Is Pinellas County Really the Most Dangerous Place for Bicyclists?
The past few days have been quite the whirlwind for Pinellas County! On Thursday, Pinellas took home the award for “Best County” during Creative Loafing’s Best of the Bay Awards, beating out Hillsborough and Pasco. But the Wall Street Journal also bestowed Pinellas with a less honorable title. They named it as the worst place in the nation for bicyclists.
The Wall Street Journal says they based their claim on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA’s data certainly shows that Florida is a dangerous place for bicyclists. According to 2016 data, there was a fatality rate of 6.7 per 1 million people in Florida. This makes it the deadliest state with a fatality rate that was twice the national average.
Though the numbers are upsetting, there are a few logical explanations for why Florida has a high number of bicycle accidents. Our nearly perfect weather makes for great biking, so more people are out on the roads, sidewalks, and trails. This leads to a natural increase in accidents. Many drivers in Florida are also tourists. As a result, they might not know the local rules of the road or be aware of areas with heavy bicycle traffic. And finally, Florida is home to plenty of dangerous intersections, particularly in larger areas like St. Petersburg or Jacksonville. Combine dangerous drivers and dangerous roads with a high amount of bicyclists and it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
No one is fighting the painful-but-true claim that Florida is a dangerous place for bikes—we’ve even blogged about it before! But the claim that Pinellas is the worst place in the nation? That is the part that has some people crying “fake news.”
Comparing the Numbers
According to an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times, Pasco County actually had a higher fatality rate than Pinellas. Hillsborough was also worse than Pinellas, though Pinellas was more dangerous for bicyclists than Hernando County. Additionally, out of all seven counties in the greater Tampa Bay area, Pinellas came in as the fifth most dangerous.
Based on these statistics, Pinellas County is far from the worst in Tampa Bay, let alone the nation! But even so, this has all brought a spotlight to the issue of bicycle safety in Pinellas and beyond.
Safety in Pinellas and Beyond
Thankfully, bicycle safety has become a larger focus in recent years. To reduce bike accidents, the Florida Department of Transportation has taken steps like increased safety education and lightning on roads to reduce nighttime accidents, and cities have begun their own safety initiatives. St. Petersburg, for example, has plans to redesign one of their major streets to make it safer. Pinellas County is also embarking on a “Vision Zero” action plan to dramatically reduce fatalities.
It’s not just about cities and counties, though. As a bicyclists, driver, and member of the community, you can take steps to keep your own roads safer for everyone.
- Bicyclists should always wear a helmet and any other protective gear, and should wear bright and reflective colors, especially at night
- When biking, go against the flow of traffic and obey all traffic rules, like yielding to traffic and looking before turning
- Everyone, whether they’re biking or driving, should be aware and alert at all times
- As you’re driving, give bicyclists their deserved space on the roads and don’t drive aggressively around bikes
- Check before opening your car door, so that you do not hit a passing bicyclist
- No matter what, respect everyone on the roads!
Though the numbers might be in dispute, it’s still undeniable that we can do more to make the roads safer for bicyclists. From citywide initiatives to everyday alertness on the roads, there is so much than can be done. With everyone working to improve our roads, hopefully we will see a vast increase in bicycle fatalities in Pinellas County—and if it’s already the “best county” now, imagine what it would be like without bike accidents!
The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.