Officials from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) announced they would designate marked bicycle lanes on the Clearwater Memorial Causeway just days after a man turned himself into police in connection with a deadly hit and run accident involving two cyclists on Labor Day.
One of the cyclists died on the scene and the second died in the hospital several weeks later after a small pickup truck, allegedly driven by a local Clearwater man, struck a man and his girlfriend as they rode across the Causeway on their tandem bicycle. Christopher Patrick Weed, 29, was arrested after telling police he believed he may have been involved in the accident about a day after it took place, but claimed that he blacked out and didn’t remember hitting anyone. Both riders had been wearing helmets.
During the week after Labor Day, FDOT officials stated they would have bicycle symbols painted along the Causeway’s paved shoulders, legally designating them as bicycle lanes. The paved shoulders are 5 feet across at their widest points.
Local bicyclists stated that any markings or signs on the roadway should direct more attention to the presence of bicyclists and should add some more security. In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Rick Adams, a sales manager at Chainwheel Drive, a local bicycle shop, commented:
“That’s better than nothing and it’s better than what’s out there now. Every little thing helps. There’s no doubt.”
Many residents believe the addition of rumble strips could be another option to alert drivers in the event that they swerve out of their lane. Another Clearwater cyclist, Chad Horne, explained that he contacted highway officials and requested that signs be installed on the causeway. Horne said similar signs had been installed near Sand Key Bridge fairly recently and he noticed general improvement in the area in driver courtesy toward cyclists.
However, Mike Riordon, owner of another Clearwater bicycle supply and repair shop, differed in opinion and explained that signs or markings won’t always make a difference.
“The people that are speeding, not paying attention, drunk,” he said, “signs don’t do anything.”
Horne noted how he had been riding on Labor Day around the same time as the accident occurred and remembered waving to riders he saw on a tandem bicycle. He later saw Clearwater Police squad cars on the causeway as he headed back in from his route.
The Center for Head Injury Statistics