Campaign raises awareness for bike safety

USF President Judy Genshaft and a group of bright yellow T-shirted students marched around campus at 9 a.m. on Monday, chanting Walk wise, bike smart and drive carefully, and throwing yellow T-shirts to students who passed them.

With higher student enrollment and enough parking space for less than half of the student body, USF kicked off the first-ever Bulls Bike and Walk Week to raise awareness about bicycle and pedestrian safety on campus and surrounding communities where many students live.

The walk led by Genshaft started the week with an event featuring speakers likeJim Moulton, Federal Department of Transportation District seven director, and Raymond Chiaramonte, Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organizationsexecutive director.

Will Clark, a junior majoring in mass communications, said students walked from the Marshall Student Center (MSC) through the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza to the John and Grace Allen Building, beforereturning to the MSC.

I walk everywhere around Tampa Bay, he said. Being a Bull and seeing all the dangers not just around USF but in Tampa, this is something that is very close to my heart.

This campus-widecampaign is part of a Hillsborough County initiative for pedestrian awareness called Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow. Through this larger initiative, the FDOT has put advertisements on TV and social media and led discussions throughout Florida about pedestrian and bicycle safety.

What were trying to focus on is remindingmotorists and pedestrians aboutpedestrian laws, especially stop before turning right on red and always use a crosswalk,Moulton said.

Moulton said the Department of Transportation aims to reduce pedestrian fatalities by 20 percent by 2015.

USF President Judy Genshaft said the number of pedestrians and bicyclists is growing on campus.

At the beginning of the 2012 school year, the number of USF students increased to 40,040 from 39,629 last year, yet the number of parking spots for students, staff and faculty stayed the same at 20,000.

We have more people living on campus than ever before 5,500, Genshaft said. But all around us, I would think that we have somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 students all around the campus. So they walk or they bike.

In 2010, there were40 pedestrian andbicycle-related crashes withina 1.5 mile radius around and including the USF Tampa
campus, resulting in 47 injuries and one fatality.

Currently Tampa Bay is 16th in the nation for pedestrian fatalities, and Florida is almost double the national average of pedestrian deaths, Moulton said.

In addition to raising awareness on pedestrian and bicycle safety, Hillsborough County has allocated $8.6 million to improve the most dangerous roads and intersections, Raymond Chiaramonte, Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) executive director, said.

One of the problems is that the way our roadways have been designed and our attention to pedestrian bike facilities have been lacking in the past, he said. Youre going to see some changes on Fletcher Avenue soon to make it more pedestrian-friendly, Chiaramonte said.

In the long-term, the MPO will pay special attention to making sure future road designs are safe for pedestrians and bicyclists.

On Thursday at noon, the week will come to a completion with Bicycle Celebration, an event that will have guest speakers and information tables set up withbicycle-related items. Two Cruiser bicycles, bicycle lights and other items will be given away at the event.