The Tampa Bay Times recently reported on the alarming and increasing number of bicycle accidents in Pinellas County. Fatalities resulting from those accidents rose from 14 in 2020 to 21 in 2021. Combined deaths of pedestrians and bicyclists in Pinellas County nearly doubled during 2021 with 85 fatalities compared to 49 in 2020, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office.
Pinellas County has the highest cyclist death rate in the Tampa Bay metro area at 7 deaths per 100,000 residents, the highest rate of any metro region in the US. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, the most common cause (38 percent) of fatal car versus bicycle crashes is a failure to yield the right of way. Additional factors are making improper turns, failing to use lights, and wearing dark clothing.
In most county areas, motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians are all sharing the same space. Busy thoroughfares are serving the dual purpose as ways of getting cars to interstates and as local streets to homes and businesses. These roadways represent a risky situation for cyclists in particular because there are so many potential places where their path can cross with vehicles—behind, in front, and on the side. There are also the factors of a large senior population in Florida and a year-round influx of tourists who are often unfamiliar with local traffic patterns and risks. In 2018, about 6.6 million overnight visitors to Pinellas County.
Contributing to the general causes of such unenviable statistics are the area’s climate and topography. Good weather and flat surfaces encourage walking and cycling in Pinellas County. Also, urban streets are constructed widely, encouraging speeding despite 45 mph limits, especially during the pandemic slowdown of vehicle traffic.
But more specifically, many of the fatalities occur in hazardous locations like:
- 66th Street and Park Boulevard where a mobile home park is located across the street from a Publix supermarket.
- Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard
- South Belcher Road in Clearwater
- Park Boulevard and Starkey Road
- 66th Street and Ulmerton Road
Poor lighting is another issue and one that the county acknowledges, especially in low-income and minority neighborhoods where people rely more heavily on walking and biking to get around. Places like downtown St. Pete, however, have fewer fatalities and serious injuries than other parts of the county because of their walkability and slow speeds. Vehicle drivers are generally more cautious in those areas.
The Pinellas County Board of Commissioners is attempting to address these problems with potential solutions like building roundabouts to reduce speed and increase safe traffic flow as well as instituting a program called Vision Zero, aimed at expanding public education and engineering and enforcement programs throughout the county. This includes installing a roundabout on state highway US 19 in Palm Harbor, an area notorious for speeding. There are also plans to remove a lane from Drew Street in Clearwater to increase room for bicycles and foot traffic. Projects like these will eventually make a difference but require planning time and funding.
Meanwhile, if you or someone you know has been injured in a bicycle accident caused by a careless driver in Clearwater, St Petersburg, or anywhere in Pinellas County, Florida, help from an experienced bicycle injury lawyer may be critical to the success of your case. For twenty-five years, Attorney Jim Dodson has applied his own personal cycling experience to assist hundreds of bicycle rider injury victims. Simply call our office and explain what happened. Learn what we can do to help you.