Pedestrians and bicyclists aren’t welcome in the Tampa Bay area. How can I write such a thing. Look at the numbers. In the worst state in the nation for bicycle and pedestrian safety, the Tampa Bay area stands out as the most dangerous area in the Sunshine State. To make matters worse, nothing significant is being done about it.
The Tampa Bay Times reports this morning that more than 100 people were killed walking in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties in 2017, according to state data. In addition, 22 bicyclists died last year.
The Times uncovered a new twist to these dreadful numbers.
“While Tampa Bay routinely hovers in the top 10 most dangerous cities for walking and biking. Peter Hsu, a safety engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation local office, did notice a new trend this year: about a third of pedestrian and bicyclists killed statewide in 2016, the most recent year of data, were intoxicated.
“That number really shocked me,” Hsu said. “We try to do these improvements. We do a lot of education, a lot of enforcement. But it’s a social issue, a human behavior issue. And that’s harder.”
Forward Pinellas executive director Whit Blanton, the county’s transportation planning agency, said Pinellas definitely struggles with intoxicated pedestrians.
“They walk right out of the bar and into the street,” Blanton said “You almost can’t engineer that. How do you fix that?”
Let’s face it. The area is dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians without adding fuel (alcohol) to the fire.
In addition to the problem of alcohol, there is the ubiquitous problem of drivers texting, not paying attention to traffic conditions and otherwise oblivious to others around them, including bicyclists and pedestrians. These numbers won’t improve until the Legislature decides to do something about texting and the unsafe crosswalks and roadways that contribute to these high fatality rates.
In the meantime, if you are crossing a street or riding your bike in Pinellas or Hillsborough County you are taking your life in your hands. Let’s be careful out there.