TAMPA, Fla. — Walk Bike Tampa teamed up with elected officials to shed light on a serious problem happening around the Tampa Bay area.
"We have the dubious distinction of being one of the most dangerous places in America to ride a bike or be a pedestrian,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Henry Cohen explains.
A recent report from the Governor Highway Safety Association shows that Florida had 6,398 bike crashes in 2021 — 182 of those fatal.
It’s not just bikers who are at risk. There was a 31 percent increase in pedestrian deaths too. That’s the second highest rate in the country behind California, so what’s the issue?
“A lot of Florida was designed around cars a lot of our neighborhoods were built with cars in mind," Walk Bike Tampa board member Emily Hinsdale says. "So we are desperately trying to catch up on infrastructure that provides the opportunities for different kinds of mobility to be safe.”
Right now, most of Hillsborough County relies on sharrows, which are markings on the street to show drivers a shared lane. But county officials say that’s not enough.
“We are in desperate need of sidewalks, of bike lanes, of additional crosswalk improvements,” Cohen says.
The board of Hillsborough County Commissioners has put a referendum on the November ballot to add one cent to sales tax to pay for infrastructure upgrades.
“The money specifically will go towards safety improvements which means bike lanes, sidewalks, intersection improvements, lighting and improvement in road conditions,” Cohen explains.
Emily Hinsdale says with rising living costs, it's important to make sure people can still get around safely if they choose not to drive.
“Transportation is a key cost in the state of Florida, it's much higher than it is around the country," she explains. "So we’re looking at different ways to save money with transportation, a bike is definitely a good way to do that, and it keeps you strong and healthy too."