Jan 18, 2022 - News

Pinellas County sets record for bicycle and pedestrian deaths

Illustration of a pattern of cars with one highlighted.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Tampa Bay area is notoriously unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists, but 2021 was particularly brutal for Pinellas County.

What's happening: Bicycle and pedestrian fatalities in Pinellas nearly doubled last year even though rates didn't change much in other Tampa Bay counties, statewide or nationally, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

  • 85 cyclists and pedestrians died in Pinellas in 2021 — a 15-year record, up from 49 in 2020 and from an annual average of 51 deaths over the last five years.

Behind the numbers: Whit Blanton, executive director of Pinellas' land use and transportation planning agency, Forward Pinellas, told the Times long stretches of roadway between crosswalks, poor lighting and, in low-income areas, higher numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists were all factors in the accident rate.

  • This year's spike could also be attributed to changes in peak driving times due to the pandemic.

Possible solutions: A state roads lighting program funded by the Florida Department of Transportation could help clear up issues for those riding in the dark, but those fixes aren't expected until 2023.

  • When the county death rate hit 25, St. Petersburg police ramped up their efforts by sending as many as 15 officers at once to areas prone to speeding and crashes.

What they're saying: Adding pedestrian and cyclist-friendly elements to roads could help, Blanton told the Times, but getting those measures approved isn't easy when they also slow down traffic.

  • "(Drivers) get pretty angry at you if you want to take away a lane," Blanton told the Times.
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