Walkable West Palm Beach

Palm Beach Post story: Florida deadliest state for bicyclists

1 Comment

Another reminder of how much work needs to be done to make our state truly safe for bicyclists. Great quotes from West Palm Beach DDA Director Raphael Clemente.

There is safety in numbers, and the more people we can get bicycling in our downtown, the better off we will be. It’s crucial we begin to create an integrated bicycle network in and around downtown West Palm Beach, as shown in the Jeff Speck study (see page 67 of the PDF).  This network would provide safe, useful, comfortable facilities for bicyclists to use as transportation in and around downtown, as well as connections for riding bikes along the waterfront and to the town of Palm Beach. A shortlist of benefits:

  • Support SkyBike
  • Increased tourism
  • Safer streets for all users
  • Supports non-vehicular modes of transportation which help the city reduce air pollution and meet Transportation Currency Exception Area (TCEA) goals
  • Helps reduce driving and helps residents live car-free or car-light.  More circulation of money into the local economy and increased household savings

 

Even with very little to no bicycle facilities on our streets in downtown West Palm Beach, the mode share of bicyclists is significant and likely underrepresented. Let’s build on this positive trend by supporting the nascent bicycling scene with a network of bike facilities to allow residents and tourists to bike from bridge to bridge on safe and comfortable facilities. This would be a tremendous benefit to our City.

—————————————————————–

Story: The Palm Beach Post

A recent study told Joseph LaRocca what the pavement had already painfully taught him: Florida is the most dangerous state for bicycle riding.

In January, a car struck the 65-year-old cyclist while on his way to the gym, leaving him with lasting injuries and unable to get back on his bike. A study released by the Center for Disease Control on Thursday reveals that accidents like LaRocca’s are common in Florida.

“Have you seen those bike lanes on roads?” LaRocca said Thursday. “If there’s even six inches between the bike lane and the car, I’d be surprised.”

LaRocca was riding on the sidewalk along Gateway Boulevard near Savannah Lakes Apartments when an unlicensed driver turned right too quickly and struck him. LaRocca, who used to bike three to four times a week, had surgery on his knee and needs to have shoulder surgery, he said.

He hasn’t been on a bicycle since the accident.

Rafael Clemente, executive director of the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority and avid cyclist, says Florida’s big roads, multiple lanes and high speeds are not suited for cyclists.

“Unfortunately when you have a lot of people biking on roads that are not well-designed, accidents happen,” said Clemente, whose background is in urban planning.

According to crash data from the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 4,542 crashes involving bicycles in Florida in 2014, 117 of which resulted in fatalities. In Palm Beach County, there were 334 crashes and seven fatalities.

“Florida has a lot of suburban development with big roads that are straights and encourage high speeds,” he added. “They’re designed unfortunately to prioritize the motor vehicle, not the bicyclist.”

Billy Hattaway, secretary of the southwest district of the Department of Transportation, travels throughout Florida to teach local governments what they can do to improve roads for bicyclists.

“It’s always about doing the best you can based on existing conditions,” Hattaway said, adding that the state is focused on widening current sidewalks on busier, high-speed roads and widening bike paths to at least seven feet on slower roads.

Patrick Halliday, president of the Delray Beach Bicycle Club, spends his spare time advocating locally for safer land development for bikers and pedestrians as vice chairman of non-profit Human Powered Delray.

“I’m a cyclist so I know the pitfalls,” Halliday said. “I’ve had an opportunity to see just about every unfortunate situation and generally it tells me that there is a drastic need for education and compliance.”

Halliday coordinates bicycle and driver safety workshops in Delray Beach and advocates to local governments for more education on operating safely with cyclists on roadways.

“One of the things that drivers don’t understand because its not taught to them is the rules of the road for the safety of the cyclist,” he said. Halliday says drivers should keep at least three feet from a cyclist when possible and always check their rear view mirror before making right turns.

Halliday also points out common mistakes that cyclists make causing accidents, such as driving against traffic, ignoring red lights and following a car too closely when it’s about to make a right turn.

Clemente and Halliday have both noticed a recent spike in the number of people choosing to ride bikes instead of drive cars, particularly in urban and downtown areas.

“It’s something that cities are planning for and designing their public spaces for,” Clemente said.

Despite the spike in the number of bikers, the CDC’s data shows that the number of fatalities involving cyclists in Florida has gone down 9.7 percent since 1975.

LaRocca has only one piece of advice for cyclists: “Always assume that someone is gong to not see you on the road,” he said.

One thought on “Palm Beach Post story: Florida deadliest state for bicyclists

  1. Pingback: Automobile bias pervades governmental meetings | Walkable West Palm Beach

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s