Southeast Regional Bike Safety Summit Signals Shift Within FDOT

The April 11, 2013 Southeast Regional Bike Safety Summit touted a conversation with Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. He spoke briefly, took no questions and was whisked away to catch a plane. I nearly accosted him as he sped towards a back exit, hoping to place in his hands materials calling for reform. I’d promised Miami advocates that Mr. LaHood would see these documents! But before I’d left my seat I realized I might be that guy yelling ‘Don’t tase me bro’ at oversized security escorts. The rest of the program included talks on national bike safety, a panel discussion on bicycling in Tampa, talks on the built environment, engineering & design and, law enforcement & education.
Within minutes of LaHood’s departure I realized the Summit was almost exclusively focused on bicycling & pedestrianism in Tampa then Florida, nothing addressed the Southeastern US or public transit. The remaining federal administrator eked good wishes when pressed on Federal funding or safety issues. While it is true that non-motorized safety standards will now be a must for State DOTs, there remains the possibility that State governors like Rick Scott could reject funding tied to these safety standards. The remaining talks on land use, engineering, design and law enforcement focused on local examples. Elements within the enforcement community are beginning to work with the bicycling/pedestrian communities but police agree that enforcement must be more serious and should begin by coming to the table. Only one or two officers made it to the conference room though it was full of advocates eager to hear them speak. One innovation is to encourage police toward better bike/ped enforcement in areas where there is also high crime.
During one of the last sessions, Major Tim Burton, Hillsborough County Sheriff Office, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland and Tim Bustos were asked if they would support legislation de-incentivizing hit & runs. They all agreed to do so. Getting them on record as supportive of this legislation was one more win for SFL bicycle advocacy. While everyone believes in zero tolerance for those who don’t respect bicyclists, it’s best to require appointed officials specify how they’ll achieve these lofty goals.
Billy Hattaway of Florida District 1 Transportation Secretary, and David Strickland of the National Highway Safety Administration believe we are looking to do nothing less than change the driving culture of Florida. This will need law enforcement to drive public campaigns home. Remember “Click it or Ticket”? That campaign was extremely successful in convincing our freedom loving public that seat restraints must be used when traveling our American highways. On a more personal note, Billy Hattaway is on my short list of possible heroes: he was just comfortable enough to let slip the fact that he believes traffic is good for culture change. As he explained ‘How to talk to engineers’ he included the fact that reducing congestion on trips through cities should not be a priority. Things happen in cities because of interactions. If Mr. Hattaway were District 6 Secretary, we would have lower speed limits and more crosswalks on important roadways like Biscayne Blvd, South Dixie Highway and others.

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