For all of us riding a bicycle on the road in South Florida, safety is a topic that is always top of mind. Friends have died, been severely injured, mowed down and dragged miles without regard, and tempers have exploded; tears have been shed. Sometimes we wonder if our voice has been heard. We wonder if anyone is listening and if they are, what effect our collective voices has had and will have. Well, every once and awhile, progress can sometimes happen right under your nose without you ever realizing it. It happens with little steps, completed by various efforts (or spokes, for the purposes of this bog entry) that ultimately intertwine so that, together, those efforts equal progress. It takes a village and there is a much longer road towards progress that we must journey together, but we've made some real and significant first steps. Here is a list:
1. LAW ENFORCEMENT & CITATIONS
According to the Sun Sentinel, last weekend, law enforcement from Jupiter to Fort Lauderdale, in conjunction with Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol, handed out warning and tickets to walkers, cyclists and drivers who don't obey the rules of the road on State Road A1A. For full September 8, 2014 article: Click Here
The intervention comes following repeated conflicts between all groups, resulting in 148 warnings, 2 cyclists arrests, and 175 citations just this last spring. We all know the drill: Drivers complain about bike packs taking up the road. Cyclists criticize drivers who pass by them too closely and sometimes on purpose. Pedestrians fear getting hit by cyclists and cyclists fear getting hit by car doors. Both sides find trouble in navigating crossed paths along the stretch of Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beaches.
While each group may feel they absorb the burden of this enforcement, it is imperative that we collectively recognize the commitment of law enforcement. In doing so, we must be even more resolved in obeying the rules of the road and practicing safe riding techniques inclusive of following all of the same laws as motorists.
2. COUNTY PLANNING FOR COMPLETE STREETS
The week prior, on September 8 th, the Sun Sentinel reported a Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization campaign to create more “Complete Streets”, with plans to add 100 miles of buffered bike lanes and 100 miles of extra-wide shared pathways by 2040. What are Complete Streets? Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk to and from train stations. Full article: Click Here
By adopting a Complete Streets policy, communities direct their transportation planners and engineers to routinely design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for all users. South Florida is getting in on the action for Complete Streets, derived from the National Complete Street Coalition/Smart Growth America. For example, Delray Beach has narrowed Federal Highway from four to three lanes, lowered the speed limit and put in wider sidewalks.The Florida Department of Transportation has plans to completely transform U.S. 441 west of Boca Raton. A few years ago, Boca changed its long-term growth and development plan to reflect a complete streets philosophy.
West Palm Beach became a model for the Complete Streets concept prior to 2004, and recently approved the Complete Streets Guidelines. Also, cities such as Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park and Pompano Beach have begun the process of adopting Complete Street policies.
3. SUBMISSION FOR AND APPROVAL OF FEDERAL GRANTS
In response to growing concerns, in addition to the Complete Street Policies, in July 2014, the Broward Sheriff’s Office secured a $75,600 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation for extra enforcement to drive down the number of pedestrian and bike deaths in counties that have the most crashes.
4. THREE FOOT LAW EDUCATION & ENFORCEMENT
According to research secured and presented to Representative Hager in early 2014 by zMotion member Rick Pagan, Florida became the 6th State in the Nation to adopt a 3 foot law, formally in 2006. Today, in addition to Florida and the other 5 states that had a 3 foot law prior to Florida, fourteen (14) other states have passed similar 3 foot laws. Still, today Florida leads the nation in cycling injuries and fatalities, and it cannot be denied that by and large, these injuries and fatalities are attributed to the lack of observance and/or scarce enforcement of the 3 foot law.
Since it became law in 2006, more than 300 citations for violation of the 3 foot law have been issued in Florida. However, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ website, in 2012 Florida law enforcement agencies issued a combined 6,616 red light/stop sign citations; 64 citations were issued by red light cameras, yet a combined 923 citations were issued to cyclists and pedestrians. The evidence points to red light/stop sign running is far more enforced than the 3 foot law. Florida needs more awareness of the 3 foot law, tighter acknowledgement within the Florida Statute, more visible support of the law from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle, 3 foot language added to “Share the Road” signage, better enforcement from police officer with more citations given to drivers and cyclists, and official studies with reporting of results due to various efforts. Click Here for Full Statistics Report
5. ZMOTION’S RIDE RIGHT DRIVE RIGHT CAMPAIGN
Since zMotion’s inception, we have made great progress with our “Ride Right Drive Right” campaign. In 2010, zMotion collaborated with FDOT and the South Florida Bicycle Coalition to install 17 “Ride Right Drive right” signs along A1A from Boca to Manalapan. In 2012, zMotion launched a Street Safety Task force, bringing cyclists and police together to make roads safer. In 2013, zMotion partnered with the City of Sunrise to install either (8) new “3 Feet Please” signs.
6. CYCLISTS RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS SAFETY
Every year in the United States, bicycle-related deaths number about 900 and emergency rooms treat almost 500,000 people for bicycle-related injuries. Besides the normal safety routines we all must follow - always wearing helmet, following the rules of the road, riding no more than two abreast with 3-feet between the riders and the lane stripe, stopping at all red lights, and so on... it is also our responsibility to minimize aggression.
Said best by Rick Pagan, "Don’t be a bully and don’t let yourself be bullied either." According to Rick, the many personal confrontations he has had with motorist show the consistent cause-and-effect structure. The more confrontational cyclists are with motorists, the more confrontational motorists will be with cyclists. Practice following the rules of the road and handle any mishap as an opportunity to educate that motorist, remembering that until you have experienced what is it like to be riding on a bicycle with a car side-swiping you at high speeds, you just cannot imagine the level of vulnerability. Education is key and education is the backbone of progress.