May is National Bike Month
May is National Bike Month, promoted by the League of American Bicyclists and celebrated in communities from coast to coast.
Established in 1956, National Bike Month is a chance to showcase the many benefits of bicycling — and encourage more folks to giving biking a try.
Palm Beach County Vice Mayor Robert Weinroth wants to use Florida Bicycle Month to shine a spotlight on efforts to reverse a disturbing trend of pedestrian and bicycle fatalities.
Though bicyclists and pedestrians represent just 2 percent of commuters in Palm Beach County, they made up a whopping 30 percent of all transportation-related fatalities on county roadways from 2018-2020, according to the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency.
“These are our most vulnerable users and they’re a large disproportionate share of the total fatalities,’’ said Weinroth, who is vice chair of the TPA governing board.
Eleven bicyclists died in the county in 2020, more than double the number of bicycle fatalities recorded in 2019, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Pedestrian fatalities also rose last year, with 41 deaths compared to 40 in 2019.
Weinroth called on local leaders to take “a more proactive approach” aimed at preventing accidents, similar to the intense effort given to airline crash investigations.
“We know statistics don’t fully represent the pain that’s being inflicted on the victims and families of these tragic events,’’ said Weinroth, who will sponsor a proclamation at the Board of County Commission meeting March 9 observing March as Florida Bicycle Month.
Weinroth is endorsing two legislative measures that would offer more protection for bicyclists and pedestrians.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation) and a companion bill sponsored by Stare Rep. Christine Hunschofsky (D-Parkland) would require motorists sharing the same travel lane as bicyclists and pedestrians to exercise care when passing. If there’s no room to pass, motorists would be required to remain behind bicyclists and pedestrians until it’s safe to do so.
If the bills become law in July, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will be required to provide a public awareness campaign informing motorists about the required safety precautions.
The department also would be required to include the precautions in driver’s license educational materials and to ensure that 20 percent of the questions for the Class E drivers’ test are related to bicycle and pedestrian safety.
“The bills by Senator Booker and Representative Hunschofsky will offer much-needed protection to the most vulnerable users of our roadways,’’ said Weinroth.
The increases in fatalities in 2020 is probably part of a national trend related to the COVID-19 pandemic, even though vehicular traffic was down earlier in the year as people stayed home, TPA staff said.
The reduction in congestion on roadways may have prompted motorists to drive faster, exacerbating risky driving behaviors, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics suggest.
The TPA board this year will take a deeper examination of the accident trends.
Weinroth said, “We need to drill down into these incidents to figure out what is causing the carnage on our roadways and what can we do in fixes rather than just continually look at the wrong direction of these trends.’’