The Media

I keep reading and seeing things about the Florida laws that I am pretty sure  are wrong. Made worse is that the media quotes people — “authorities” — who are also wrong. So the the wrong statements get amplified.

Here are two things I saw just in the last week that made my jaw drop.

From The Suncoast News titled NPR police targeting jaywalkers to reduce carnage

During two enforcement sweeps in January along U.S. 19, officers wrote 34 citations to pedestrian violators, five warnings, six moving violations and one nonmoving violation, according to a report from Sgt. Erik Jay, the department’s traffic supervisor. . . .

Most citations were handed out to pedestrians who failed to cross at marked crosswalks. If a pedestrian safety brochure doesn’t convince violators to change their habits, $62.50 traffic tickets might persuade them. . . .

The worst spot for pedestrians seems to be U.S. 19 at Green Key Road, Pascalli said while watching the intersection from an unmarked Dodge Charger. Walkers tend to dart among the U.S. 19 traffic, about a block north of Main Street, to get to restaurants and a small motel. . . .

“People don’t understand that’s a violation,” Pascalli said about jaywalking. “A lot of people don’t understand the law.” Pedestrians usually tell an officer that they have to walk too far out of the way to get to a marked crosswalk. . . .

I don’t know if the reporter blew the quotes or the police don’t understand the law.

Then, there is this one from a Tampa TV station where an attorney redefines where cyclists must ride. I’ll give you a hint. It is not “possible.” He has made up a new one that I’d not heard before.

Florida is a dangerous place to ride a bicycle. Dr. Robert Niedbalec was just killed riding his, along Fletcher Avenue.

His death marks the 12th since last July, of cyclists killed on our roads.  Niedbalec was apparently doing everything right; he was in the bike lane, and going with traffic.

His death brings more questions and frustrations.  Attorney Brian Harrington joined Good Day to discuss what can be done to make roads safer. Harrington is also the former president of USA Triathlon.

The best part is at the end, where the reporter, in incredulous voice asks him point blank what motorists are to do about these obvious scofflaws.

Wasn’t there anyone from the FBA in that area available to appear on TV?

It doesn’t take a lot of work to see many more examples, but the question is what can be done about it?

10 replies
  1. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    As much of a supporter of safe cycling practices that I am, I will not voluntarily submit to an interview with the media, for just the reasons you present. Even if a qualified individual is being interviewed, the information won’t be presented accurately. I’m being cynical, perhaps, but my past experience bears this out.

    “What are motorists to do?” I suppose it’s obvious, but it’s not their responsibility to do anything about these scofflaws. On the flip side, those motorists can learn to drive more safely.

    Yeah, who am I kidding?

  2. Rick
    Rick says:

    I will say that I am unaware of exactly what the laws are for a pedestrian trying to cross a street. I was discouraged to see a note in an internal memo where I work from security telling people to be careful crossing in a designated crosswalk from a parking garage to the main building. They sited several near misses. I would be interested to see something in plain language that outlines what a pedestrian and motorist should know about cross walks.

    • NE2
      NE2 says:

      Barring signs to the contrary, it’s legal to cross anywhere except between {two intersections, both of which have traffic lights}. In other words, in a downtown area where every intersection has a light, you must cross at a light or painted midblock crosswalk, but in suburbia you can usually cross anywhere. You don’t have right of way unless you cross in a marked crosswalk or at an intersection (in an “unmarked crosswalk”).

      This leads to some strangeness. For example, on this stretch of Apopka VIneland it’s not legal to cross between Buena Vista Woods and Darlene, because both have lights. But you can cross anywhere south of BVW or north of Darlene, since the next intersections, Fenton and Camberley/Sand Lake Shores, have no lights. (Obviously you can cross at BVW and Darlene if you hit the button and wait for the signal – and the former at least does seem pretty responsive in my experience, probably because of the school on BVW.)

      An “unmarked crosswalk” is an important thing that most drivers know nothing about. If there are no signs or signals, any place at an intersection where a crosswalk would normally be painted is legally a crosswalk, where pedestrians have right of way. If there’s one point that should be stressed, it’s this. Always look for pedestrians waiting to cross at every intersection without a traffic light, and always stop to let them cross.

      Reality is a little different. No matter where you cross, if you don’t yield or at least make sure that drivers see you, you run the risk of getting hit.

      One thing I’m curious about: “Where sidewalks are provided, no pedestrian shall, unless required by other circumstances, walk along and upon the portion of a roadway paved for vehicular traffic.”

      “Required” is a pretty strong word. Does this mean that one is not legally allowed to walk in the street to avoid inconveniencs such as sprinklers or swarms of angry bees?

      • Eric
        Eric says:

        Required as in Closed. Around here, before work is being done to a building, the FIRST thing that is done is to close the sidewalk. It remains closed until the last blade of grass is installed. Then it stays closed some more until the sidewalk repair people show up to replace the cracked parts.\

        The whole process has been known to take years, although these days it’s faster because the builders aren’t trying to do 10 buildings at once.

  3. Rick
    Rick says:

    I’ll go ahead and give you the scenario and hear what you guys have to say. The crosswalks in question are at FH Orlando on Rollins Street. One is crossing from Alden Street parking garage and there is a signal light. The next one is just west and has no signal. This “west” crosswalk is where I see people waiting to cross the street and a whole line of cars pass through. The way I heard the law was that a motorist must yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk. But what if they are just waiting, and there is no signal. Is the driver required to stop for someone clearly waiting to cross the street?

    • NE2
      NE2 says:

      “Is the driver required to stop for someone clearly waiting to cross the street?” I thought this was yes, but it’s actually “when the pedestrian is in the crosswalk or steps into the crosswalk”. So if you stand with the toes of one foot in the roadway, that’s probably legally enough that drivers must stop if possible, but simply waiting to cross the street is not.

      • Kevin Love
        Kevin Love says:

        In Toronto, the custom at crosswalks is that the pedestrian points across the street. That signals that he wants to cross, and cars are legally required to stop.

  4. LisaB
    LisaB says:

    @ Eric: “Wasn’t there anyone from the FBA in that area available to appear on TV?”

    The expectations for a statewide trade association are enormous, and FBA is just coming into its time. I hope to work with the new FBA Executive, who comes to us from Davis, Calif., on a multi-faceted media campaign and spokesperson training program so a media spokesperson is available for such situations.

    But these programs require funding, as do education programs such as Cycling Savvy, legislative presence, advocacy, etc.

    How can we boost membership in the FBA? Is every Commute Orlando reader who resides in Florida a member of the Florida Bicycling Association? Can you spread the word about the good work the FBA does on behalf of cyclists and get at least one other cyclist to join?

    How can YOU help to grow the FBA and our role as the Voice of Bicyling in Florida?

  5. acline
    acline says:

    Always call a reporter to talk about an error.

    If you approach it in the spirit of helping them, you can usually get a fair hearing.

    But there are two big problems with journalism that you should keep in mind:

    1) Most reporters are loathe to verify quotes or check the facts asserted in quotes (although we teach them to do it!). The quote itself is considered the fact. And if the source is thought to be authoritative, well, you’ll simply be treated as an opposing opinion.

    2) Reporters like two kinds of sources. The first is the kind they know they can get on the phone in a hurry. The second is the authority with a title.

    To combat both of these problems, you need to cultivate the reporter so that YOU become a source. Then you can start teaching them.

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