Category Archives: Safe Streets

Miami Cyclists Honor the Lost

A tip of the helmet to Maria Luisa Hoover and John Voss, of the Everglades Bicycle Club, for organizing Miami’s edition of last night’s Ride of Silence, honoring cyclists killed or injured by cars. Miami’s organizing task was an extra challenge this year because the usual Rickenbacker Causeway route wasn’t available. Here’s one participant’s record of the cyclists. Note the wide variety of participants. This is not just your racing crowd — which makes the point that cycling is an activity for just about anyone.

Florida House OKs Anti-Texting Bill

The Florida House passed an anti-texting bill today after embracing an amendment yesterday that limits how police could use the legislation. Because of the amendment, by Rep. Jose Oliva of Hialeah, the bill must go back to the Senate in the last-week logjam of the 2013 lawmaking session. Rochelle Koff, who has been following the bill for The Miami Herald, wrote earlier that Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t signaled whether he’ll sign the bill into law.

Drivers texting at the wheel are increasingly the subject of complaints by bicyclists and runners, as well as other motorists. And there’s been growing awareness in recent years that driver attention to the road is distracted not only while they’re texting but also when they’re on a cellphone call. The outgoing U.S. secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, campaigned avidly for awareness about distracted driving.

SB 52 provides a relatively small penalty, and because it classifies texting as a secondary offense a driver won’t be charged with it unless a cop has stopped him or her for some larger offense.

With the Oliva amendment the possible law is narrowed further: It states that the authorities may not subpoena a driver’s cellphone record unless the driver was involved in a crash causing death or personal injury. You can imagine this roadside scenario: trooper stops a car for speeding on Bird Road, adds on a charge of texting at the wheel, and the driver denies he was texting. Driver hires a ticket lawyer, goes to court, and because the state can’t show the cellphone record the judge faces a he said-she said dilemma.

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.

Start Small, Think Big

Thanks to the American Public Health Association for advocating for walking and bicycling during its annual National Public Health Week this month. Some of the important national data they shared:

  • In 2010, more than 4,200 pedestrians died in traffic crashes — a 4 percent increase from 2009.That same year about 70,000 pedestrians were injured in traffic crashes.
  • More than 600 bicyclists died in motor vehicle crashes in 2010 and 52,000 were injured.
  • More than 15 people are killed every day in the U.S. and more than 1,200 are injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.

You can learn more and join their efforts at their website.

 

Senate Schedules Texting Bill

An anti-texting bill meant to cut down on distracted driving was added to the Florida Senate calendar today for its second reading. Look for action on SB52 next Tuesday, April 16, with a floor vote on third reading sometime later.  Amended versions have won unanimous approval in three Senate committees: Transportation, Communications, and Judiciary.  The bill would make texting a secondary offense, meaning police could add a texting charge if a driver was stopped for a greater offense.  The initial penalty would be small, but it could be stronger for repeat offenders.  The similar HB13 is awaiting second reading in the House, where the only vote against it so far was cast by Rep. Jimmy Patronis of Panama City.

Cellphone use by drivers, especially for texting, is increasingly cited as a cause of crashes on America’s streets and highways.  The Florida Bicycle Association and other bike advocates have made such legislation a priority for several years now.

You can follow the current bills and read their text, staff analyses, and legislative history at flsenate.gov and flhouse.gov.