Vulnerable Road Users: Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety

Tampa’s Police Department is endorsing an event at Copeland Park on December 29th called “Winter Safety Land” that encourages the community to learn about vital safety tips and information in regards to bicycle and pedestrian safety. This event includes a bike safety obstacle course, refreshments, entertainment and even chances to win a new bike. The Police Department is also promoting residents to register their bikes with the local department to make it more recognizable in the possible event of an accident. Bicyclists who register their bikes will also receive a complimentary bike light while supplies last [1].

The Tampa Police Department’s positive campaign about keeping pedestrians and bicyclists safe are all a part of the safety measure that the Florida Department of Transportation outlines in their Vulnerable Road Users Emphasized Area that strives on the saying “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow.” The specific area addresses crashes involving bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists. This “Winter Safety Land” campaign addresses the very real statistics that put most of the fatal and serious injury pedestrian crashes occurred in the winter months with a peak during January and March (snowbird season). In addition, the 10 counties in Florida with the highest number of bicycle fatalities during this time period were Broward, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Duval, Pinellas, Lee Pasco, and Alachua. These counties represented about 61 percent of bicycle fatalities from 2006 through 2010. In light of the spike in injuries during these months and the likelihood of accidents in the local area, safety officials encourage and remind the public about safety measures to remember when sharing the roadways with motorists [2].

Dangerous By Design

Regrettably, the 2011 Dangerous by Design identified the Orlando-Kissimmee, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Jacksonville, and Miami-fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach as part of the top 10 most dangerous metro areas for pedestrians in the nation. While Orlando tops the list because of its tourism industry that draws nearly 50 million visitors to the area each year that should not over-shadow the need to up the safety measures. Continually, according to a national Federal Highway Administration survey of how travelers feel about the nation’s transportation system affirmed these results, finding that respondents in the South rank their pedestrian safety worse than their counterparts in the rest of the country. Think about the infrastructure debacle that Tampa and Clearwater is currently under with improvements to i275, i75 and the Veterans Expressway as well as the needed improvement in the downtown areas that were essentially underwater during the rain storms of the past summer.

Outside of the scope of the statistics presented in the Florida Strategic Highway Safety Plan that will not be updated for another year, data presented on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that in 2013, there were 743 pedalcyclists killed and an estimated 48,000 injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Pedalcyclist deaths accounted for 2 percent of all motor vehicle crashes during the year. The number of pedalcyclists killed in 2013 is 1 percent higher than the 734 pedalcyclists killed in 2012. The increase in 2013 is the third straight increase in pedalcyclist fatalities, a 19-percent increase since 2010. With majority of the accidents occurring in urban areas as opposed to rural areas, it can be assumed that the areas aforementioned as the most dangerous cities will still hold a top spot in the most dangerous areas for vulnerable road users [3].

Florida’s 2012 Strategic Highway Safety Plan

The hope for FDOT establishing a statewide “Partnership Council” on bicycle and pedestrian mobility is to promote the livability, health and economic benefits of bicycle and pedestrian activity as well as provide guidance to the FDOT, its partners and other stakeholders on policy matters and issues affecting Florida’s bicycle and pedestrian transportation needs. By doing so, the Council has been able to identify focus areas for recommendations and the best practices that can be organized, consistent with what the FDOT has established as the “4 E’s” (education, enforcement, engineering and emergency response) and funding for overall improvements.

As such, the Strategic Highway Safety Plan identified six strategies on which to focus these safety efforts:

  • Increase awareness and understanding of safety issues related to the vulnerable road users.
  • Increase compliance with traffic laws and regulations related to pedestrian and bicycle safety through education and enforcement.
  • Develop and use a systemic approach to identify locations and behaviors prone to pedestrian and bicycle crashes and implement multidisciplinary countermeasures.
  • Encourage adequate funding levels for effective pedestrian and bicycle safety programs and initiatives.
  • Create built environment (urban and rural) to support and encourage safe bicycling and walking.
  • Support national, state, and local legislative initiatives and policies that promote bicycle and pedestrians safety.

Florida’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Strategic Safety Plan, published in February 2013, supports the SHSP and is broken into seven emphasis areas. Those include Data and Analysis, Driver Education and Licensing, Highway and Traffic Engineering, Law Enforcement and Emergency Services, Communication, Outreach and Education, and Legislation, Regulation, and Policy.

In February 2013, Florida’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Coalition, a diverse group of national, state and local partners and advocates was established with the goal of increasing awareness and driving down fatalities. Some of the key strategies summarized include:

  • Data & Analysis: Collect and analyze pedestrian-and bicycle-related data to provide stakeholders with complete, accurate, uniform, and accessible information to make appropriate and timely decisions. This information would then be used as a method of evaluating program activities.
  • Driver Licensing and Education: Speak about pedestrian and bicycle safety in driver education training, materials, and licensing curriculums in the classroom and when driving, including strategies for motorists, pedestrians, and bicycles on sharing the road safely with each other.
  • Highway and Traffic Engineering: Confirm that state and local pedestrian and bicycle programs include a highway and traffic engineering section that corresponds with enforcement and constructive efforts to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicycles through design, infrastructure, operation, and maintenance.
  • Law Enforcement and Emergency Services: Ensure that state and community pedestrian and bicycle safety programs include law enforcement and emergency service components that strongly highlight their responsibility in keeping pedestrians and bicycles safe.
  • Communication: Coordinate with stakeholders to cultivate and enforce a comprehensive communications plan that will have a major impact on public awareness of pedestrian and bicycle crash The plan would also include programs directed at preventing them for the community to be engaged in.
  • Outreach and Education: Promote widespread community participation in pedestrian and bicycle safety education (Winter Safety Land) and skills training by involving individuals and organizations outside the traditional highway safety community. This marketing should also focus on older pedestrians, young children and diverse populations.
  • Legislation, Regulation, and Policy: Coordinate with appropriate public and private agencies to support legislation, regulation and policies that promote pedestrian and bicycle safety [5].

Dolman Law Group

With all of the safety efforts the state and local government is trying to implement on the local level, it should be understood that the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists are of the upmost importance in transportation and community measures. With respect to these efforts, the unfortunate realization is that there will be accidents and incidents were people are severely or fatally injured. Unfortunately, it’s up to the victim or their families to pick up the pieces in the aftermath. Let an experienced team of attorney’s stand by your side during this difficult time.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a vulnerable road user accident, pertaining to pedestrians or bicyclists, contact the lawyers at Dolman Law Group. Preventing accidents involving vulnerable road users will never be completely perfect and if it occurs the monetary damages that stem from medical bills, pain and suffering, lost income and much more can add to the already stressful situation. Call the Dolman Law Office at (727) 451-6900 to help relieve some of the burden. You can schedule a free consultation and evaluation today to overlook your claim.

Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652
(727) 853-6275