Thursday, March 29, 2018

The differences in danger

BikeWalkLee Column
The News-Press, 3/29/2018
by Ken Gooderham

Weekday afternoons may be the most dangerous time to drive in Southwest Florida, but what is the most dangerous time to bike or walk?

For those of you who missed the recent article on vehicle crashes, data collected by the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) shows that vehicle crashes peaked weekday afternoons. The worst time was Friday at 4 p.m., followed by Wednesday at 5 p.m. The safest time to drive? Around 3 a.m. most days.

These findings underscore the deadly combination of more vehicles on the road and drivers paying less attention. But would that correlate with crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians?

Since there’s no bike/ped data on which to draw, we can only speculate. Obviously, more traffic would help contribute to more crashes – so the afternoon apex is feasible in bike/ped problems as well. However, there are some additional contributing factors that could affect the dangers.

The primary difference would be visibility, since vehicles hitting cyclists or pedestrians would be more likely in the low-light conditions of dusk and dawn – not to mention the no-light conditions at night. All the more reason bikers, runners and walkers need to work on being as visible as possible, using bright colors, bright lights and bright ideas (such as emphasizing your motion with lights and reflectors). Being seen greatly improves your chances of not being hit.

The second issue is being predictable, either acting like a vehicle if you’re on wheels or walking and running wisely if on foot. Drivers expect other drivers to operate their vehicles by certain rules, and will safely negotiate most roadway interactions based on that predicted behavior. But if cyclists or pedestrians dart in and out of traffic, don’t wait their turn at intersections or otherwise behavior in an unpredictable fashion, their chance of becoming a statistic (and not in a good way) rise dramatically.

Yet another issue impacting the chances of impact is the vast different in agility between vehicles and bikers or walkers. Cyclists and pedestrians can stop and turn dramatically faster than a vehicle, which has much more momentum and mass to deal with. That makes bikers and walkers far more nimble – and moving vehicles far more deadly. Just because you can stop your bike within 10-15 feet, say, doesn’t mean the car behind you can come to a stop anywhere near that – which doesn’t put you in a very good position if you’re operating on the same roadway.

One very common element in increasing danger for both drivers and walkers/bikers is distraction. A distracted driver is more dangerous to everyone and everything around them, whereas a distracted cyclist, runner or pedestrian increases the danger only to themselves.

So what can you do to stay safer on foot or on your bike?
  • Be visible. Bright lights and bright colors.
  • Be predictable. No sudden or stupid moves.
  • Pay attention. Don’t be distracted from everything going on around you.
  • Bike or walk defensively. Acting like they’re out to get you is the best way to avoid danger. (And cyclists… wear a helmet!)
  • Know your weaknesses. If sharing the road scares you, stay on the path. Night vision not so good? Then only go out in the daylight.
One more thought: More road users can mean more road dangers – so avoid rush hour if you have a choice (especially now, when our roads are at their maximum use). The odds just make sense.

A transportation deep dive

Staying with both traffic and the MPO, there’s an upcoming one-day conference for the transportation professionals out there… and for transportation geeks as well.

“Designing for People, Place and Profit” will be held on Thursday, April 19, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Fort Myers campus of Florida Southwestern State College. A collection of planners, engineers and transportation heavyweights are scheduled to speak on an array of topics. Not for the casual listener, but certainly invaluable if your profession or your passion tend toward transportation issues.

Your $90 registration fee includes breakfast, lunch and break. You can find out more at or sign up at

Ready to ride or run?

Run? Events abound this Saturday, with 5Ks in Fort Myers (Eggs and Ears 5K) and Naples (Wellfit Girls and One Human Race). Details at or The following Saturday features the Fast and Furriest 5K at Hammond Park in Fort Myers, to support the Gulf Coast Humane Society (which means your dog can be part of the action at this one).
Ride? Critical Mass rides abound – in Cape Coral on Friday night, downtown Fort Myers on Saturday morning and then downtown Fort Myers again on Friday night. For the night rides, lights are mandatory; for all rides helmets are suggested. Details at

Both?  Since it’s good to plan your tris in advance, put these three on the calendar:
  • Sunday, April 15: FGCU Eagle Sprint Tri and Duathlon, Florida Gulf Coast University (
  • Saturday, May 12: Cape Coral Yacht Club Sprint Tri (
  • Sunday, June 3: Fitness Challenge Sprint Tri, Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, Naples (
  • Also, registration opens for the Galloway Captiva Tri on May 1; the race weekend is Sept. 15-16, with the kids’ events Saturday and the sprint tri Sunday.


Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at 


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