Pinellas County has the highest cyclist death rate in the Tampa Bay metro area, which has the highest rate of any metro region in the U.S., a report from the Wall Street Journal said.
According to numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of cyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes nationwide was 840 in 2016, a 35% jump from 2010.
Florida in particular has by far the highest per-capita bicyclist death rate in the nation, and the states of Florida, California and Texas account for about 40% of all cyclist deaths, according to NHTSA.
From 2007-2016, the report states that Florida's fatality rate for cyclists was 6.2 deaths per 100,000 residents, 59% higher than the next highest state.
The Tampa Bay area's fatality rate for cyclists was 7 deaths per 100,000 residents, the highest of any metro area in the nation.
“It doesn't surprise me at all," said Dr. Greg Schwaid. His father was hit by a drunk driver while riding his bike to work in 2016.
"Florida’s population is older and more densely packed, and the state gets a steady influx of tourists unfamiliar with local roads," transportation-safety consultant Pam Fischer, who wrote last year’s GHSA report, which examined bike-safety issues nationwide, told the Wall Street Journal. “You kind of mush it all together, and it helps us explain as best we can what’s going on out there,” she said.
Since 2014, state transportation officials reportedly changed standard width for bike lanes and launched a push to better light locations where nighttime crashes for pedestrians and bicyclists was high.
However, the paper reports that bike fatalities are trending up again this year, with 95 so far this year in Florida, six of those in Pinellas County.
“All the bicyclist feel for each other," said Dr. Schwaid.
Just days before this data came out, police agencies throughout the county launched a new campaign to put more officers in heavily biked areas. Funding is coming from state grants.
“I love hearing it. That's a much-needed area for improvement,” said Dr. Schwaid.
Unfortunately, Scwaid's dad won't see the changes because underlying issue combined with his injuries from the bike accident proved too much. He died last year.
"He would say I love this. He was passionate about bicycle safety," “said Schwaid. "The hardest part for me, missing him, is knowing he is never going to have a relationship with my son, who is two years old now.”