I have been doing a great deal of running around town and shopping for “stuff” today, along with the usual 14 miles I rode for church services, and the headwinds have been gusting over 30 MPH with the funneling effects of buildings on my route. I’m talking some serious drop into a climbing gear and hope you don’t get stopped by a gust headwinds, which naturally died away to limp flags winds when I was heading home from evening services and really needed a tailwind.
I got the 2009 data by county from Florida. It’s bad, it’s really bad. There are 4 counties this year that combine to account for 7.5% of the total fatalities in the entire United States, with individual counties that had death tolls as high as some states. Without further ado, the deadly 4 are Broward with 11, down from 14 in 2008, Miami-Dade with 12, up from 7 in 2008, Palm Beach with 13 again up from 7 in 2008, and finally Pinellas with 12, up from 10. The revised 2008 figures no longer show 3 counties with 8% of the fatalities as some wrecks were moved to other counties outside of the ones listed in the statistics released in 2010 for 2008. Interestingly though the number of cyclists killed in 2008 in Broward went up from the report released in 2010 to 14 in the 2011 report. Just as a standard of comparison the preliminary 2010 report for the state of Indiana has 14 cyclists dying in the entire state, and Indiana is a lot bigger and has a lot more cyclists in it than Broward County Florida.
So, Florida has been identified as a persistent killer of pedestrians and cyclists, far above their population or road network or area or density. By any standard of comparison, Florida is the most deadliest state in the US to walk or ride a bicycle. What do we do about Florida? As much as I would like to we can’t just dig a ditch at the Georgia border and let it float away, 2 of my favorite places in the whole world are there, the Daytona Motor Speedway and Key West. BTW the county that contains the most bicycle-friendly community in terms of mode share, Key West, had 2 cyclist fatalities in 2009. Anyway, something must be done, and I’m at a loss to say what. The education of the drivers in the state about cycle law is crappy not to put too fine a point on it, ditto the education of the cyclists, and the infrastructure is gawd-awful. The problem is where to start? The cyclists now are riding scared just trying to not get hit, so even educating them might not help if it just puts them in a different danger zone than before. You won’t actually be killing many or any more cyclists than before but they will be killed following the law. So in conjunction with that enforcement needs to be stepped up against drivers that hit cyclists with some serious consequences for hitting a cyclist or pedestrian.
Lets start with losing your ride if you hit a cyclist or pedestrian, until the case is settled for cyclists and pedestrians hit outside of designated facilities like bike lanes or sidewalks, permanently for cyclists and pedestrians hit inside facilities like bike lanes, crosswalks, or sidewalks. If you have facilities all you have done is move the target unless you enhance punishment for violating those facilities. And also make hitting a person in a designated facility prima facie evidence for a negligent assault or negligent manslaughter charge. The logic for this is if they are where they’re supposed to be, and you’re not then you must be in some way negligent for being there unless your vehicle was moved into the facility by an outside force like colliding with another vehicle when the first collision was not the fault of the driver of the vehicle that ended up in the non-motorized vehicle facility. And add confiscation of cars driven without a license, with no ride home. I mean why require a license when you just let the person without one continue to drive? If the driver in a wreck doesn’t have a license or is driving under a suspension, bump all charges up one notch, from misdemeanor to felony, or from minor felony to major felony. Or change the charge to assault with an illegal weapon or the murder equivalent if the victim dies. Those changes to driving without a license will benefit all road users, but especially the vulnerable users, because drivers that don’t bother getting a license or that lose their license seem to be bad about thinking they are the only ones that have a right to be on the road, when in fact they have zero right.
So, we took care of educating cyclists and drivers, we ramped up enforcement against drivers that hit cyclists and pedestrians in their designated facilities, now we need some facilities that a driver would have to be homicidal to hit a cyclist or pedestrian using them, or better yet suicidal. Yes I want facilities that would kill motor vehicle occupants when they tried to encroach upon them, without creating a hazard to the intended users. I don’t know how to do that, but I bet there are some civil engineers out there that do, and would love to get a chance to make something designed to kill people for a change. All you slightly warped civil engineers out there and their friends need to be alerted…
So, we have identified the problem, and possible solutions. There will be no silver bullet that will solve the problem, no one thing that will magically make everything all right. You must educate cyclists, educate drivers, create facilities for cyclists and pedestrians, and seriously ramp up enforcement against drivers that hit cyclists and pedestrians and get dangerous drivers off the roads. Some of this will be cheap, some of this will cost serious amounts of money. Against that you have to balance the costs of not walking or riding a bike in terms of years of life lost, years of productivity lost, and costs to maintain life after serious deleterious health effects have set in because of motor vehicle addiction.