By Rich Pollack
The YouTube videos and website postings flooded the Internet for days after the South Florida Safe Roads Task Force completed its weeklong initiative last month to increase safety among bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians on State Road A1A.
The phones were ringing, too — off the wall, in some places.
Many of the postings and calls were from bicyclists concerned that the police “saturation” effort involving several law enforcement agencies and coordinated by the task force were a bit heavy-handed and inconsistent. Other calls, postings and emails came from residents and even some bicyclists pleased by the effort.
For the task force, getting people talking and thinking about the need to share the road safely was what the effort was all about.
“We went into this wanting to increase awareness and educate the public, whether they were in a car, on a bicycle or walking,” said task force spokeswoman Tara Kirschner, executive director of the Dori Slosberg Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to traffic safety. “Through all the feedback and the statistics, which show this wasn’t a citation-writing mission, we made significant inroads toward achieving that goal.”
Statistics compiled by the task force show that participating law enforcement officers, from northern Broward County through the town of Manalapan, issued 175 citations during the effort, which took place during the first week of April. In addition, there were 100 written warnings and 148 verbal warnings.
A closer look at the numbers, however, shows that motorists received the most citations, 107, and that pedestrians received 35 tickets, two more citations than bicyclists.
When it came to warnings, cyclists received 83 written warnings and 138 verbal warnings, while motorists received 15 written warnings and four verbal warnings. Pedestrians received two written warnings and six verbal warnings.
The statistics do not include citations or warnings written by Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies, who assisted in the effort.
“We’re setting out to avoid serious accidents,” Kirschner said. “The more people who know what rules pertain to them, the faster we can achieve that goal.”
Following the police saturation initiative, members of the task force met with representatives of local bicycle clubs in small groups to discuss the initiative and future efforts to raise awareness of safety issues.
“We want this initiative to work, too, but it just needs to be redefined and consistent in the way the rules are enforced,” said Chris Hoch, executive director of the ZMotion Foundation, which includes 1,300 riders. “Some cyclists, including me, think this is great for those who are breaking the law, but everyone needs to be on the same page.”
Kirschner said the task force plans additional small meetings with cyclist groups to discuss future safety and education-focused initiatives, which could include similar saturations but also safety events and public service announcements.
“We really want this to be something that is amenable and beneficial to everyone,” she said.