Wednesday, October 6, 2010

SWFBUD Prompts Hillsborough County To Create Bike Safety Program

After several weeks of bicyclist death tragedy in Tampa Bay, some good news today. Hillsborough County commissioners -- led by Commissioner Mark Sharpe -- agreed to create a bicycle safety action plan.

Kudos to Sharpe for saying enough is enough -- that the loss of life on bicycles in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties has to end. Six bicyclists in two months have been killed.

I will join others such as Gary Tait in Hillsborough County government, John Marsh of Tampa city government and Theo Petritsch and Jennifer Bartlett at Sprinkle Consulting to work on a multi-faceted plan to turn things around in the Hillsborough County area. I hope it includes education programs for drivers and bicyclists, public awareness campaigns through TV spots and other media, new design of roads in problems spots and stepped-up police enforcement. It has to be a wide-ranging, comprehensive and sweeping program -- not just the sheriff's office giving out free helmets to kids.

Channel 8 and Channel 10 did reports today, while the Tampa Tribune filed this report.

After the county commission meeting, I bicycled from downtown Tampa to Ballast Point Park where I joined the family members and friends of the late Diane Vega, killed while cycling to work Friday, to celebrate her life with a gathering of people who cared deeply about her. Diane, as you might recall, was waiting to cross Himes at the Spruce corner when a car ripped through a red light and caused a pinball accident where a car caromed into Diane and killed the 53-year-old woman during her commute to her FedEx job.

It was wonderful to see Diane's daughter, Selena, who I met Friday night when I returned from the memorial bike ride at the Seminole Heights Bicycle Center. Selena was holding a lit white candle in her mom's memory as bicyclists returned from Monday's ride -- just 14 hours after her mom died.

There was JoAnn Vega -- Diane's sister, who still can't believe the red-light running driver who caused the crash that killed Diane won't face criminal charges because she wasn't showing signs of reckless disregard.

I met Diane's brother and Selena's dad, Scott, and Selena's sister, Genevieve, and a host of Diane's wonderful friends.

I gave helmets to both Selena and JoAnn, and they both said they will ride. Here's Selena with her helmet. I just need to suggest to Selena that she slide her helmet front over her forehead to fit it better.

A touching obituary includes this passage about Diane: "Diane chose to be a cyclist, commuting between her places of employment at FedEx, Macys and all her beloved destinations she loved to visit daily. She loved the freedom of cycling and the feeling of the wind in her face and sun on her tan soft skin."

Here is Diane's complete obituary.

Thursday morning is another big day.

It's off to Tampa City Hall where I'm scheduled to present a powerpoint presentation on bicycle infrastructure based on photos I took of the bicycle road scene in metro Denver. I have shared many of those photos on this blog and with three committees of the local MPO -- Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Diane's two daughters, Selena and Genevieve, said they plan to attend Thursday's council meeting to share their thoughts about improving bicycle safety in Tampa.

And Ed Collins, who would have spoken to the county commission today except a broken-down car kept him away, said he plans to attend, too, to offer a few comments. His dad, LeRoy was killed was bicycling in Tampa on July 29.

Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, has also weighed in with wonderful essay previusly posted and a a terrific League blog post.

The city council meeting begins at 9 AM. Hope you can attend -- and speak, too.

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