The death of Admiral LeRoy Collins Jr. on July 29 helped put a high-profile face on the need for making roadways safe for bicyclists.
Collins, 75, the son of a former Florida governor, served as director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and was a former Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2006, losing to Katherine Harris of Sarasota. He also was an avid bicycle rider.
He was struck and killed riding his bike on a Tampa street. The death was ruled an accident. No charges were filed.
The tragedy brought home just how unsafe most Florida roadways are for bicycle riders, who have an equal right to the road.
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A “ghost” bicycle has been erected near where he was killed as a reminder of the man and how he died.
In Googling the web, it is possible to find some safe bike routes and bike riding areas, including parts of Anna Maria Island, Terra Ceia, Palm-Aire and Lake- wood Ranch, among others.
But many of our streets are unfriendly to bicyclists. Little or no separation from motorized traffic is a prescription for danger.
You would hope that some of the federal stimulus money would be used to improve streets and roads across America to encourage more bike traffic.
We have an obesity epidemic in this country, we have too much reli- ance on foreign fossil fuel, and greenhouse gases are heating up the atmosphere.
All good reasons to get that rusty bike out of the garage, replace those dry-rotted, flat tires, and get some exercise.
If there were some place safe to ride.
Well, sure, there are safe places: Lake Manatee State Park, Myakka River State Park and Robinson Preserve to name a few. But if you have to load up a bike into a car and drive 10 miles, doesn’t that defeat the purpose?
It’s also a quality of life issue. Show me a place that has made it safe for bicyclists to ride there, and I’ll show you a community that says something warm, welcoming and progressive to visitors and residents alike.
Given time, most of us will eventually fight the battle of the bulge. For many of us, it’s a life-long struggle.
When it comes to physical fitness, I’m more like the Pillsbury Dough Boy than Captain America.
But I do enjoy an occasional jog. The concern is that if a knee goes, there is no Plan B, That rusty bike with the flat tires? That’s mine. It’s just sitting there with no safe place to go.
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In case you want to learn more about Admiral Collins, take a look at his blog. It’s still posted on the web.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.