The USA’s most dangerous state for bicyclist is Pinellas County
Pinellas County in Florida has gained a notorious distinction as the most dangerous place in America for bicyclists, with a staggering increase in fatalities that far exceeds other regions in the state and the country.
Alarming Statistics: A Surge in Fatalities
- Significant Increase in Deaths: The county saw a dramatic rise in pedestrian and bicyclist deaths, jumping from 49 in 2020 to 85 in 2021. This surge starkly contrasts with other areas in the Tampa Bay region and the state, where fatality rates remained relatively stable or showed slight increases.
- Historical Highs: The 2021 fatality figures in Pinellas County were the highest in over 15 years, significantly higher than the average of 51 deaths per year recorded in the past five years.
Contributing Factors: Road Conditions and Behavioral Changes
- Roadway Design Issues: Whit Blanton, the executive director of Forward Pinellas, the county’s land use and transportation planning agency, attributes the high fatality rate to several chronic issues. These include long stretches of roadway without crosswalks, inadequate lighting, and the concentration of pedestrian and bicyclist activities in low-income areas.
- Behavioral Shifts Post-Pandemic: The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a decrease in road traffic, prompting many motorists to drive faster. The roadways, designed for congested conditions, facilitated this increase in speed, contributing to the rise in accidents.
- Nighttime Lighting and Safety: Most pedestrian fatalities occur at night, exacerbated by poor lighting on some Pinellas County roads. The inadequate lighting, particularly in stretches between intersections, poses a significant risk for pedestrians who often cross roads in these poorly lit areas.
Comparative Data: Pinellas County Versus Others
- State and National Figures: Statewide, Florida saw 850 pedestrian and bicyclist deaths through November 2021, aligning with the 884 fatalities recorded in the previous year. However, national figures for 2021 were not available for comparison.
- Adjacent Counties: In Pasco County, there were fewer pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in 2021 compared to 2020. Hillsborough County, more populous than Pinellas, recorded 58 pedestrian deaths and 13 bicyclist deaths in the first 11 months of 2021.
Initiatives and Responses
- Improvement Measures: The Florida Department of Transportation is implementing a state roads lighting program in July 2023 to address some of the issues related to poor lighting.
- Law Enforcement Efforts: St. Petersburg police have intensified traffic enforcement, participating in a High Visibility Enforcement program and deploying officers to areas prone to speeding and crashes. The objective is to enhance safety and reduce traffic-related fatalities.
- Road Design Philosophy: Forward Pinellas advocates for a “Complete Streets” program, emphasizing road designs that consider all users, including pedestrians and bicyclists. This approach includes implementing traffic-calming measures like adding curves or roundabouts and narrowing road lanes.
In summary, Pinellas County’s alarming rise in pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities highlights significant safety challenges. While efforts are underway to mitigate these risks, the high fatality rate underscores the need for comprehensive strategies addressing road design, behavioral changes, and enforcement to improve safety for all road users.