We all travel, don’t we? How alert are we when moving about?
Do we check local traffic laws when we travel? I have traveled to many countries and one of the main concerns I had in traveling the local roads was making sure I didn’t hit a bicyclist or pedestrian.
I’ve heard of some troublesome situations for motorists traveling from another country. Plus, imagine the ongoing guilt feeling even if we are in the right.
But it’s not only while traveling abroad. The challenge is even in our home towns.
May is bicycle safety month in Florida so I thought I would provide an emphasis on this subject.
In Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) works diligently to help ensure our vulnerable road users (like bicyclists and those walking) are protected. There are ongoing campaigns to emphasize road safety.
I’ll use some of their information to highlight this month’s emphasis on bike safety.
This is important for those who live in Florida as well as the U.S.A. It’s equally important for those visiting from other countries to understand the traffic rules to help protect ourselves, resulting in a pleasant experience.
I also think it is important to understand when we travel to and through tourist destinations there are many just like us mixing with the locals on the roads. Some know where they are going and some do not. We MUST recognize this diversity on the roads for a safer travel experience.
Many times when we travel through construction zones our GPS or electronic devices may not be dependable, whether on the major highways or local roads. This creates an additional distraction causing us to not be as vigilant for other vehicles, bicyclists or pedestrians. I suggest we review a map of the area before traveling so we will know if the GPS is accurate or not; and have an alternate route planned to help ease the confusion.
During my last trip to Europe I was once again reminded to be extra careful and alert for bicyclists. I believe when we travel to other countries we realize the importance of being watchful because of uncertainty on the roadways; however, I’m confident we are not as observant around our familiar roadways at home.
My personal opinion is there are more bicyclists in Europe than in the U.S. – for varying reasons – and local drivers are more accustomed to them, along with a better attitude toward cyclists. Maybe most U.S. drivers prefer using motorized vehicles and aren’t as tolerant for bicyclists.
So, what are we to do?
It’s spring now and there is an increase of bicyclists as the trend builds throughout the summer. Be alert cyclists not following the rules. They often don’t ride in the same direction as traffic when riding on the road. You are required to ride WITH the traffic, not against it. You may use the sidewalk in most areas provided you give an audible warning to a pedestrian when approaching him or her.
Although Florida Statutes allow riding on the sidewalk, there are some local municipalities that have more stringent requirements. For instance, in St. Augustine, particularly around the downtown area, bicyclists are not supposed to ride on sidewalks. This is likely true in many congested areas where a lot of people are walking around.
It’s up to law enforcement to determine respective violations and cite them, or not. In Jacksonville, you may be fined if you ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in an unsafe manner or if there is a bike lane in the road and you choose to not use it. However, I’m sure most law enforcement officers prefer to not write these citations.
This link provides more information about FDOT efforts to improve traffic safety – particularly for bicyclists and pedestrians. https://www.alerttodayflorida.com/index.html
Here are some key findings from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (based on their latest statistics reported): https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812382
• There were 818 pedalcyclist (bicyclist) deaths in 2015, which accounted for 2.3 percent of all traffic fatalities during the year.
• Seventy percent of pedalcyclists who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2015 died in crashes in urban areas.
• Over the 10-year period from 2006 to 2015, the average age of pedalcyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes increased from 41 to 45.
• The pedalcyclist fatality rate per million people was almost 6 times higer for males than females in 2015.
• Alcohol involvement – either for the motor vehicle operator or for the pedalcyclist – was reported in 37 percent of all fatal pedalcyclist crashes in 2015.
• More than 27 percent of the pedalcyclists who died in 2015 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of .01 g/dL or greater.
There are numerous bicycle education and training courses as well as events in Florida. I’m curious if other states and countries have a robust plan to help the most vulnerable travelers. When do other states and countries begin reinforcing safe habits to bicyclists – as a child, youth or adult?
FDOT works through various local, state and national partners to survey and conduct research as well as safety campaigns to reinforce road safety.
One of FDOT’s Alert Today Florida campaigns involves reinforcing bike safety as children ride to school. I applaud the National Football League Jacksonville Jaguars in teaming each year with FDOT’s Alert Today Florida emphasis. I was part of this emphasis in 2017. Mark Brunell, former Jaguars quarterback, and Donovin Darius, former Jaguars defensive safety, along with The ROAR cheerleaders and the Jaguars Mascot Jaxson de Ville, were key celebrities to highlight safe biking to school.
Since May is the emphasis month this year for bicycling, there was a first-ever Bicycle Safety 365 Challenge at select schools. The Bicycle Safety 365 Challenge in Jacksonville was a four-week pilot program that provides in-class bicycle safety lessons to all sixth grade students at Fletcher, Kernan and Mayport Middle Schools.
Each week, a different bicycle safety lesson was taught in class with teachers hosting safety activities for exciting learning opportunities. Schools had the opportunity to earn points during the week. The school with the most points by the end of the fourth week wins a “Bike to School Day” event with the Jacksonville Jaguars!
For their participation, each school was awarded new Alert Today Florida bicycle racks as a way of encouraging active transportation to schools, students, and families. You can click on this link to see which school won the competition and will have a Bike-to-School Day event with the Jacksonville Jaguars on May 9. https://www.alerttodayflorida.com/jaguarsafety.html
I challenge cities, states and countries to examine how we emphasize and reinforce travel safety wherever we go – at home and abroad. There must be a major emphasis worldwide to help save lives of our most vulnerable roadway users.
This link has video clips for safe biking. https://www.alerttodayflorida.com/bikesafevideos.html
Other safety tips may be viewed at http://trafficsafetyteam.org/traffic-safety-campaigns/bicycle-safety/.
- Share the road with bicyclists.
- Stop before turning right on red.
- Passing bicyclists too closely is dangerous and illegal.
- Focus on the road. Avoid aggressive driving.
- Obey the traffic laws, signals and speed limits.
Do you know what a Sharrow is? Throughout Florida there are road markings in the middle of a lane showing a bicycle with two arrow lines above it. This is a Sharrow!
- A SHARROW is a shared-lane marking indicating where a cyclist has the right to ride.
- Give cyclists 3 feet of space when passing.
- Under Florida Law, bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles.
- Focus on the road and obey the traffic laws, signals and speed limits
Safe travels everyone!