Hours before a public meeting was held to discuss cyclist and pedestrian safety in the USF area, a student cyclist was hit by a vehicle on campus.
University Police (UP) spokesman Lt. Chris Daniel said in an email a cyclist – a USF student and staff member – was riding east on Alumni Drive at 7:55 a.m. Tuesday when a vehicle struck the bicycle’s rear tire. The cyclist suffered “minor injuries” and was taken to University Community Hospital, now Florida Hospital Tampa.
Daniel said, “The preliminary investigation suggests that the sun’s glare at the time of day may have been a factor by obscuring the approaching driver’s vision.” The driver, also a USF student, was found to be “at fault” and was fined.
The Engineering Division of Hillsborough County Public Works held a meeting at the University Area Community Center that evening to propose ideas to ensure bicyclist and pedestrian safety in the USF area.
According to a media release, “The county is seeking input on proposed designs. Proposed improvements include a new sidewalk from Bruce B. Downs Boulevard to 50th Street, pedestrian refuge islands, mid-block pedestrian crossings, bicycle lanes and roadway re-surfacing.”
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office reported that between 2006 and 2010, 63 pedestrian accidents occurred on Fletcher Avenue. Of those incidents, three resulted in fatalities and 22 left pedestrians and cyclists with major injuries.
According to the county’s presentation, the section of Fletcher Avenue between Nebraska Avenue and 50th Street has one of the highest pedestrian crash rates in Hillsborough County.
After the Engineering Division completed a study of the area in June 2011, Hillsborough County hired Element Engineering Group to design safety improvements, dubbed the “University Area Community Plan.”
According to a release, USF provided consulting services for the development of the plan. Designs are currently 60 percent complete.
The plan calls for the stretch of Fletcher Avenue between Nebraska Avenue and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard to be resurfaced, as well as areas of land in between traffic lanes, or “pedestrian islands,” to be constructed in medians on Fletcher Avenue. The plan also calls for mid-block pedestrian crossings, bicycle lanes on Fletcher Avenue and the construction of a sidewalk from Bruce B. Downs Boulevard to 50th Street.
Michael Flick, senior professional engineer for the Hillsborough County Traffic Engineering Section, said the project’s designs are fully funded, but of the $4 million in construction costs needed, they are $1.5 million short.
He said the Department of Transportation gave $1.5 million in federal funding to the project already – of which $1 million will be applied for through the planning commissioner of Hillsborough County. A $1 million grant has been applied to compensate.
“The overall goal of Hillsborough County is to reduce the bicycle, pedestrian crashes and motor vehicle crashes,” he said. “We do know that we have to come through with an education campaign. The same type of people that are crossing it today will be crossing it when this project is improved. They’re just crossing anywhere and everywhere (now).”
Flick said he was not aware of the accident Tuesday morning.