I wrote an email to the Govs office a long time ago suggesting a few ways
to encourage better motorist / cyclist cohabitation in this area. Months later
this is the response I received. Although I appreciate the in-depth response
it's not quite what I wanted to hear. Having suffered this areas drivers for
only a few months and knowing that drivers accounts of accidents always
supersede the (dead?)cylists, I simply cannot believe the assertion that
most accidents are the fault of the cyclists. Oh well, Ill still continue to
ride respectfully and letter flood official entities for some optimistically
but futile reason.........
Dear Mr. XXXXXXXXXXXXXX:
Thank you for expressing your concerns about motorist behavior and cycling safety in Palm Beach County to the Governor. Your message was forwarded to the Florida Department of Transportation Safety Office for response. I sincerely apologize for my delay in responding to you.
A media campaign to promote motorist awareness of cyclists and their legal use of public roads and highways is an idea that has drawn support from many bicyclists.
Unfortunately, the track record of motorist education programs has not been impressive. A 2001 issue of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Status Report newsletter (http://www.iihs.org/sr/pdfs/sr3605.pdf ) summarized the disappointing experience in this area. There has been scant evidence that such efforts influence drivers to change their behavior (nor has research published since 2001 suggested otherwise), except when conducted in direct support of specific traffic safety laws. Studies of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes have generally found large percentages of both motorists and cyclists (but more cyclists than motorists, typically) to be at fault in the crashes, with no single violation of a road rule probably involved in more than about 15 percent of the crashes—and those violations were by cyclists. The most common motorist violation (failure to wait and yield to cyclist at location where motorist faced a Stop sign) involves about 10 percent of motorists, and in many of these cases it seems the crash might have been due more to motorist failure to notice the cyclist than to ignorance of the law of Stop signs. While media messages have been developed over the years to encourage motorists to “start seeing” cyclists and motorcyclists, again there isn’t much evidence that they are effective in changing motorist behavior.
When a media campaign to educate motorists to “share the road” with cyclists was conducted in one mid-sized Florida city in 2005, the percentage of respondents surveyed (before and after) who agreed that bicycles are legal vehicles on non-limited-access highways did increase by 20 percentage points (from 52 percent to 72 percent). However, the percentage who agreed with the statement that the “driver of any vehicle has to allow enough space for bicycles on the roadway” fell 18 percentage points (from 78 percent to 60 percent).
Cyclists who operate predictably and in accordance with the laws (as you indicate you do) set an example and can contribute to a gradual improvement of motorist awareness and courtesy, as reported anecdotally by many cyclists. Cyclists who routinely ride competently and predictably on the same roads in an area gradually acclimate motorists to their presence. While research may not support educational campaigns, the Department and many of its partners throughout the state continue to develop, promote, and fund bicycle and motorist safety awareness and safety campaigns. It is also hard to teach courteous behavior, but we continue to try.
Thank you again for sharing your concerns. If you have any question, please feel to contact me.
Marianne A. Trussell
Chief Safety Officer
Florida Department of Transportation
1211 Governor's Square Blvd., Suite 300
Tallahassee, Florida 32301
Remember: Buckle up - every time, every trip!