Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Father's and Bike Commuter's Appeal For Safer Bicycling

My friend Jared Vidovic lives in Sulphur Springs and bikes to his job at the VA Hospital on Bruce B. Downs Blvd. near USF.

He wrote to Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio about bicycling. It's a comprehensive and heartfelt letter. I'm re-printing it here.

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Dear Mayor Iorio:

I thank you for taking the time to read my letter. I am sleepless tonight. I lie awake thinking about the recent string of bicycle vs. car crashes that resulted in deaths. Surely you have followed each of these sad stories.

I know you have an early morning tomorrow in Rowlett Park and I hope to join you for an inspiring event. I love Rowlett Park and feel that it could stand up against any park I've ever been to. In fact I think the only thing that could improve the park is a community garden.

My name is Jared. I am a proud father of a three month old daughter and I have decided to make Tampa my home. I have lived here in Tampa for almost 3.5 years and don't own a car of my own. I commute to work by bicycle at the VA and prior to obtaining that job, to school at USF. I only use my wife's car for necessary trips or those deemed too dangerous.

I carefully choose every route I ride on, have decorated my bike with reflective things, have multiple lights, and wear my helmet. Still I understand the inherent danger of riding a bicycle in traffic.

I specifically chose to write tonight because I read your comment about supporting light rail and that project having a greater effect on safety than striping roads would have (forgive me for not quoting exactly). I commend you for all the work you have done on the light rail and I hope to assist in getting out the vote for light rail in November.

However, I think your comment about striping the roads misses the point. I understand the limitations of bicycle lanes. My concern is that it isn't only bicycle lanes that keeps bicyclists safe (I would prefer a road with less traffic driving more slowly than one with a bicycle lane and fast moving traffic). I urge you to consider that there is room for a large impact in areas of respecting traffic laws, pedestrian right of way, and promoting responsible driving habits. As the leader of our community and a legislator I would like to see you promote safety on the road through identifying high speed traffic areas that could be slowed (as recent accidents have displayed Bruce B. Downs and Bayshore Blvd would be a good start) and stepping up enforcement of traffic violations that endanger pedestrians. I wonder how often someone is cited for endangering a pedestrian or failing to yield pedestrian right of way? I can honestly say that both as a walker and a biker people in Tampa turning left or right fail to yield more often than they yield.

I understand that Tampa has its limitations. If we could start from the beginning with an unlimited budget, our city planning could do a lot to make Tampa a safer, more enjoyable place to live. Changing infrastructure is difficult and costly, but slowing traffic, stepping up enforcement of pedestrian violations and promoting a culture of pedestrian safety only takes willing leadership.

I found this website to be informative

In particular this passage:
Traffic speed is a major contributor to traffic accident risk, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists (WHO, 2004). The Power Model states that a given relative change in the mean speed of traffic is associated with a relative change in the number of accidents or accident victims by means of a power (exponential) function (Elvik, 2005). This indicates that a 10% change in the mean speed of traffic is likely to have a greater impact on traffic fatalities than a 10% change in traffic volume. Speed is likely to be the single most important determinant of the number of traffic fatalities. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS, 2003), motorists are driving faster in the U.S., with the result being increased automobile deaths and injuries. One major study concluded that speeding is the number one road safety problem in many countries, and that reducing average speeds on the roads by only 5% will save around 20% of current fatalities (OECD/ECMT, 2006).

Even modest speed reductions can prevent many collisions, and reduce the severity of damages and injuries that result when crashes occur, and are particularly effective at reducing injuries to pedestrians and cyclists (Kloeden, et al., 1997; Leaf and Preusser, 1998; Stuster and Zail Coffman, 1998; IIHS, 2000; Elvik 2001; Kloeden, McLean, and Ponte, 2001; GĂ„rder, 2004; Racioppi, et al., 2004).

In closing, my commute to the VA passes the very location where Ms. Ishizuka was killed. I urge you to examine the bike lane on this southbound stretch of Bruce B. Downs. There are two locations where cars are forced to cross the bicycle path. There are no signs warning that bicycle and automobile traffic must merge (once at university square blvd and once at Fowler). In both instances cars consistently drive through the bike lane. The sidewalk in this area is also neither straight nor safe for pedestrians. At this location I ride looking behind me rather than looking ahead because I know that cars will be crossing through the bike lane into their turn lane, often at 40-50mph. It's a shame that so close to a wonderful university we have such a high speed dangerous traffic situation. There is no alternate route for crossing Fowler near 30th Street.

I hope that as I raise my daughter, we here in Tampa get a light rail and that considerations be made to allow bicycles to travel along with riders. I also know that light rail alone won't allow pedestrians to safely cross the street, nor will it help to educate the public on or enforce the pedestrian right of way.

I again thank you for you time and thought on this issue.

Jared Vidovic

1 comment:

Bridget said...

That was an awesome letter. I hope you receive a response from Mayor Iorio and I would love to see it posted here as well.