Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 1/30/2019
|Unenforced sidewalk parking violations is one reason we have such a poor pedestrian record. DAN MOSER / FLORIDA WEEKLY|
So there’s really nothing to celebrate when it comes to Lee County’s improvement. Admittedly, there have been a number of bike/ped infrastructure additions since the last report, but many of our elected representatives and transportation officials’ mindsets remains focused on moving as many motor vehicles as efficiently as possible with the plight of non-motorists being of secondary concern.
In 2018, pedestrians accounted for 23 of the total of 93 overall traffic fatalities in Lee County, meaning approximately one of every four of those killed was a pedestrian — well above the national average — as has been the case for many years. Cyclists fared better, accounting for four of the total fatalities. However, the 473 non-fatal reported crashes among vulnerable road users frequently result in serious and life-changing injuries, keeping in mind that law enforcement agencies frequently fail to report crashes involving non-motorists. So, besides our elected representatives and transportation officials implementing Complete Streets with improvements such as reducing speed limits through redesign and road diets, what else must be done?
A few other pockets of critical mass are in some of our cities’ downtown areas and beach communities. However, none of these places can truly be considered bike/ ped-friendly, at least based on the way drivers routinely fail to stop for folks in crosswalks, the fact that many pedestrians aren’t assertive in exercising their right to compel drivers to allow them to cross streets at crosswalks and the tendency of cyclists to ride against traffic and operate on sidewalks rather than roads, even where bike lanes exist.
Enforcement of traffic laws that put non-motorists at risk is another area that should be beefed up. In particular, speeding and failing to stop before making a right turn would be good violations on which to focus. Stopping cyclists who ride against traffic is another common violation that’s never addressed unless a crash has occurred. Also, law enforcement personnel should have a better understanding of laws that pertain to non-motorists because all too often motorists are wrongly let off the hook when they are involved in a crash with pedestrians and cyclists or the non-motorist is incorrectly deemed at fault. When this occurs, motorists continue to drive with the mindset that they rule the road and non-motorists realize they don’t really have the rights our laws provide them.
Of course, individual and societal responsibility are paramount. How often do we see signs posted in residential areas that remind motorists to “Drive Like Your Kids Live Here”? Why is this even necessary? There will always be a small percentage of bad actors but it should be socially unacceptable to operate a weapon (i.e., motor vehicle) that can kill in an instant in any way other than to treat it as such. Far too many of us operate as if we were sitting in our living room, paying little attention to the complex act of driving.
Obviously, it will take everyone to change our traffic environment reality. Let’s hope the latest report that re-confirms our severe problem will be taken seriously by everyone. For much more on this matter, look to bikewalklee.blogspot.com.¦
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and 334-6417.
For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (caloosariders.org); Florida Mudcutters (mudcutters.org); and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL). The Florida Bicycle Association (floridabicycle.org) 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.