taking back our STREETS

Michelle Avola, Ex Director of NPC

Florida continues to lead the country in bicycle and pedestrian crashes and fatalities. Despite efforts to increase the education of all road users, improved infrastructure and  signage, and better understanding and enforcement of laws by police officers, our roadways can still be a very scary place.

The most vulnerable road users, those traveling on foot or bicycle, experience the worst consequences of critical factors on our streets. Some of the critical factors threatening our safety include lack of awareness of rules, rights, and responsibilities on the road, automobile-centric roadway design that makes retrofitting roads with sidewalks, bike lanes or shared use pathways a challenge, distracted driving, excessive speed, driving under the influence, and road rage, just to name a few.

Let’s consider the need for educating motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Did you know that a bicycle is considered a vehicle when on a roadway? Have you heard of the Three-Foot Passing Law that requires motorists to give cyclists at least three feet clearance when passing? Did you know that it is unlawful to ride your bike facing traffic and it is safer to ride with traffic whether in a bike lane or vehicle travel lane? Did you know it is legal for a cyclist to ride in a vehicle travel lane? Did you know that 32 percent of all pedestrian fatalities occur between 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.?

Wide, multi-lane roads are designed to move a lot of cars as quickly as possible, but they are often treacherous for someone trying to cross on foot or those who commute by bike. A healthy adult walking at an average rate takes five seconds to cross one lane, so crossing a typical four-lane road at an intersection with turn lanes can take at least 30 seconds. Someone who is older or someone pushing a stroller/wheelchair may need significantly more time to cross.

Did you know, on dry pavement, a car traveling at just 35 miles per hour is traveling at 51.3 feet per second and needs approximately 59 feet to stop? But the perception-reaction distance, the time it takes a driver to recognize the need to stop and apply the brakes, is 77 feet, making total stopping distance 136 feet! (source: Reference.com). Take that up to a vehicle moving at 55 miles per hour and in the most ideal circumstances,
it would take 302 feet to stop, which is more than a football field. Now just imagine if the driver is looking down at a phone!

By now, most of us have heard the dangers of distracted driving, but too many are ignoring the information. The United States Department of Transportation notes that cell phones are involved in 1.6 million auto crashes each year, and these crashes cause half a million injuries and take 6,000 lives. A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reported texting while driving is up to six times more likely to cause an auto crash than driving when intoxicated.

The news is filled with images of car wrecks brought on by excessive speed, driving under the influence, road rage, and distracted driving. At least weekly, we see stories of pedestrians or cyclists being hit or killed. When are we going to say enough is enough? We need to take back our streets! All of us, whether we prefer to get where we’re going on foot, two wheels or four. We must make changes in our habits, learn and follow safe
practices, and get behind organizations who are actively working to improve our roads for everyone who uses them.

Naples Pathways Coalition is just such an organization and I invite you to learn more about what we’re doing for our community and become a member at www.NaplesPathways.org or email me directly at michelle@NaplesPathways.org. Michelle Avola 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 at www.naplespathways.org or contact Michelle directly at michelle@naplespathways.org.

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