Agents of Change
On October 30, four cyclists, Sarah Calabrese, 55, William J. Harrington, 57, Joel Calabrese, 67 and John Ustruck, 60, were hit from behind while changing lanes on Center Road in Venice. All the cyclists required hospitalization. On November 5, William Harrington succumbed to his injuries. The others have since been released.
November ended with another tragedy, this from the Miami Herald:
“Weston resident Denise Marsh, 53, died from her injuries. Marsh’s Facebook page says she was a native of Bloomfield, New Jersey, an office manager, a wife, mother of two and summa cum laude graduate from Broward College in May. Her photo posts featured family, especially her sons, and her pedaling family, Cycling Family Broward.
Carlos Rodriguez, 62, was in surgery “with an unknown prognosis,” according to Davie police. Edgar Reyes, 48; Maria Bautista, 56; and John Beitz, 49 were in stable condition. A 14-year-old boy suffered a scraped knee. All appear to be from Cycling Family Broward.”
Carlos Rodriguez died on November 27. No charges have been filed against the driver as the crash remains under investigation.
The above excerpts are from my winter Messenger column; the issue now at the printer in hopes of meeting our December 15 distribution deadline. The news is sad. It is frustrating. This could have been any one of us. THIS MUST STOP.
It is time to bring value back to life. I don’t have the how, but I don’t see not doing anything as having any affect.
In SW Florida, Mark Schiefer, president of Gulf Coast Velo, formed a Safe Cycling Coalition comprised of FBA and bicycle club leadership from St. Petersburg Bicycle Club, Sarasota-Manatee Bicycle Club, Gulf Coast Velo, Coastal Cruisers Bicycle Club, Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club and First Responders Cycling Club.
Here’s what developed after the first coalition meeting:
State. We agreed that FBA is the best way to get our message to our State representatives.
- Participate where FBA feels we need to and offer our assistance as a support group to FBA projects.
- Encourage our club members to join FBA to boost their budget for additional projects and staff if needed. I received an email from Jim Dobson today who said he had a couple ideas he would like to share.
- Contact state legislators in mass to keep pressure on bike safety.
Regional. Create this new organization to include numerous regional bike clubs from St Pete to Fort Myers…with the idea we represent the entire SW cycling community.
- Develop a program to advance our message throughout our region using PSA’s, literature, traditional and social media outlets. Perhaps look to collaborate with local retailers and other regional market segments. We should discuss sponsors, budgets, etc. Of course we’ll most likely end up spending whatever amount we raise…
- Work on collaborating with Police, EMS, City Officials, Media. We started a chat toward the end of our last meeting about law enforcement, is it generally pro or con cyclists? Many cyclists think it is con. What are some of the ways we collaborate with law enforcement?
- Perhaps develop a training program for ride leaders and sweeps to reach and train all clubs in our organization. Suggest using our LCI certified members to put together a “clinic” that is consistent for all clubs. Note: Mark was directed to the FBA RLRM program and numerous GVC members have registered for the January public session.
- Again develop relationship with local law enforcement, EMS, Media, etc.
- Promote cycling through civic organizations by attending and presenting at their meetings. FBA has PP presentations we can use.
- Promote rider courtesy to drivers in hopes to improve public relations between cyclist and vehicles.
- Promote adherence to traffic laws to our club members.
- Encourage the use of safety equipment for riders, ie, high quality lights, high viz clothing, cameras, etc.
The following was posted to Gulf Coast Velo membership on December 4:
Rich Garrett and Mark Schiefer met with the Sarasota Manatee Municipal Planning Organization Strategic Planning Manager yesterday morning to discuss and learn about different ways GCV, the new Safe Cycling Coalition and the Sarasota Manatee MPO can collaborate over the next year for the benefit of improving cycling safety in our area.
The meeting was extremely productive as we discussed S/M MPO budgets, how to provide input into S/M MPO’s priorities and ideas for funding of public education programs, schools cycling safety programs, and tying into the state’s “Vision Zero” (meaning, no deaths) safety program.
Although our discussions were very preliminary at this time, it is a start for GCV to build relationships with key government contacts who influence the direction of cycling safety in our area.
In the course of this coalition starting to take root, I shared this and other information with Cycling Family Broward, South Broward Wheelers and Vero Cycling Club as these groups expressed their want to, in essence, bring value back to life. The following was sent to Mayra Dumenigo of Cycling Family Broward after a request for materials to educate motorists:
Here’s the deal with educating motorists – they generally will have no part of it. That’s the blanket statement. What FBA has had success with is a Speakers Bureau of sorts. We have a presentation (to which anyone can request from our website: https://floridabicycle.org/education-is-what-we-do/ ) that is suited to civic organizations, Metropolitan Planning Organizations/Transportation Planning Organizations, etc. The idea is that FBA provides free content for those who meet on a regular basis and need content. Most of our success has been with Rotary Clubs and Home Owner Associations, aka, motorists. So instead of pushing our education, they are asking us for the presentation. This works better and every single time the feedback is that the information was very informative and people felt that they learned.
The presentation, however, is non-confrontational. There’s no blame, no demanding rights; we are simply spending 20 minutes going over what is most important – that bicycles are considered vehicles, that bicyclists have a legal right to the road and therefore have the same rules/same rights, and lane positions and how motorists and cyclists share the road. I’ll be more than happy to come to south Florida to train anyone interested to be part of this speakers bureau.
Here’s what I sent to Hugh Aaron of Vero Cycling Club after someone expressed to him a concern for stricter laws:
I wish we were pursuing stricter laws but it’s been a tough sell to legislators. It’s been hard for me to corral a dedicated group to truly research law and craft a bill that would address cyclists or vulnerable road users to create penalties that would instill the value of life. And even if such a bill was crafted, we would still need bill sponsors and support across the house and senate. This simply doesn’t happen over night, no matter how many are dying out there.
Florida laws. Yeah. I’ve heard some fascinating and mind-blowing explanations as to why elected officials choose what they support and what they oppose. One avenue of thought against the cyclist’s favor is that there is no public outcry for stricter laws, especially when it comes to criminalizing death by motor vehicle. There is no public outcry for vulnerable road user laws (maybe because most don’t see themselves as a vulnerable road user). There is, however, public outcry for distracted driving, but as you can read on our Facebook page, there are multiple pros and cons to just having a hand-held device ban. I believe everyone wants perfection, wants to live and wants guarantees that in reality can’t be delivered. I also believe that if I found a group of dedicated cyclists, in for the long term, we could develop and execute the types of laws that would protect vulnerable road users and ultimately bring value back to life for those using the public roadway system. I see this as at least a 3-7 year endeavor if not longer – something no cyclist wants to hear.
Yesterday, I shared this with Harley Jacobson, president of South Broward Wheelers:
I can only imagine what it must be like to go through such an ordeal. I know first-hand the frustration for answers which, unfortunately, won’t change the outcome. The social media backlash I know all to well. It’s really a shame as often I find bicycle advocates don’t agree on even basics, such as following the laws. However, I have hope. The progress with the SW Florida group is already taking shape; leadership met with Sarasota Metropolitan Planning Organization to discuss projects and bicycle facilities. The coalition will meet December 14 and I believe I will present our Complete Streets Savvy presentation to recruit participants in our speakers bureau. The grassroots work will take time – a real endurance test – we will all need strength and patience while exercising courtesy and respect.
Things are taking root; we have a grassroots effort spreading across Florida. We have leadership and agents of change answering the call. Let’s do this, but let’s not kid ourselves it will be easy or quick. Our work is cut out for us, but it’s how we will honor those lost or injured from something so simple as riding a bike. It’s how we will bring value back to life. I’m in.
Do you have a bicycle story to tell? Photos to share? Be our guest and be our next guest blogger! Send your story and photos to Becky@floridabicycle.org.
Speaking of stories, our quarterly Messenger newsletter is available online for your internet reading pleasure. Visit the FBA website Home page or click here. Want a hard copy of our Messenger? Join Florida Bicycle Association or visit one of our bicycle shop members to pick up our FBA brochure.