Bicycling advocate is pleased with legislative progress on pedestrian and cyclist safety

04/12/12 Olivia Kabat
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

This year the Florida Legislature passed several bills that could improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians. Advocates hope the new policies will help to reduce the number of fatalities.

Tim Bustos, Executive Director of the Florida Bicycle Association says Florida has a tragic record of pedestrian and cycling fatalities. His group takes an active role in improving safety.

“Florida has not faired well for bicycle and pedestrian safety over the last several years. There was actually a report published by the organization called Transportation for America that rated Florida as the highest bicycle crash rate in the nation got both bicycles and pedestrian crashes. As a matter of fact, four out of the top 10 most dangerous cities for walking and biking are in Florida.”

Bustos says there are issues that naturally put Florida at a higher risk for bike and pedestrian fatalities.

“Florida has a number of variables that a lot of states don’t have. There’s a higher exposure level because Florida is one of those states where you can ride year round. We’ve got a lot of people coming into the state either to move or for vacation that aren’t that knowledgeable about biking issues that’s contributing to the problem. We also have a really high elderly population which I am told by my insurance agent that is one reason why we all pay such high insurance premiums. There’s a really high population of elderly people that are driving that shouldn’t be.”

Bustos says now pedestrians and cyclists have more freedom to travel because they don’t have to stay in designated bike lanes.

“It’s a big job; it’s nothing people are just going to notice overnight. But there’s already some changes in place. We just got a significant grant to work with law enforcement so they can work with us as partners to help reduce crashes. So, it’s a group effort.”

Bustos expects more funding for pedestrian pathways and trails and he hopes Florida’s tragic pedestrian and bicycle statistics will change with increased awareness of the issue.

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Mishmash of facts

There are a number of factual mishmashes in this report. First, the Dangerous by Design study showed that the top four most dangerous large cities in the country, for pedestrians, were in Florida, not just 4 of the top ten. Second, elderly drivers are not the cause of this. Elderly people comprise around 17% of Florida's population yet are only around 9% of drivers in pedestrian crashes. Old folks have a great record as being safer drivers in pedestrian crashes. And, older folks are underrepresented in all crashes. The people who are disproportionately dangerous are younger drivers, ages 15-21. As far as Florida's safety record in both bike and pedestrian fatalities, since 2001, Florida has been either #1 or in the top three, among all states in both bicycle and pedestrian fatalities per capita, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. I hope this helps. Mike Lasche Florida Walks and Bikes