyclist deaths rose 12.2 percent in 2015, the largest percentage increase of any roadway user group that year. In response to this safety crisis, the Governors Highway Safety Association report details 30 actions that states can take to reduce deaths and injuries among people who bike. What are our local elected officials and government agencies doing to address these serious safety concerns in our community?”

As I’ve noted before in this column, it’s quite disappointing to me that the Dangerous by Design report that placed Lee County as the most dangerous place in the U.S. to be a pedestrian hasn’t prompted the action or even a sense of urgency it should have among our governments or tourism and real estate community. Here’s yet another wake-up call to all of us.

Perhaps a partial answer to BikeWalkLee’s question about what is being done is that Lee Metropolitan Planning Organization is about to embark on an update of the Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety Action Plan that was originally approved in 2013. With the data and resources from GHSA’s report and that from Smart Growth America’s Dangerous by Design ( the updated plan could make a difference if it’s done right and actually implemented. The League of American Bicyclists called the governors report “a great resource for individuals who want to know more about bicycle safety efforts, state and local agencies looking to address bicycle safety issues and everyone who wants to know more about why bicyclist safety is a persistent issue in our current transportation system.”¦

- Dan Moser is a long-time bicycle/pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at and 334-6417. 

For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (; Florida Mudcutters (; and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group ( The Florida Bicycle Association ( is your source for statewide happenings. BikeWalkLee’s blog site has all the information you’ll need to stay abreast of advocacy efforts in Southwest Florida as well as statewide and nationally.

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