Wednesday is “Bike to School Day,” but more work needs to be done to make anyone feel safer riding a bike on St. Petersburg’s streets, according to a new report by the Florida Consumer Action Network (FCAN),
“The design of our streets have consequences for our health,” says FCAN campaign organizer Lisa Frank.
Specifically, the report says nearly half of all adults in Pinellas County don’t get enough exercise, contributing to heart disease and diabetes. People living in neighborhoods with inadequate walking and biking infrastructure were less likely to walk or bike to work and more likely to suffer from health problems related to inactivity and air pollution.
There were 14 pedestrian fatalities last year, nine of them occurring in South St. Petersburg.
At an FCAN news conference late Tuesday morning at Perkins Elementary School on 18th Avenue South, several speakers were drowned out at times by speeding motorists driving by.
“Many streets in St. Pete were designed decades ago for the fast movement of cars,” Frank noted. “If you want to ride a bike on 18th Avenue South, you have the choice of dodging pedestrians on a sometimes narrow sidewalk or taking your chances on the road.”
“Whatever you choose,” she adds, “there’s conflict between the different route because the city wasn’t really set up to accommodate people on bikes.”
Activists want St. Petersburg officials to embrace “Complete Street” initiatives.
Complete Streets are defined as streets designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities.
“We’re proud of the investments we’ve made throughout the city, including the more than 100 flashing crosswalk beacons to help people of all ages cross the street safely, but we know we need to do more,” says Mayor Rick Kriseman. “That’s why we are embracing Complete Streets: a new approach to build, maintain, and operate streets that are safe for people of all ages and abilities, while balancing the needs of multiple travel modes like using a wheelchair, biking, or accessing transit.”
But Kriseman says the city can do more, adding that transportation officials are continuing to find more locations around the city to create safe crossings to schools, parks and grocery stores.
Frank says the report lays out four recommendations, including creating more protected bike lanes (where there is a buffer between a cyclist and a motorist), lowering speed limits in parts of the city, creating more neighborhood greenways and investing “adequately” in complete streets annually.