By Rich Pollack
Efforts to educate motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians in parts of coastal Palm Beach County about the importance of sharing the road appear to be paying off.
During a weeklong, stepped-up enforcement effort along State Road A1A in southern Palm Beach County last month, law enforcement officers from six agencies wrote only one moving-violation citation to a bicyclist and did not issue any warnings or citations to pedestrians.
“We’re seeing a lot more compliance than we had in the past,” said Highland Beach police Lt. Eric Lundberg, who founded the South Florida Safe Roads Task Force two years ago and who helps lead the group of law enforcement officers and traffic safety advocates. “Motorists and bicyclists are actively working toward the goal of sharing the road.”
During the most recent coordinated education and enforcement effort from March 7 to 13, law enforcement officers wrote motorists 38 citations and issued drivers 28 written warnings.
Nine of the citations were for speeding, 12 were for red-light violations and seven were nonmoving violations, such as an expired tag or faulty equipment. There were also 10 moving violations for a variety of other traffic infractions.
In addition to the one violation for the bicyclist, law enforcement officers issued 120 verbal warnings to bicyclists, with a large number of the them the result of officers pulling over groups of riders and reminding them of the law.
“Our goal is education and it appears that we’re making progress,” said Lundberg, who thinks increased awareness played a role in reducing the number of citations issued.
For at least one bicycle club, which hosts two weekend rides on State Road A1A, constant efforts to ensure riders remain safe and follow the law may be playing a role in the reduced citations.
“We do everything we can to be as safe as possible and ride within the rules,” says Tony Whittaker, a ride leader with the zMotion Bicycle Club, which hosts group rides for club members on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Whittaker and another ride leader, Dean Budney, said before each ride the team leaders go over safety measures and laws.
For each ride, which can have as many as 30 bicyclists, team leaders remind riders to stay as far to the right as possible.
Budney said often there will be some riders who join the group and don’t always follow the law. Ride leaders encourage those bicyclists to leave the group.
“I ask people to ride somewhere else fairly regularly,” Budney said. “Our role as team leaders is to bring everyone home safe and in one piece.”
While law enforcement officers acknowledge there are other groups where rides on A1A can evolve into impromptu races, Budney and Whittaker say zMotion does not permit racing. The group rides about 20 to 22 miles per hour, they say.
The team leaders say they usually let others in the group know when there is a car behind them, shouting out “car back,” so riders can move over even farther.
Whittaker says he frequently signals to the car when it is safe to cross over the yellow line, passing the bicyclists by more than three feet, the legal requirement.
While zMotion disagrees with a Highland Beach Police Department interpretation of the state law that officers say requires bicyclists to ride single file except when passing, club members comply and ride in a single line when going through the town. Lundberg has requested a clarification of the law from the state Attorney General’s Office.
“Our goal is to represent the cycling community well,” Budney said.
By Rich Pollack