LARGO — A few weeks ago David Sandmann was biking down Rosery Road when a sport utility vehicle nearly hit him. When Sandmann approached the SUV to point out that state law requires cars to give bicyclists 3 feet of clearance, the driver cursed at him.
The same thing happened a few days later, only this time the driver used cleaner language.
Then Sandmann, 49, a systems programmer at the University of Tampa, heard that a bicycling co-worker had been hit and was hospitalized.
Sandmann decided he needed to take action. He wants to bring the "3 Feet Please" public awareness campaign to Largo.
For four years, a Tallahassee man has sold yellow shirts and bumper stickers bearing the message "3 Feet Please, It's the Law" to concerned bicyclists across the country. Many states have a law similar to Florida's.
Sandmann wants Largo to join the list of public agencies in Florida with the bright yellow bumper stickers on their city vehicles. Tallahassee, Leon County, the Broward County School Board and others have put the stickers on their cars and trucks.
But Largo likely won't join the list.
Mayor Pat Gerard and City Manager Mac Craig worry that if they approve Sandmann's bumper sticker request, Largo will be inundated with similar requests from other special-interest groups.
"We have a lot of vehicles, and I'm sure a lot of people would be wanting to sell us bumper stickers," Gerard said.
They do, however, want to help Sandmann spread his message, perhaps by running some type of program on public access television with him.
"I think what he's doing is a great idea," Gerard said of Sandmann, who proposed the bumper sticker idea at the Feb. 7 City Commission meeting.
Sandmann understands Gerard and Craig's concerns, but he'd like to talk to them some more about the bumper stickers.
Joe Mizereck, the Tallahassee man who started "3 Feet Please," said that he understands Largo's reticence but that the bumper stickers really are the best way to spread the message that bicyclists have rights on the roads just as cars do. Any driver who has ridden behind a Tallahassee police cruiser has seen a "3 Feet Please" sticker.
"It's a great channel for communicating the message," said Mizereck, 57, a former Lakewood High School social studies teacher who was named Pinellas County teacher of the year in 1986. Mizereck now is executive director of the nonprofit National Work Readiness Council. He started "3 Feet Please" in 2008 out of concern that not enough Floridians were aware of the law, which has been in effect since 2006.
"Much like other states that have passed it, they just did nothing to let people know about it," Mizereck said. "It's been up to bike clubs and individuals to pick up the reins and run with it."
Sandmann is scheduled to meet with Jonathan Evans, assistant to the Largo city manager, Thursday to discuss public awareness possibilities. If he can't get the bumper stickers on Largo vehicles, he still hopes his effort makes a difference. He thinks he has helped spread the word by wearing a "3 Feet Please" jersey every time he bikes.
"They need to be aware that we're allowed on the road, whether there's a bike lane or not," he said.
Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected]