Danger on the Road: How Families Put Their Lives at Risk Everyday


Mikhail Fazlutdinov, Staff Writer

Delaney Dowdell and her family put their health at risk every morning when they go to school. Ironically, it the healthy choice of riding bikes to campus is the very thing that is putting their lives in danger. Their usual path is now blocked by construction, and the bikers are expected to share the road with cars.

“One of the biggest problems for their biking is always trying to stay safe around the construction area, because drivers are so crazy and pedestrians have no safe paths,” says Delaney.

Although cars are expected to go slower than 60 miles per hour because of the construction, a complaint has been sent to the FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) that they go above the speed limit. Although local law enforcement was contacted to counter over-the-speed-limit drivers, the bikers still have to share lanes with cars going at this high speed.

However, even despite the fact that they have to share the road with the bikes, some drivers totally dismiss that rule. In the email that Rob Dowdell sent to Robin W. Stublen, the media contact for the Florida Department of Transportation. He said that the drivers often refuse to slow down or share their space with the bikers, despite the signs on the road.

“Speeding is controlled by law enforcement. FDOT does not control the driving. Safety is a concern of bikers and drivers themselves,” commented Stublen.

He also reminds the drivers that it is required by law to make at least seven feet of clearance for bicycles. During the construction, when there is no bicycle lane, the rightmost lane becomes a shared lane, meaning that bikers have to share the road with cars. Even though people try to stay as far away from the perilous road as possible, there is no safety even off-road.

“Bikes are expected to share the roads with the cars, but the sheer number of large vehicles, such as 18-wheelers and dump trucks, make it almost impossible to safely navigate through the construction area. My dad saw a small family with a baby trying to safely walk along University to get from plaza to plaza, but the construction areas have destroyed all of the sidewalks and made it extremely hazardous to navigate from one plaza to another without being in a vehicle. The construction workers also drive dangerously, so it makes it even more dangerous in the area because they do not look for pedestrians and bikers,” continues Delaney.

Stublen comments on that as well, saying that the area that was the former sidewalk is now gone, and is an active construction zone, meaning it is not safe for people to traverse. Construction vehicles in those area have a right to be there.

“You have to understand that when there is a demolition of an overpass, things can fall on people, and it is not the safest place to be if you are not in a vehicle,” continues Stublen.

The removal of the sidewalk, as a result of the construction, created new hazards for pedestrians and bikers. In the email that Rod Dowdell sent to the DOT, Dowdell notes that the new “path” that the people have to take to cross the construction area is very uneven. Some places even have 12 inch or more drops, due to the fact that the sidewalk was not smoothed after removal.

FDOT says that the new sidewalk will be finished sometime in August 2017 when the entire project is finished. The former sidewalk area is now also a construction site, and should be avoided by pedestrians and bikers.

For more information about the project and how it will turn out, visit swflroads.com and go to the current project tab. There, see the projects under “Sarasota”, and click on the I-75 project in that window.

Good luck, Delaney. Slow for pedestrians and bikers, everyone. It’s a jungle out there.