For over a decade our State of Florida has been consistently rated number one in the country for cycling deaths. The state’s cyclists are dying at a rate three times the national average!
Many people move to Florida to enjoy an active lifestyle and cycling is a great low impact way to maintain or improve overall fitness that can be employed throughout the year. Cyclists can utilize roadways, trails or sidewalks while many traverse unimproved areas like beaches and forests. Florida has it all! But… shouldn’t Florida cyclists of all ages have a safe place to pursue their health and exercise goals?
One of a few ways of keeping us all (road users) safer is to follow a process that starts with broad based education for all road users. Elementary school is a great place to guide children into a lifestyle that is safe, healthy, fun and good for our planet. Explaining rules and providing safety tips for riding on trails, sidewalks and roadways at an early age can foster lasting, consistent and predictable behavior.
As children advance through the grade structure, rules and tips can be designed to be age appropriate. For example, in grades where children are approaching the age where they begin drivers training, drivers education classes could touch upon the concept of sharing the road safely with vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, wheelchairs, bicycles, golf carts and motorcycles.
In addition to schools, bike shops and clubs must become a delivery system that provides information to the cycling public. Rules of the road and safety tips should be included in every communication they publish. Every sale should be accompanied by a copy of safety tips and rules of the road. Traffic laws may change annually with little or no public awareness. Bike clubs can be a great source for its members but can also enhance traffic safety by submitting editorials and opinion pieces to newspapers, newsletters and magazines which reach road users of every kind.
Since consistency and predictability by all road users is based on common principles found in traffic law, law enforcement training is essential to keep traffic moving safely. Periodic instruction of patrol officers by state, county and municipal governments regarding annual law changes enhances guidance to road users when issuing warnings and citations.
Imagine a Florida that ranks at or near the bottom of the national accident rankings. A place where you, your children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors can enjoy a bike ride knowing that drivers of all types of vehicles know the rules and are acting predictably, considerately and yes, safely.
Villager Dave Lawrence is an avid cyclist. He serves as director of safety for the Bicycle Friendly Advocacy Group.