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Florida bicycle fatality prompts fast safety response

The fragile economy has been a reason or an excuse for many Florida community leaders to delay or abandon traffic projects. It has been easier since the recession for Pensacola residents to accept that money is unavailable to make roads safer for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. After all, everyone's budget took a hit during the economic downturn.

Sometimes it takes tragedy to make officials realize the necessity of safe driving programs.

That may be the case in Clearwater where a 27-year-old woman and her 25-year-old boyfriend were hit by a pickup truck. The couple was riding a tandem bike along the shoulder of a popular causeway when the fatal accident occurred.

The woman's death and her boyfriend's severe injuries led to the arrest of a 29-year-old man who told authorities he "blacked out." The jailed defendant has no memory of the pre-dawn bicycle crash. Reports did not indicate whether authorities suspect the driver was drunk.

Within days, local and state officials decided to update the roadway where the truck accident took place. Markings will designate new bikes lanes along the causeway's shoulder. The public also has suggested installation of signs reminding drivers that bicycles are legal street vehicles. Another recommendation was rumble strips to warn drivers who swerve to the roadside.

One bicycle shop manager said anything transportation officials do would improve safety in the area, but the owner of another bike store said he's not sure about that. He noted markings and signs work for drivers who are attentive and willing to comply, but would make little difference to negligent drunk or speeding drivers.

Some officials think encouraging bicyclists to use a nearby pedestrian trail instead of the road would help prevent accidents. The suggestion doesn't change laws that permit bicycle riders to share local roads or victims of accidents from pursuing compensation for harm.

Source:, "FDOT will designate bike lanes on Clearwater causeway in wake of fatal accident" Laura C. Morel, Sep. 05, 2013

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