Road safety keys include education and enforcement
In order to be active outdoors in our beautiful environment we must feel safe whenever we inevitably mix it up with traffic, whether we’re on foot, bike, skates or other physical endeavor. However, both the reality and perception of danger are a major concern among many who do or would get out there.
Traffic crashes, injuries and deaths involving vulnerable road users continue to plague Southwest Florida and especially Lee County. As of the submission of this column Lee County has already had over 30 traffic fatalities in 2019, with at least 11 being non-motorists. Many more crashes have resulted in life-changing injuries. Obviously, venturing onto our roads in any mode is unacceptably risky here in Lee County. And it’s not like plenty of effort isn’t being undertaken to reduce our appalling traffic safety record.
What, then, are we missing? What aren’t we doing that needs to be done? Is the only answer for our law enforcers to become heavy-handed when dealing with traffic violations? Unfortunately, it’s looking like that may be the only solution, at least until we drastically change the way we design and build our transportation network. Regardless of whether our enforcement agencies step up, education and awareness efforts will continue. A few examples of what is being done in that realm are worthy of mention.
Recently, many of Cape Coral Police Department’s School Resource Officers completed a day-long training offered by Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program. This followed the Fort Myers Police Department and some of the same CCPD SROs completed a shorter bike-helmet-fit training session earlier this year. FTBSEP uses a train-the-trainer model to teach workshop participants such as teachers, law enforcement, firefighters, EMS personnel, parks and recreation staff and other community professionals how to convey pedestrian and bicycle safety through bicycle skills clinics/bike rodeos, community presentations and other activities. Another similar training called Safe Routes to School focuses on physical education teachers and includes a curriculum with grade-specific lessons that can be used during PE classes, with many not requiring bicycles. All trainings ensure accurate information is provided by FTBSEP regional trainers who are certified by the League of American Bicyclists or Cycling Savvy, two organizations that also offer for the general public.
Afterschool programs and summer camps are another place to get the messages across. This summer Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club will offer one for kids ages 5-15. According to Diane Holm, camp organizer and co-owner of Fort Myers Cyclery, this four-level program will teach participants everything from the basics of how to balance on two wheels for the newbies to advanced skills such as commuting/touring by bike and performing emergency bike repairs for older and more experienced kids. Registration and more information is on the CRBC website atwww.caloosariders.orgor you can call Diane Holm at 841-3407.
So, the good news is that there is ongoing effort taking place to educate those on bike and foot. But what’s conspicuously lacking is ensuring that those who get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle are adequately trained to operate it. For established drivers, continuing education such as AARP’s Smart Driver courses (www.aarpdriversafety.org) are underutilized. Courses that motorists must attend after a violation takes place are helpful but usually taken reluctantly so whether participants change their behavior or improve their driving is questionable. Unless new driver training and continuing education are required and until Complete Streets become the norm it seems to me that a significant and sustained law enforcement campaign may be the only way to improve our consistently horrific traffic crash, injury, and fatality numbers. If our law enforcement agencies do undertake this approach the risk is that they may focus too much on non-motorists rather than those who do the most damage, simply by virtue of speed and size. Targeting the potential victims won’t change driver behavior.
— To learn more visit www.bikewalklee.blogspot.comandwww.streetsaliveswfl.org. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 334- 6417.