Florida is the Sunshine State. The land of the Mouse and the Early Bird Dinner. A place where you can wear shorts and a t-shirt on Christmas and where you can get dehydrated from walking to your car in the summer. A land of few hills, some wide open spaces, and tons and tons of cyclists, triathletes and runners.
Florida is also home to 17% of all the bike fatalities in the United States each year. There are three times more cycling fatalities per million people in this state than the rest of the country. Folks on bikes literally get hit by a car every day.
Trust me. As a triathlete who has had some close calls with vehicles, side-view mirrors, and bottles launched from vehicles, I know that my state can be dangerous.
Far too few of our roads have dedicated bike lanes. Some don’t even have a shoulder to ride upon, exposing cyclists further to the dangers of riding alongside vehicles.
Being a pedestrian in Florida isn’t much safer, either.
To help raise awareness about the epidemic of pedestrian and cyclist collisions, the Florida Department of Transportation has launched a program called “See the Blindspots“. This campaign is designed to help remind folks to be on the lookout for pedestrians. To be careful. The corollary aim is to educate pedestrians and cyclists to practice safe behaviors as well.
The campaign offers up a plethora of facts and details about how dangerous it is to be a pedestrian or cyclist in Florida. There are some splashy (and very cool-looking) graphics. The layout of the site is exceptional. There are appropriate calls-to-action, including citations of law pertaining to when, where, and how to cycle.
One particular aspect of this campaign has gained some notariety….it’s a 60 second video that shows several pedestrians being struck by vehicles. The intent is to shock and awe folks into realizing the implications of hitting someone with a car. The video shows at least five folks getting hit. One shot is from within a vehicle that strikes a pedestrian.
I’m not sure that the video will actually accomplish the goals. The sad reality of our society is that the sensational is now the norm. People will flock to the website just so they can see the video and marvel at folks flying over vehicles and bouncing on pavement. What will be lost on them is that each of the people who was hit was likely severely injured – if not worse. I’m skeptical that people will slow down and keep eyes wide open. I’m equally skeptical that because of this campaign people will take more care when crossing a street or riding their bike.
The net impact? Lots of web hits for FLDOT, but no change in the key statistics that matter.
If you’re interested in watching the video, click the hyperlink above. I thought about embedding it here, then decided against it. Be warned. It’s graphic. (of course, if that doesn’t get you to click the link, nothing will)