Florida’s Report Card Points to a Disconnect

Beth Brainard
Ex Director of NPC

There is an ironic twist in Florida’s standing in the 2017 Bicycle Friendly State Report Card recently released by the League ofAmerican Bicyclists. Overall, Florida ranks 15 out of the 50 states. That’s a curious score for the state that is also ranked #1 in the country for the most bike/ped crashes and fatalities per capita.

Where is the disconnect?

The League calculates how bicycle and pedestrian (bike/ped) issues are addressed at the state level in many categories then gives each state an aggregate score. A breakdown of the categories and Florida’s scores shed some light:

POLICIES & PROGRAMS – FLORIDA RANKS  3RD.

Florida starts off looking good. The state has adopted and is implementing a Complete Streets planning policy that takes all users of state roadways – not just motorists – into consideration when they are designed or retrofitted. (When will Collier County get on board?)

EDUCATION & ENCOURAGEMENT – FLORIDA RANKS 6TH.

Still looking good. The Florida Department of Transportation getting high marks for supporting bike/ped events and developing educational materials; the number of commuter cyclists in the state is increasing; driver’s licensing tests include questions about bike/ped laws; and there are state advocacy groups (Florida Bicycle Association and Bike Florida).

INFRASTRUCTURE & FUNDING – FLORIDA RANKS 8TH.

A clue to the disparity is in this category where it is noted that the state gets low marks for transportation “policies that limit the ability to fund bicycling and walking infrastructure,” but ranks well in the other subcategories: how easy the state makes it to build bike/ped facilities; if the state allocates funding for facilities; if the state makes use of federal funding; the number of facilities the state has reported or planned.

EVALUATION & PLANNING – FLORIDA RANKS 10TH.

Another clue here where Florida receives high marks for having a Bike Ped/Advisory Committee and a bike/ped pedestrian plan that follows best practices, then fails in all others where it is noted Florida has not made bike/ped safety a priority, does not have a program in place to collect data on people who bike and walk.

LEGISLATION & ENFORCEMENT – FLORIDA RANKS 42ND.

Florida fails miserably in this category for not having laws that adequately protect people who bicycle and walk. At last we come to the crux of the matter.

The report card points out that Florida is not safe because leaders in Tallahassee have not made the safety of people who bike and walk a priority, and they have not enacted laws to adequately protect them. The state allocates funds to create an array of programs but not to create a system to collect the data needed to give them teeth. They have to have the stats to justify essential transportation funding or move the legislators to make the safety of people who bike and walk a priority.

It would save all of us a lot of money if state bureaucrats and elected officials got on the same page about bike/ped safety. After all, laws that protect bicyclists and pedestrians also protect other roadway users. Perhaps Florida has to become the #1 most dangerous place in the world for that to happen?

Beth Brainard is the Executive Director of Naples Pathways Coalition (NPC), a non-profit organization that works to create safe, bikeable, walkable communities in Collier County.

For more information or to join, visit the NPC web site atwww.naplespathways.org or contact Beth directly atbethbrainard@naplespathways.org.

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