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Sunday, Dec 21, 2014
Commentary

Sharpe: Let’s partner to make our roadways safer

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Traffic safety extends beyond motor vehicles to include everyone who travels on or near local roadways. That concept is the guiding principle behind transportation projects, operations and maintenance activities provided by Hillsborough County Public Works.

Creating marked bicycle lanes on all road-widening projects, adding paved shoulders where possible during resurfacing projects, and implementing an $8.5 million bike and pedestrian safety program are just some of the actions taken this year to enhance the safety and functionality of Hillsborough County roadways.

Bruce B. Downs Boulevard from Regents Park Drive to Bearss Avenue will have bicycle lanes, a multi-use trail and sidewalks installed as part of the ongoing widening.

Paved roadway shoulders for pedestrians and bicyclists will be completed this year along County Road 39 from State Road 60 to the Manatee County line and 19th Avenue N.E. from U.S. 41 to U.S. 301.

Improvements that include a mix of bicycle lanes, share-the-road designations, additional sidewalks or paved shoulders are also in the works on sections of Waters Avenue, Hanley Road, Bearss Avenue, 42nd Street, 56th Street, and the Fletcher Avenue complete-streets project between Nebraska Avenue and 50th Street that will be completed in August.

However, engineering and roadway design are only one part of the roadway safety solution. And although valuable partnerships with organizations such as the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Metropolitan Planning Organization and Hillsborough County Public Schools are instrumental for success, the most important partners in improving safety are the motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians using the roadways.

Bicycle Safety Month during May is a time to encourage everyone to model safe behaviors to enhance the safety of all road users, including those who bicycle. Locally, residents are encouraged to participate in ongoing bicycle-centric community activities, such as those organized by Tampa BayCycle, or attend a free BikeSmart class covering safety basics.

Bicyclists can also show their support for safer streets by supporting events such as the Tampa/Hillsborough County Ride of Silence, which reminds us of the bicyclists who have been killed or injured in traffic crashes, and the need to share our roads safely.

More Hillsborough County residents and visitors are riding bicycles, for work and recreation, as a way to reduce pollution and stay healthy. But even one injury or fatality is too many, and we all share in the responsibility to make travel on our roadways safer for everyone.

Mark Sharpe is chairman of the Hillsborough County Commission.

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