St. Petersburg was the most dangerous city in America for bicyclists in 2021. But while the number of accidents and deaths for 2021 set a record, the problems in St. Petersburg have existed for a long time.
In 2018, The Wall Street Journal named St. Petersburg the most dangerous city in America for bicyclists. This statement was based on an analysis of bicycle accidents between 2007 and 2016.
St. Petersburg knows it has problems and has developed a plan to make the city safer for bicyclists. Read on to learn why bicyclists consider St. Petersburg so dangerous and what the city has done to improve safety.
St. Petersburg Bicycle Crash Statistics
The year 2021 was dangerous for bicyclists. That year, St. Petersburg recorded over 389 total crashes, with 16 fatalities and 62 serious injuries. The entire state of Florida reported 186 bicycle fatalities in 2021. In total, St. Petersburg accounted for 8.6% of the bicycle deaths in Florida.
St. Petersburg has 264,000 residents, about 1.2% of Florida’s population. This means that the city has 6.9 times more bicycle fatalities than it should, based on its population.
Out of 6,400 bicycle crashes in Florida, 389 bike crashes happened in St. Petersburg — 6% of the total. Again, St. Petersburg accounted for 5 times more bicycle crashes than it statistically should have.
These accidents tend to peak during the morning and afternoon rush hours and again in the evening. The greatest number of crashes happened at 8 p.m. with the second greatest number happening at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The most dangerous days of the week were Wednesday and Thursday. The most dangerous months of 2021 were October and May, just outside of tourist season. These statistics suggest that St. Petersburg’s bicycle accidents largely involve commuters rather than tourists.
Interestingly, very few school-age children were injured in St. Petersburg bike accidents. In 2021, young people ages 19 and under only suffered seven serious injuries and no fatalities in bike accidents.
Most Dangerous Roads and Intersections for Bicyclists in St. Petersburg
Bicycle accidents in St. Petersburg are fairly dispersed. This supports the idea that locals, not tourists, cause most of the bicycle accidents in the city. But the city has three hot spots for bicycle accidents, two of which happen to be intersections:
34th St./US-19 Between 5th Ave. S and Fairfield Ave.
34th St./US-19 and 5th Ave. S are very busy streets. Businesses line both roads, and neighborhoods sit both east and west of 34th St./US-19.
Additionally, the Pinellas Trail runs through the area. This trail separates bikes from cars. But it has an exit on 34th St./US-19 that feeds cyclists onto the road near Fairfield Ave.
4th St./US-92 and 5th Ave. N
This is one of the busiest intersections in St. Petersburg. Whenever high volumes of motor vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic mix, collisions will happen.
Increasing the danger even more, St. Petersburg has no bikeways in this area. The roads don’t even have painted bike lanes. As a result, bicyclists in this area have to share road lanes with cars and trucks.
4th St./US-92 and 4th Ave. S
This intersection sits just north of the exit from I-175. High-speed vehicle traffic turns onto 4th St./US-92 less than a block away.
And like the intersection with 5th Ave. N, there are no bikeways in this area. Bicyclists are exposed to this high-speed traffic without separate lanes for protection.
St. Petersburg Bicycle Infrastructure
St. Petersburg knows it has a problem. The city is part of the Vision Zero Network, the organization of cities that have committed to reducing traffic fatalities.
The difference between Vision Zero and other traffic safety programs is that Vision Zero emphasizes the role of road design in protecting vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. St. Petersburg has committed to incorporating safety features when it builds new roads and repairs its existing roads.
As a result of St. Petersburg’s efforts, the League of American Bicyclists raised St. Petersburg from a Bronze-Level Bicycle Friendly City to a Silver-Level Bicycle Friendly City.
Some infrastructure projects that have helped St. Petersburg improve its friendliness to bicyclists include the following.
St. Petersburg has hundreds of miles of bike routes. These bike routes take five different forms:
1. Shared Lane or Sharrow
A sharrow is a lane used by both cars and bicycles. These lanes do not include traffic calming. Drivers are just expected to share these lanes with cyclists.
The difference between a sharrow and a regular road is that cyclists are not required to stay to the far left of the lane. Instead, a bicycle can travel in the center of the lane like a car. One of St. Petersburg’s major roads, Central Ave., is a sharrow east of 34th St.
Greenways are similar to sharrows. Cyclists use the same traffic lanes as cars. But traffic calming systems, like curves and narrow lanes, force cars to slow down.
St. Petersburg has greenways in residential neighborhoods. Some major north-south roads with greenways for most of their lengths include 40th St., 46th St., and 55th St. Some major east-west roads with greenways include 7th Ave. N, 13th/17th Ave. N, and 26th Ave. N.
3. Bike Lane
Bike lanes include areas for bicycles to the far right of the road. Painted lines designate the bike lanes. Several major roads in the center of St. Petersburg offer bike lanes, including 1st Ave. N, parts of Central Ave., and 1st Ave. S.
4. Separated Bike Lane
Separated or protected bike lanes include a physical barrier between the bike lane and the motor vehicle lane. This barrier might include posts, planters, or lanes of parked cars. As a result, cars cannot cross into the bike lane. St. Petersburg currently has only one separated bike lane on Pinellas Point Dr./Roy Hanna Dr.
5. Bike Trail
Bike trails are reserved for non-motorized traffic like cyclists, pedestrians, and skaters. St. Petersburg has several major bike trails, including the 1st St. N Trail, the Pinellas Trail, and the Skyway Trail.
The Future of Bicycle Safety in St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg has a Vision Zero plan to identify areas without bike services and expand sharrows, bike lanes, and bike trails into them. This plan will expand access and improve safety. With time and a plan, St. Petersburg can address its bicycle safety issues.