This isn’t how I wanted to spend International Walk and Bike to School Day. True, I was able to ride with my daughter to school this morning, but then had to finish up this statement to Tampa, Fla., area officials in response to a really depressing rash of fatal bike crashes. Obviously Tampa isn’t the first place to have to deal with this. Three years ago, Portland dealt with two back-to-back right-hook fatals in dramatic fashion; this year Mayors Menino (Boston) and Villaraigosa (Los Angeles) have hosted safety summits in response to specific incidents. But, the response to tragic events like these really do end up defining communities that care about creating safe and livable streets and neighborhoods.
Other big cities are tackling these issues with some powerful programs that Tampa could look at:
- Chicago is doing crash analysis and working with bicycling advocates to improve traffic safety. In addition to the bicycling education being offered throughout the city to youth and adults, the Active Transportation Alliance has a Drive with Care campaign with the goal “to stigmatize and curb reckless driving”, and the Alliance also recently beefed-up their crash response tools with a hotline.
- San Francisco has seen a lot of education delivered to bicyclists and motorists by the city and local bike coalition. They’ve also got special programs to reach professional drivers and the law enforcement community that are noteworthy.
- New York City has been evaluating crashes since the mid 90s and created this seminal report – Bicyclist Fatalities and Serious Injuries in New York City 1996-2005. The Look Campaign was launched 2006 in response to a 40% increase in cyclist fatalities over the prior year in the five boroughs. And Transportation Alternatives has been keeping up the pressure to increase traffic safety overall.
Closer to home in the Tampa area, St Petersburg has been making some progress of late – although still has a ways to go and suffers from some alarmingly high crash numbers as well – and has made it to a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community. They have seen a 15% reduction in car/bike crashes in the last couple of years thanks to infrastructure improvements and education programs. So there is hope and there are local examples of ways for Tampa and Hillsborough County to improve.
There is also hope because of the efforts of local advocates, the outpouring of support for the families of the victims, and because some local leaders are ready to act. County Commissioner Mark Sharp already replied to my e-mail this morning and there is a hearing this afternoon on bicyclist safety. Tomorrow, attention shifts to the City.
Andy Clarke was appointed to the position of Executive Director in April of 2004 after successfully leading efforts to create, interpret and implement the various transportation programs that are available to improve conditions for bicycling and walking as the League’s State and Local Advocacy Director. Before joining the League in February 2003, Clarke was on contract to provide technical assistance to the highly regarded Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center on site at the Federal Highway Administration. He is on the Board of Directors for America Bikes, and a member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals.