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Wakulla Times --Bike Safety Oct. 2011

BICYCLES, PEDESTRIANS AND MOTOR VEHICLES CAN COEXIST ON THE ROADWAYS IF EVERYONE TAKES TIME TO BE CAREFUL
By Sheriff David Harvey

Editor’s Note: This will be Sheriff David Harvey’s final column for the Wakulla Area Times after being a magazine contributor for many years. In August, Sheriff Harvey announced that he would be stepping down as sheriff to pursue a post within the Florida Sheriff’s Association. His final day as sheriff was Sept. 30.

The following are excerpts from the sheriff’s resignation announcement press release. His first victorious election was in 1976.

After 39 years in law enforcement and 35 years as sheriff, Sheriff David Harvey announced that he will not seek re-election in 2012 and will be stepping down as Sheriff of Wakulla County. Harvey, 61, announced that he will be leaving office on Oct. 1, 2011 after serving nearly all of nine terms as the Sheriff of Wakulla Sheriff’s.

“I always wanted to be among the youngest and longest serving Sheriffs in modern time and I have accomplished both,” he said.
Sheriff Harvey has accepted the position of Executive Director with the Florida Sheriff’s Risk Management Fund. He will be deeply involved in risk management and training all over the State of Florida.

“After much consideration and many mixed emotions, I have decided to take a different path in life,” said the sheriff. “I have frequently pondered what life would be like after sheriff. It will be a great honor working for the Board of Managers of the Sheriff’s Self Insurance Funds and remaining involved with so many sheriffs that I deeply admire and respect, a job that will keep giving back to the state and Wakulla County, my home.  I really wanted to finish my term in office, but the job of Executive Director of the Florida Sheriffs Risk Fund presented itself and I had to make a decision now!”

“As Chief Law Enforcement Officer of Wakulla County I have an annual operating budget of more than $10 million,” said the sheriff. “I am responsible for managing both the financial and operational components of the department with 170 employees. During my 35 year tenure as sheriff, I have worked closely with the Florida Sheriff’s Association and the risk pools. I handle all Emergency Management functions and I am also proud to report that the WCSO is fully state accredited in law enforcement and corrections.”

“It has been a pleasure to serve the citizens of Wakulla County for more than 35 years. We have seen many changes in Wakulla County during my time in office, but we have met every challenge we have faced. On the corrections side, we operate a jail that generates revenue for Wakulla County. On the law enforcement side, we continue to have an outstanding crime clearance rate which has made Wakulla County one of the safest places in Florida to live,” said the sheriff.

"Thanks to the many outstanding individuals I have working for me in all of our divisions we have been able to make the statement, ‘Keeping Wakulla Safe,’ more than just three words. We have been able to make those three words a fact of life in our county. Keeping Wakulla Safe has always been a top priority for me and I thank everyone within my office for making it a reality.”
 

I recently received an e-mail from a judge friend who serves the judicial circuit asking me about bicycle safety and the “Three Foot Rule.” The judge enjoys bicycling as much as I do and we both find it is a great way to exercise and stay in shape.

But the judge wrote me and said some motorists just don’t know the laws and make bicycle riding more dangerous than it needs to be.
This question became even more timely after an experienced bicyclist was recently killed riding on Tram Road in Tallahassee. You just never know when your final bike ride might be.

I turned to my Traffic Unit and Captain Billy Jones to provide the information about bicycle traffic enforcement and I discovered that fewer than 700 bicycle injuries are fatal, but most crashes are caused by avoidable errors. In 70 percent of police-reported bicycle-motor vehicle crashes, the cyclists involved had violated traffic rules and in about 45 percent the motorists had violated the rules.

A cyclist who rides facing oncoming traffic increases his risk of being hit by a motorist by two to four times. That is because drivers entering and exiting the roadway at side streets and driveways do not expect bicycle traffic to approach from this direction.

About 60 percent of fatal bicycle accidents in Florida occur during non-daylight hours. Bike lamps must be used on a bicycle after sunset to alert other drivers. Bike riders need to stay on the right side of the road all the times unless they are avoiding an obstacle, making a left turn or when they discover that the travel lane is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side.
Bicycle riders under age 16 must wear a bike helmet that is properly fitted and securely fastened and meets nationally recognized standards. Bike riders should not wear a headset, headphones or listening devices that shut out the outside world.

Proper yielding prevents crashes and a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that 70 percent of crashes that occurred at one and two-way stops involved stop sign violations, but in two thirds of these cases, the driver did stop and the crash occurred when the driver proceeded without yielding.

So let’s go back to the “Three Foot Rule” that prompted this article in the first place. It may seem obvious when you are in your vehicle that you must pass a slower moving vehicle on the left when there is enough room and return to the right when you have cleared the vehicle being passed. The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle must pass at a safe distance of not less than three feet between the vehicle and bicycle. In every event an overtaking vehicle must return to an authorized lane of travel as soon as practicable and, in the event the passing movement involves the use of a lane authorized for vehicles approaching from the opposite direction, before coming within 200 feet of any approaching vehicle.

The prohibition of passing in a no-passing zone does not apply when an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway. When a cyclist is traveling so slowly that he or she constitutes an “obstruction,” a motorist may cross the center line in a no-passing zone to pass the cyclist if the way is clear to do so.

A driver preparing to turn right should, after yielding to any bicycle driver present, enter or closely approach a bicycle lane, if one is present. This reduces the conflicts with following drivers, makes the driver’s intention more clear than signaling alone and prevents an overtaking cyclist from trying to pass on the right and possibly colliding. A motorist who makes a sharp right turn immediately after passing a cyclist has turned incorrectly.

As we all know, it is unlawful to operate any vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
There are several things to remember as a bicyclist. Bike riders should always use the bike lane when traveling through intersections. If a bike lane does not exist, a cyclist going straight through an intersection should not ride in a lane marked exclusively for right turns.

A cyclist riding past parallel-parked cars should maintain a clearance of four feet to avoid risk of collision with an opening driver-side door. Cyclists may ride two abreast only within a single lane and when not impeding traffic. Cyclists may not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

We all know that drivers are obliged to yield the right of way to a pedestrian lawfully crossing in a crosswalk. But another guideline to follow is “always exercise due care” regardless of who has the right of way under the circumstances.

Did you know that nobody should stand in the portion of the roadway paved for vehicular traffic for the purpose of soliciting a ride, employment or business from the occupant of any vehicle?
I invite cyclists to take advantage of our outstanding rail trail which travels from Tallahassee to St. Marks with only driveway cuts and a few major intersections to worry about vehicular traffic. I use the trail myself because it is safer than riding along a major highway and it offers a wonderful opportunity to enjoy our landscape and the rivers and ocean once you reach your destination in St. Marks.

The Florida Bicycle Association publishes “Florida Bicycling Street Smarts” to provide additional information about riding safely in the state.
There is also lots of good information about bike trails on the Internet. The St. Marks Trail information can be found at: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/regions/panhandleeast/trails/tallahassee_stmarks.htm

Just remember to be safe while walking, operating a bicycle or a motor vehicle and share the road with everyone.

 

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