Riding for a cause

As a result of their own brushes with danger and a local cyclist’s death, two USF students are working to raise awareness about bicycle safety.

Students Noelle Deltufo and Kathryn Ardoin created Ride for Awareness, a bicycle ride to promote biker safety. On Dec. 5, participants will ride down Fletcher Avenue to 56th Street, 56th Street to Fowler Avenue, Fowler Avenue to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, and then back to Fletcher Avenue.

Participants will meet at the Marshall Student Center loop at 3:30 p.m.

Deltufo, a senior majoring in anthropology, said she hopes the ride will make bicycling safer for everyone.

“If we work together as drivers and bikers, we could make the roads a lot less dangerous and maybe encourage people to get out of the car and get on a bike,” she said.

Deltufo said she has been hit by a car four times in the North Tampa area while riding her bicycle — twice since September.

Deltufo, however, continues to ride.

“I shouldn’t not have to bike because of cars,” she said. “Somebody wouldn’t stop driving because they got in an accident.”

Deltufo said there is not a clear understanding between cyclists and drivers.

“There is this ongoing problem of lack of awareness,” she said. “There should be some sort of courtesy between drivers and bikers.”

Ride for Awareness is also dedicated to 20-year-old cyclist Michael Franklin Bentley of St. Petersburg.

Bentley died Nov. 12 after being struck by a Jeep on Gandy Boulevard around 9 p.m. The driver did not notice him and hit him from behind, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Bentley later died at Bayfront Medical Center.

University Police spokeswoman Meg Ross said there have been three bicycle accidents involving injuries this year. All occurred in October.

“The number of crashes here on campus is not really terribly high,” she said.

Though USF has a low number of crashes, Ross advises knowing what’s legal in order to prevent injury. It is against the law to wear a headset while riding a bicycle and it is also against the law to ride with no hands, she said.

Deltufo and Ross both advised cyclists to wear helmets, use reflectors at night and be aware that cars may not always see bicycles on the road. Ross also said it is important to have bicycles that are in the best condition and to stay in the designated bicycle lanes.

Ardoin, a junior majoring in sociology, agreed that there is a misunderstanding between bikers and drivers.

“Cars just don’t know how to treat a bicycle,” she said.

Ardoin said she knows at least five people who have been hit by cars while riding their bicycles in the past six weeks.

Last year, there were 4,847 bicycle crashes in Florida, according to Florida Highway Patrol. Of those, 121 people were killed and 4,303 were injured. Of the 121 fatal crashes, 96 cyclists were not wearing a bicycle helmet.

About 75 percent of all bicycle-related deaths are a result of head injuries, Ross said.

Ross said there were no bicycle-related injuries at USF last year, but UP only started recording bicycle accidents in late 2007.