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Tampa Bay has had nine bicycle fatalities in just over four months

Bicyclist Diane M. Vega, 53, died at the scene when she was hit by the driver of a sport utility vehicle who ran a red light while she waited for a crosswalk light to change at Spruce Street and Himes Avenue in Tampa on Oct. 1.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times

Bicyclist Diane M. Vega, 53, died at the scene when she was hit by the driver of a sport utility vehicle who ran a red light while she waited for a crosswalk light to change at Spruce Street and Himes Avenue in Tampa on Oct. 1.

No state in the nation has more bicycle crash fatalities than Florida.

By far, Florida led the nation in the number of bicyclists killed with 125 in 2008, which is the most recent year for which national data is available.

Florida's bicyclist fatality rate that year was 6.82 people per million population, nearly triple the national rate, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (Not surprisingly, Florida also has the highest pedestrian fatality rate in the country.)

Since midsummer, nine cyclists in the Tampa Bay area have died in crashes with vehicles. It's a troubling trend that has cyclists worried — especially considering 22 bicyclists died on Tampa Bay roads in 2009, the most since 2004, when 30 were killed.

"Unfortunately in the Tampa Bay area, the roads were not designed very well to handle bicycle traffic," said Alan Snel, a Tampa resident and the director of the South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers. "That doesn't mean they don't have a right to be on the road. The roads are for everyone and that means sharing."

In some of the recent cases, police determined the cyclist was at fault and didn't have the right of way. In others, they determined the motorist had violated a law. Many times, authorities say, both parties share the blame.

Regardless, Snel and others say, both motorists and cyclists need to do a better job of coexisting on the roads.

Tips for cyclists

• Wear a well-fitting helmet.

• Obey traffic laws and drive your bike like a vehicle.

• Make sure your clothes and bicycle are visible (safety vests and lights help, especially in the dark).

• Be predictable and avoid swerving between lanes.

• Stay off the sidewalk and don't ride against traffic.

Tips for motorists

• Recognize that bicycles are considered vehicles.

• When passing a bike, keep at least 3 feet between your vehicle and the cyclist.

• Slow down for a cyclist.

• Avoid driving up behind a bicyclist and blaring your horn.

• Be patient.

Sites of the nine Tampa Bay

bicycle deaths in four months

1. LeRoy "Roy" Collins Jr., 75, son of a former governor, died July 29 when a sport utility vehicle struck his bicycle in a crosswalk at Brorein Street and S Hyde Park Avenue in Tampa. The driver told police she did not see Collins and no charges were filed.

2. Joe Dyals, a 46-year-old Chiles Elementary School art teacher, died Sept. 9 after pulling in front of a minivan near Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Bearss Avenue in Tampa.

3. Stephen Allen Ivey, 52, of New Port Richey died after being struck by a car Sept. 10 as he tried to cross near the 5300 block of Crafts Street in New Port Richey. Police said the car had the right of way.

4. Neil Alan Smith, 48, died after being stuck by a hit-and-run driver Sept. 12 at Fourth Street near 73rd Avenue N in St. Petersburg. Police have not found the driver, who they say rear-ended Smith with a midsize sedan.

5. Kayoko Ishizuka, 30, a University of South Florida researcher from Tampa, was struck and killed by a driver Sept. 25 while riding near University Square Drive and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in Tampa. Police later arrested a man, 29, on a charge of leaving the scene of the accident.

6. Diane M. Vega, 53, was killed Oct. 1 while waiting on the sidewalk at Spruce Street and Himes Avenue in Tampa for the crosswalk light. A sport utility vehicle ran a red light and traveled onto the sidewalk and struck Vega, who was thrown into a concrete block house. The driver was cited for running the light.

7. Brad Ash, a 41-year-old Pasco County math teacher from Dade City, died after being rear-ended by a sport utility vehicle Oct. 4 at St. Joe Road near Mount Zion Road in Dade City. The driver was not charged.

8. Anthony G. Weeks, 33, of Thonotosassa died Nov. 1 after he was struck by a truck entering Fowler Avenue from Interstate 75 in Tampa. Weeks had been riding against traffic. No charges have been filed and the case is still open.

9. A 64-year-old bicyclist was killed Nov. 16 by a motorist who apparently could not see him in the dark on U.S. 41 near St. Paul Street. Police have not yet identified the male bicyclist and no charges have been filed.

States with the most bicycle fatalities

1. Florida, 125 (6.82 per million population)

2. California, 109 (2.97)

3. Texas, 53 (2.18)

4. New York, 42 (2.15)

5. North Carolina, 32 (3.47)

States with the fewest bicycle fatalities:

Vermont, South Dakota and Nebraska had zero.

Highest bicycle fatality rates

(per million population)

1. Delaware, 6.87

(6 fatalities)

2. Florida, 6.82 (125)

3. New Mexico, 3.53 (7)

4. North Carolina,

3.47 (32)

5. South Carolina, 3.13 (14)

National rate:

2.35 (716 fatalities)

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Tampa Bay has had nine bicycle fatalities in just over four months 12/05/10 [Last modified: Monday, December 6, 2010 7:38am]

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