This week marks the beginning of St. Petersburg’s first bike share program. The Coast Bike Share Program, which also operates in Tampa, has launched a demo of 100 bikes in several hubs throughout the city with plans to expand if the demo is successful. But is St. Petersburg, a city known for its frequent car accidents involving cyclists, ready for this program?
Coast Bike Share Program’s Goals
Coast claims their bike share program will improve the quality of life for downtown St. Pete and surrounding neighborhoods, improve residents’ health, and stimulate economic development. The program is also part of an attempt by the city to alleviate Tampa Bay’s traffic.
St. Pete’s downtown culture is continuing to grow rapidly as more bars, coffee shops, and restaurants open up in the neighborhood. Bike sharing has been proposed as both a way for young people to get around downtown and frequent these businesses and a potential solution to growing traffic concerns, especially for those traveling between Tampa and St. Petersburg.
Can Bike Sharing Reduce Traffic and Accidents in Tampa?
A membership in Coast’s bike share program, which costs $79 annually or $8 per hour at a pay as you go rate, would apply both in St. Pete and in Tampa. And now that the new Tampa High Speed ferry runs between the two cities, a resident has the potential to enjoy both downtown areas without having to deal with rough Tampa Bay area traffic.
The traffic in the Tampa metro area is truly astounding during rush hour, and it can be partially attributed to the area’s unfortunate statistic of having one of the highest rates of fatal car accidents in the country, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
By even partially reducing this heavy traffic in St. Petersburg and Tampa, there is the potential for injurious car accidents to be prevented and lives to be saved. And there is a precedent of bike sharing infrastructure reducing traffic. In a study by Resources for the Future that analyzed the impact of bike sharing on Washington D.C., a city that is known for its bad traffic, research showed that the the bike-share stations reduced congestion in the surrounding areas by two to three percent.
Critics of St. Pete’s Bike Share Program
But some in St. Petersburg are hesitant to engage in the bike share program, as they feel it does not safely fit with St. Petersburg infrastructure, which some consider hostile towards cyclists.
“You can't just go to places like Martha's Vineyard or Washington D.C. and enviously copy their ideas because they're seem cool there,” said one commenter on a report by the Tampa Bay Times. Another commenter expressed their worries of getting run over by someone who was “texting and driving.”
St. Pete: Car-Centric or Bicyclist Friendly?
These concerns certainly have some basis, given Florida’s general reputation of having the highest rate of bicycling deaths in the nation — 0.57 per 100,000 people, more than double the nationwide rate of 0.23 per 100,000 — according to a 2015 report by the CDC. Worse yet, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are two of the most dangerous counties in our state for cyclists, a fact that bicycle safety advocates desperately want to change.
"I am filled with fear and anxiety that I'm going to survive my bike ride", said Christine Acosta, director of Walk Bike Tampa, to WTSP. "We live in a car-centric community. We need trails. We need protected bike lanes. A 4-inch wide strip of paint is not sufficient protection for humans.”
So is St. Petersburg, with its growing downtown culture, ready for this new bike share program? Or will the existing infrastructure, along with attitudes about whether a bicycle deserves space on the road, prove too dangerous for those who want to cycle St. Pete’s streets? That will have to be seen in the coming months as people try the Coast Bike Share Program.
Bike Accidents: A Serious Concern
Regardless of the success of St. Petersburg’s new bike share program, car accidents involving bicyclists will remain a concern in the Tampa Bay area. If you or someone you love has been hurt in a car accident caused by the negligence of another driver, whether you were traveling by foot, bike, or car, you don’t have to stand for it.
Read more to learn how our car accident attorneys in St. Petersburg can deal with the insurance company on your behalf and fight to get you the compensation you deserve following your accident. If you are ready to pursue a claim, fill out our free, no-risk case evaluation form today.