TAMPA – One in six bicycle fatalities occurs in Florida, according to the League of American Bicyclists.
And six bicyclists have died on Tampa Bay area roads since July 29.
The numbers are alarming and local officials want to see them change.
Hillsborough County commissioners on Wednesday created a bicycle safety action plan in which the county will work with municipalities in developing a strategy to enhance bicycle safety on local roads.
“We have a responsibility to work to a solution,” said county Commissioner Mark Sharpe. “We are a family friendly state, but you can’t be family friendly if your streets aren’t safe for families.”
Sharpe wants to integrate some of the improvements already achieved with new ones, and wants to see the county and local municipalities strive to make a difference on local roads.
Proponents said it will take education, enforcement and engineering to help move the area forward in bicycle safety. But it can be accomplished with unified support, they said.
Alan Snel, a local bicycle activist and representative of the South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers, said cities such as Miami and St. Petersburg have received national awards for their commitment and support of bicycle safety. Portland, Ore., is considered a model city, but it wasn’t like that years ago, he said.
“There are other model cities turning around,” Snel said. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”
He said leaders have to use a variety of tools, such as bike lanes, road signs and bridges.
“There is not one answer,” Snel said. “There are a variety of tactics a city can deploy.”
At the commission meeting, Theodore Petritsch, a senior transportation engineer for Sprinkle Consulting of Lutz, said the company would voluntarily study the bicycle accidents and complete a report listing education and engineering steps that can be taken to improve safety. The company was hired a few yeas ago to help the city of Miami with its bike safety plan, he said.
Petritsch has a personal interest in the issue. About eight weeks ago, his 19-year-old son was injured after being struck by a vehicle while bicycling in Lutz.
“We’ve got to do something,” Petritsch said.