A powerful letter in light of the recent bicyclist death on Fletcher Avenue in the Tampa area. I was proud to sign it:
Dear Tampa City Council & Hillsborough County Commissioners:
Another Tampa-area cyclist is dead. Yet another valuable and productive life ends with a painfully simple roadside memorial that reads “motorists – stop killing bicyclists”. The reckless driver that hit the cyclist – who was not doing anything wrong – hasn’t been charged with anything and is, as far as I know, still out there behind the wheel of a car today.
After a spate of fatal crashes last fall, we joined the chorus of concerned cyclists and wrote to Tampa City Council and the Hillsborough County Commissioners to ask for a meaningful response and a serious action plan to cut this appalling death toll. The first draft of that plan was presented last month and there are three more scheduled in the next couple of weeks to discuss the latest version. There’s lots of worthwhile activity in the plan – education for cyclists, rodeos for kids and recommendations for more bike lanes and complete streets. We need all those things for sure, but are these enough?
While looking for details of the most recent fatality, we saw story after story about pedestrians getting hit and killed, other cyclists getting hit and killed, drivers veering off the road and killing themselves, or smashing into other traffic and killing people in those other cars – and that’s all in the last couple of months. Another cyclist was badly injured in St. Petersburg yesterday. Folks, we have a problem here. We’ve read about the pedestrian safety grants that have gotten area police more resources to teach pedestrian safety and ticket jaywalkers, grants to build more sidewalks and crosswalks – again, all good things to do, but surely missing the stark, huge, and very inconvenient truth. We need to do something, and quickly, to stop careless, reckless, distracted, and downright dangerous DRIVERS, because they – you – are killing Tampa-area people in frightening numbers.
Traffic safety, or lack of it, dramatically cuts into everyone’s quality of life and literally chases cyclists and pedestrians off the streets. People on foot and on bikes are, like it or not, the indicator species of a vibrant and healthy community. Think about the places you like to go – most of them are filled with people you can watch, meet, and interact with. So this issue is about bikes, but it’s so much bigger than that.
And that’s why the solution has to be so much more than educating bicyclists and ticketing errant pedestrians. It’s time to demand more from drivers; to hold drivers accountable for their actions. In the majority of the recent fatal bike crashes, the cyclists were riding properly – they were riding where they should be, visible, following the rules, doing everything right. Diane Vega was killed standing on the sidewalk with her bike, for goodness sake. The drivers were not doing what they should be doing. They were distracted, impaired – and most recently, simply recklessly speeding (possibly racing) down the street. Those drivers are still out on the roads today, still driving. That’s not good for any of us – but we tolerate it and we don’t do anything to stop it.
Next week, we need cyclists and pedestrians – and anyone who isn’t prepared to tolerate this mayhem any more – to show up in support of the Bicycle Safety Action Plan. We also need them to say that isn’t enough. We need an immediate response from law enforcement and the court system to demonstrate very clearly that dangerous driving won’t be tolerated. That speeding through neighborhoods, running red lights, driving drunk, texting and talking on the phone while driving, and “failing to see” cyclists and pedestrians simply aren’t acceptable anymore; the price in human life is just too high. Cyclists and pedestrians aren’t perfect by any means, we know that. We’re committed to educating cyclists to follow the rules of the road in everything we do…but the harsh reality is that errant cyclists rarely harm anyone but themselves. Out-of-control motorists harm everyone in the community.
Andy Clarke, President, League of American Bicyclists, Washington D.C.
Alan Snel, Director, Tampa-based South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers
Dan Moser, Interim Executive Director, Florida Bicycle Association
John "Jay" F. Anderson, II, TSP, Executive Director, Stay Alive .... Just Drive!, Inc.