ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Cycling is a favorite outdoor activity for many around the Tampa Bay area. Recent data shows an increase in the number of fatal crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians.
Peter Wray is one of 500 members in the St. Pete Bicycle Club. He understands the dangers of riding around city streets.
“Almost every one of us in the bike club have been hit by a car,” Wray said. “I was hit about four years ago. I was t-boned and it broke my back. I was in a body cast for six months.”
Wray said Florida is the most dangers state for cyclists, with a death rate significantly higher than the national average. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties are on track see the most bicycle crashes and injuries in 11 years.
In Pinellas County, leaders with Forward Pinellas say an average of two people are killed or seriously injured on the roads everyday.
“I lived, but we have a lot of our folks who have not lived,” Wray said.
Wray says poor road design and urban planning are a big factor in pedestrian deaths. Wide travel lanes and intersections encourage motorists to drive faster and narrowing the lanes will subconsciously prompt drivers to slow down, according to Wray.
Many Tampa Bay area roads lack bike lanes, and those that have them are unprotected – meaning there is no physical barrier or distinction that separates cyclists from the travel lane.
“Paint is not protection,” Wray said.
On Wednesday night, dozens of cyclists are participating in the ‘Ride of Silence’, an annual nationwide effort to bring awareness to cyclist safety. In St. Pete, riders bring an empty bike, honoring the lives lost in local crashes. It’s their call for a team effort to stop the unnecessary deaths.
“If we want to have a culture where you can commute to work, commute to the grocery store, commute to school,” Wray explains. “We have to figure out a way to make it safer.”
The public can participate in the 8-mile ‘Ride of Silence’ on Wednesday, May 17. Participants meet at the Northshore Pool in St. Petersburg at 6 p.m. The ride starts at 6:15. Helmets are required.