Thursday, August 16, 2018
Health

Working to build a better bicyclist-motorist relationship

Eighteen months ago, Chuck Kelly, a masters bicycle racer, was leading a group of cyclists in the left turn lane on Clayton Road in Naples. As they approached the intersection, the traffic light was green. Kelly began to turn. Behind the group, an impatient driver tried to pass them by driving in the oncoming traffic lane, hoping to turn left before the cyclists. He miscalculated, hitting Kelly and launching him 80 feet. Kelly suffered 25 broken bones, including his back. The driver was cited for improper passing, a $170 fine. Kelly is still in pain and can no longer ride as he once did, let alone compete.

His wife, Tish Kelly, took action. With the help of a sympathetic attorney, she wrote a bill that Florida House Rep. Kathleen Passidomo introduced in the last legislative session. It addressed the minimal fines for motorists who strike cyclists and sought to protect what the bill called "vulnerable road users."

The bill eventually fell victim to the abrupt end of this year's session. Kelly and Passidomo hope to have it reintroduced next year.

Kelly made five trips to Tallahassee to testify before committees. It was a lonely experience. "Bicyclists scream, they complain, but barely one came up there to support it," she said.

As executive director of the Florida Bicycle Association, Becky Alfonso has heard it all before. "Complaining is a dead end," she said. FBA instead focuses on education. Motorists need to know the laws, such as giving cyclists 3 feet of clearance when passing, but so do police and legislators. She hopes to educate legislators before the next session and has already seen improvement among police. "There was a time when law enforcement didn't understand the laws, but it's better now," she said.

Alfonso hopes to recruit cyclists throughout the state to set up short visits with local legislators to help them understand existing bike laws.

Billy Hattaway, Florida Department of Transportation District 1 secretary, has focused on road design. Appointed to champion cycling safety, he has made strides. The standard width for bicycle lanes will be 7 feet beginning this fall. The FDOT is also adopting a "complete streets" approach, where roads are designed to accommodate all modes of transportation.

He'd also like to see a change in the law. Hattaway prefers a "move over" law, much like what's required when a motorist approaches a police traffic stop: Move into the adjacent lane on four-lane roads and slow to 20 mph below the speed limit on two-lane roads when passing cyclists.

Hattaway, who leads a weekly ride in Orlando, encourages cycling groups to open a dialogue with police.

Court Nederveld, president of the Peace River Riders Bicycle Club in Punta Gorda and Charlotte County, has done just that, even working with police on a sting. An officer rode with the group, and when a motorist violated the 3-foot law, the officer radioed a colleague ahead who pulled drivers over and issued warnings, using the opportunity to educate drivers.

The sting itself was an education, or at least a reinforcement of the advice bicycle safety instructors promote. For more than two hours of the sting not one car violated the 3-foot law. The cyclists then realized they were riding as they usually do, 2 feet into the lane to control it. When they rode along the extreme right-hand side, which some motorists think cyclists should do, cars immediately intruded on the 3-foot buffer.

As a result of the collaboration, all Punta Gorda city vehicles now have decals reminding people of the 3-foot law.

The 3-foot law often cannot be upheld in court, as officers can only approximate a distance. Nederveld's club is considering buying a $1,400 device that measures the distance of a passing car. The club would offer to loan or rent it to police.

"Our police department seems very enlightened," he said. "They always send a representative to our volunteer organization called Team Punta Gorda," which works to achieve the League of American Bicyclists' designation as a bicycle-friendly community.

Whether it's educating motorists, working with police, talking to legislators, redesigning bike infrastructure, lobbying for new laws or reining in outlaw cyclists, reducing roadway conflicts is critical to encouraging more people to ride their bikes. Kelly, Passidomo, Alfonso, Hattaway and Nederveld are working to change the dynamics of the bicycle-car relationship.

It sure beats complaining.

Bob Griendling is president of the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club and a member of the Mayor's Bicycling and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Contact him at [email protected]

Comments
The hardest part: actually choosing the day of his death. ‘No one is ever really ready.’

The hardest part: actually choosing the day of his death. ‘No one is ever really ready.’

In the end, it wasn’t easy for Aaron McQ to decide when to die.The 50-year-old Seattle man — a former world traveler, triathlete and cyclist — learned he had leukemia five years ago, followed by an even grimmer diagnosis in 2016: a rare form of amyot...
Published: 08/15/18
Tampa General ranked Florida’s second-best hospital in U.S. News study

Tampa General ranked Florida’s second-best hospital in U.S. News study

Tampa General Hospital was ranked as Florida’s second-best hospital in the U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Hospital Rankings released Tuesday, while Moffitt Cancer Center was named the country’s eighth-best cancer hospital.The rankings, which analy...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/15/18
Florida Hospital to change its name to AdventHealth

Florida Hospital to change its name to AdventHealth

Beginning next year, the Florida Hospital brand will be known as AdventHealth.The Central Florida-based health care chain, which has nearly 50 hospital campuses and more than 80,000 employees, including seven hospitals around Tampa Bay, announced the...
Published: 08/14/18
Life skills, love shared at GiGi’s

Life skills, love shared at GiGi’s

TAMPA — Learning, life skills and love are offered unconditionally at GiGi’s Playhouse Tampa, a Down syndrome achievement center opening Saturday.Specially-designed therapeutic, educational and career development programs are provided for all ages, a...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Pinellas health officials report measles in an unvaccinated child

Pinellas health officials report measles in an unvaccinated child

An unvaccinated child has contracted the contagious measles virus in Pinellas County, according to the Florida Department of Health, which said Monday it is investigating the case. It was unclear how the child contracted the virus, according to the h...
Published: 08/13/18
CVS offering 24-hour ‘virtual care’ on its app to treat minor illnesses

CVS offering 24-hour ‘virtual care’ on its app to treat minor illnesses

Florida residents seeking treatment for minor health problems can now take advantage of a new, quick, virtual service from CVS Health’s MinuteClinic.The new service, called MinuteClinic Video Visits, will provide patients with video access to health-...
Published: 08/09/18
Lyme disease is on the rise in Florida, but experts don’t know why

Lyme disease is on the rise in Florida, but experts don’t know why

When Jackie Dube found circular rashes with bullseye points on her stomach, she went to the hospital. Doctors told her she had an allergic reaction to flea bites. A year later, she became seriously ill. Flu-like symptoms and chronic joint pain would ...
Published: 08/08/18
Updated: 08/09/18
Next generation: Many younger doctors like the idea of universal health care

Next generation: Many younger doctors like the idea of universal health care

When the American Medical Association — one of the nation’s most powerful health care groups — met in Chicago this June, its medical student caucus seized an opportunity for change.Though they had tried for years to advance a resolution calling on th...
Published: 08/08/18
Plant City therapy dog brightens days for kids

Plant City therapy dog brightens days for kids

PLANT CITY — When Kaleb French first visited therapy dog Bonnie at the library, he was too shy to read aloud to her. Instead, his mother read to the dog. Eventually, he began whispering the words to her.Now, the 7-year-old’s voice echoes through the ...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/09/18
Popular blood pressure medicine made in China is recalled

Popular blood pressure medicine made in China is recalled

The Food and Drug Administration has announced a voluntary recall of a widely prescribed blood pressure medication made in China, reviving fears about the safety of imported drugs.Three companies that sell the generic drug, valsartan, in the United S...
Published: 08/07/18