Monday, May 2, 2011
SWFBUD Supports League's Efforts To Educate BOTH Bicyclists AND Motorists
Few people in the Tampa get to witness people on bicycles act in a risky manner as much as I do.
On a recent Sunday night, for example, while I biked north on Nebraska Avenue from downtown Tampa to Seminole Heights, within a five-minute window I saw at least five people on bicycles with NO lights, no reflective gear and no helmets. Most of them were biking on sidewalks against the flow of traffic.
I tried to explain to them that they need to be visible and be seen, which means getting lights on their bikes and wearing clothes and reflective vests or gear. I also suggested they bike with traffic and not against. I don't know how much they will heed my suggestions.
The point is I'm quite aware that we need to inform bicyclists to reduce their risky bicycle behavior to reduce the number of bike-car crashes.
BUT, what is missing in the public discussion regarding making the Tampa Bay area safer for bicyclists is also EDUCATION FOR MOTORISTS regarding a bicyclist's right to the road and motorists' dangerous, distracted, incompetent and bully driving that imperils the lives of bicyclists on the roads.
That's not just my opinion.
The Florida Bicycle Association's new executive director, Tim Bustos, made this point in his first column in a FBA spring 2011 newsletter.
And this afternoon, I received a letter in the mail from the League of Americxan Bicyclists, which was focused on educating motorists AND bicyclists.
The letter from League President Andy Clarke starts this way: "Dear Alan, If you're like me, you're tired of hearing about educating cyclists. Wouldn't it be great if we saw road signs telling motorists to Stop Texting! Focus on Driving! Don't Buzz Bicyclists"
The League has a strong program to educate bicyclists. Now the League is calling for local communities to also advise motorists to respect bicyclists.
You might recall that League President Clarke wrote Hillsborough County about its proposed bicycle safety action plan because while the plan offers initiatives to educate bicyclists it fails to address motorist education about bicyclists to the same degree.
To the League's credit, Clarke wrote Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa to say exactly that. It was bicyclist Robert Niedbalec's death on Feb. 13 while he was cycling in a Fletcher Avenue bike lane and killed by a speeding car that struck him in the bike lane that caught the League's attention.
Clarke's letter a few months ago said, in part, "After reviewing this latest cyclist fatality, AND looking at the dreadful pedestrian crash story in this area AND the almost daily serious crashes involving just motorists throughout the Tampa Bay area, we figure it’s time to really challenge the community to tackle the scourge of careless, dangerous and reckless driving behavior that is making life miserable for everyone out there."
SWFBUD applauds the League's willingness to go public with that email and today's letter I received this afternoon that stress that we need BOTH bicyclist and motorist education regarding bicyclists in the roadways.
I am scheduled soon to meet the local Tampa Bay District 7 Florida Department of Transportation Office to hear the latest about a bicycle campaign that was originally entitled, "You Vs. Vehicle -- You Lose Every Time."
SWFBUD blew the whistle on that campaign title, contacting both the ad agency hired by the local DOT office and also the DOT office regarding this misguided campaign title.
SWFBUD will be asking the local DOT office to include motorist education in any campaign in addition to the message that bicyclists must ride safely, too.
We're all in this together -- bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists.