With the popular movement to “go green” and help reduce their impact on the environment, many people in Southwest Florida are embracing the more pedestrian methods of transportation – literally. High gas prices and the effort to leave a smaller carbon footprint in their wake are pushing many to seek out alternative ways to get from point A to point B – most notably, by riding a bicycle or simply walking.
However, with the urban sprawl and heavy traffic found in Southwest Florida, the mix of motor vehicles with bicyclists and people on foot can prove to be dangerous, if not deadly. While people may get satisfaction from trying to be more eco-friendly, they are often putting their lives at risk by walking or riding their bikes around our area.
The problem is that very little forethought went into the road planning and real estate development rush of years past when it comes to bicyclists and pedestrians. The lack of sidewalks, underpasses and other thoroughfares designed specifically for bikes and walkers forces them onto the streets, where the interaction with cars and trucks turns into a high-risk cat and mouse game. Those who advocate the use of bikes or walking locally are pushing for new ideas in urban planning, aimed at addressing the need for safer ways to get around, and saving lives in the process. In 2007 and 2008, 32 pedestrians and 10 bicyclists were killed in accidents involving motor vehicles in Lee County alone. The National Safety Council estimates that the cost of such an accident, when factoring in the cost of the accident itself and the economic impact of the loss of a productive life, to be around $4 million. City and County planners and engineers point out that designing and building new roads and sidewalks for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians is expensive, and even retrofitting our current infrastructure can carry a hefty price tag. Clearly, the cost of not doing so needs to be fully understood.
Local advocacy groups like BikeWalk Lee are stepping up their efforts to bring their cause to the forefront. According to their website, BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County – streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. In early December, the group presented letters to Governor Charlie Crist and to the Lee County Legislative Delegation asking that the State enact specific efforts to reduce the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths on Southwest Florida roadways. Among their requests is that the Florida Department of transportation designate 22% of state funding on road design and construction to more pedestrian-friendly planning. The organization points out that 22% of all traffic fatalities in Florida involve people on foot or on bicycles.
“Drivers just don’t watch for people walking or riding their bikes as they should”, says PJ Scheiner of the Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner Personal Injury Lawyers law firm. “We see the tragic results of these accidents in our practice, and applaud the efforts of all the local organizations working to promote a safer environment for cyclists and pedestrians”.
If you or someone you know has suffered a serious injury while biking or on foot, our experience in fighting for justice can prove invaluable in seeking the financial restitution you deserve. We devote our entire expertise and resources to your individual case, and you are obligated to pay us nothing unless we are successful on your behalf. Contact us at 1-800-Dial-BLS, or visit our website www.focusedonjustice.com.