Friday, September 18, 2015

A Florida newspaper working hard to make our state safer for bicyclists

First let's all hope the terrible death of bicyclist Austin Gilliam will not be in vain.

Below are two excerpts from the Columbia Journalism Review titled, "How a Florida newspaper began advocating for better bike safety".
     Janine Zeitlin stopped biking on roads six years ago for a simple reason: She’s scared of cars, and not without reason. Zeitlin’s home state of Florida is the deadliest in the nation for cyclists. [emphasis added] And Florida’s southwest region, where Zeitlin writes for The News-Press in Fort Myers, is among the more dangerous in the state.
     Now, Zeitlin and her News-Press colleagues are trying to change that. The paper has taken on the issue of bike safety, going beyond the typical journalistic goal of informing readers to become advocates in the community and pushing drivers to “share the road.”
     The project started in the summer of 2014, when Zeitlin wrote a story about three bad bicycle crashes. Around the same time, she set up the Share the Road community page on Facebook, which invites visitors to join the newspaper’s campaign.
[and. . .]
     Editors at the Gannett-owned paper embraced the issue, freeing up writers to dig in. That paid off in a creative piece by Zeitlin in March that crunched five years of data to glean insights about the cause of bike fatalities in Southwest Florida, and a companion package by Zeitlin, Melanie Payne, and Laura Ruane profiling the 12 people killed in bike crashes in the area over a year. In June, another long story by Zeitlin and Ruane focused on places outside of Florida where bicyclists are safer. Other reporters turn in daily stories on new crashes or safety initiatives, collected on a “Share the Road” page on the News-Press site. Last fall, the newspaper also sponsored a “solutions booth” at a community bicycling event hosted by one of the local bike clubs.
Below is a sign near where Austin Gilliam was run over and killed by a large commercial vehicle: