Women’s Bike Month

Street art at a bicycle shop in High Springs, Florida

Who knew that March is Women’s Bike History Month?  I discovered this while comparing Florida’s Bike Month to the May Bike Month by The League of American Bicyclists, established in 1880. 

So, I’ll combine some of the history of the contribution of women along with come bicycle safety tips.  

In 1896, Susan B. Anthony — one of the most important leaders in the women’s suffrage movement — shared her perspective on bicycling with intrepid reporter, Nellie Bly. “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling,” she said. “I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel… the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”  https://bikeleague.org/content/march-womens-bike-history-month

I never realized this.  According to the Bike League article, Anthony wasn’t alone. The article mentioned her friend, and fellow suffragette, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, wrote an entire article for the American Wheelman praising the bicycle for encouraging the building of “good roads,” and increasing people’s mobility.  It states, most importantly, though: “The bicycle will inspire women with more courage, self-respect and self-reliance, and make the next generation more vigorous of mind and body; for feeble mothers do not produce great statesmen, scientists and scholars.” 

Well, I’m not certain about the latter part of the statement but maybe that was a challenge enough to encourage women to begin expanding their horizons with confidence.  Could it have been simply a bicycle that helped trigger this progress?

So, when is bicycle month?  The Bike League focuses on May.  https://bikeleague.org/bikemonth

Florida has the emphasis in March. so I’ll concentrate on that.  Do other states and countries have various months to reinforce bicycle safety?

Florida Department of Transportation Alert Today Florida reminder

I can see why Florida chose to emphasize bicycle usage in March – for health and safety.  The weather warms and many are already out on the roads with these two-wheelers, and sometimes one or three-wheelers.  https://floridabicycle.org/march-is-florida-bike-month

So, as you warm up and exercise on your bike that has been sitting around for the winter, let’s highlight a few safety pointers.  First, give your bike a safety inspection and make sure it is operating properly, including lights.

I realize each state and country has its own special rules and laws so I’ll just stick to a few things to consider.  Consult your own local laws where you ride – and when we travel to other locations. Let’s not assume our knowledge is sufficient for where we ride.  Check before your ride! 

Florida is a great place to ride your bike.  If you are driving in Florida, please be aware of cyclists.  Cyclists need to be aware of vehicle drivers as well.  Let’s have mutual respect and protection.

You never know where a bicyclist will appear; like on Interstate 10 in Florida

Florida Department of Transportation’s Alert Today Florida program has key information, and posted the proclamation from Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, for March Bicycle Month.  https://www.alerttodayflorida.com/ Florida knows the importance of doing everything possible to make roadways safer for all users.

I enjoyed making presentations to teens and adults alike to encourage vehicle, bike and pedestrian safety. I had fun re-enacting Larry, the crash test mannequin (which I changed to Larry the Smarty since he now buckles up, rides safely and walks safely.

Here are some simple tips to remember:

– A bicycle in Florida is a legal vehicle on roadways.  Don’t assume though that people see you or know the law.  Better to be safe.

– Cyclists on roadways fare best when they act, and are treated as vehicles.

– Bicyclists may ride on sidewalks as well but must yield to pedestrians and provide an audible signal while approaching them.

– Some local laws may not permit a bicyclist to ride on the sidewalk, so check before you ride. 

– Ride in the same direction as the traffic since the bike is an authorized road vehicle.

– If a designated bike lane is in the roadway, some local laws require bicyclists to use it instead of the sidewalk.  That may not be safe for children though. 

Sharrow emblem in Florida

– If you see an image of a bicycle on the roadway, called a sharrow, it means a bicyclist should be expected to be in the roadway.  These are often alternatives to designated bike lanes when there is insufficient space to build the separate lanes. 

There is so much more to reinforce for bicycle safety so please check out Alert Today Florida as well as  https://floridabicycle.org/drive-your-bike.

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

How alert are we on the road?

Pre-K Bike-a-thon 051We 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.

Alert Today_National Bike Month_Web (1)

CTSTFL-bicyclist-tip-card-300x180In 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.

Alert Today_National Bike Month_Web, SpanishThis 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.

DSC_4993Many 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.  

DCIM100GOPROG0056781.
Cyclists rides correctly on the right side in the U.S.  Think how far your mirror sticks out too.  

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.

DCIM100GOPROG0079765.
Bicyclist uses the bike lane properly and rides with the traffic.  Drivers must still ensure at least three foot distance while passing a bicycle.  

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.

Bicyclist rides against traffic
Bicyclist falls almost in front of an oncoming  vehicle after crossing a major road illegally.

 

Bicyclist rides against traffic, after fall
Bicyclist picks up his bicycle after falling nearly in front of this vehicle. We all must expect the unexpected.

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.

CTSTFL-bicyclist-tip-card-300x180Pre-K Bike-a-thon 012There 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.

Bike to SchoolOne 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.

Ronnie and Levi
Do you remember the commercials years ago with the “crash dummies Larry and Vince?”  Recent efforts involved using these outfits to emphasize buckling up and other road safety procedures.  

Ron as Larry the Crash Smarty
I had the privilege, or duty, to interact with young people and adults to reinforce driver, bicycle and pedestrian safety. Youth particularly enjoyed the interaction – although some were apprehensive and didn’t know for sure if the “dummy” was real or just fake.  You should have seen them jump when I moved! 

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

Bike to School 8
Alert Today Florida efforts to provide and “fit” children with bicycle helmets.  

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/.  

Motorists:

  • 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.

Sharro example-2

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!

Sharrow-web

  • 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!

Ron