EAST COUNTY — Residents of Manatee and Sarasota counties are still reeling in the aftermath of a string of fatal accidents in which bicyclists and pedestrians have been killed in collisions with vehicles.
From Jan. 20 to Feb. 3, the Florida Highway Patrol reported four fatalities and three serious injuries resulting from collisions of vehicles with both bicyclists and pedestrians in Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties. Although some charges have been made, the majority of cases are still under investigation.
Three of the fatalities occurred in the East County near University Parkway. William Sapp, 38, was struck and killed Jan. 20 as he walked across University Parkway near Medici Court. Two days later, Southeast High student Brenden Edward Barnes was killed as he walked westbound on Whitfield Avenue near Tuttle Avenue.
On Jan. 30, Mote Ranch resident Sondra Lee Thompson was struck and killed as she was riding her bicycle at Whitefield Avenue and Treymore Court (see related story).
Florida Highway Patrol officials can’t explain the recent increase in the accidents.
“We’ve seen an up-tick in (those types of accidents involving injury or fatality),” FHP Lt. Chris Miller said. “We’ve had quite a few in a short amount of time. It’s a good time to review some pedestrian and bicycle safety.”
Miller said pedestrians should make sure to walk on sidewalks, as per Florida law, and to walk in the grass — not in bicycle lanes — if no sidewalks are available. Pedestrians also should walk facing oncoming traffic and wear light-colored clothing to aide in visibility. Pedestrians, he said, only have the right of way at crossing walks and should only cross the road at designated areas.
Bicyclists are required to use the bicycle lane and ride with the flow of traffic, as per state law, Miller said. They also should obey all traffic laws — stopping at red lights and stop signs, among other laws — and use headlights and taillights when riding at night. Bicyclists also are encouraged to wear light-colored clothing to aide in visibility.
Miller also noted drivers should give bicyclists at least three feet when passing, and should be on the lookout for bicycles and motorcycles while driving to create a safer driving environment.
In direct response to the accidents, local bike shop Village Bikes, which has locations on Lakewood Ranch Main Street and on South Osprey Avenue in Sarasota, is taking measures to help promote safety for bicyclists.
“We’re trying to get people to wear more high visibility clothing and we are bringing more high visibility clothing (into our stores),” owner Ed Levins said.
The store also is encouraging riders to wear bicycle helmets regardless of whether they are riding in front of their home, on Legacy Trail or on a long-distance cycling ride, as well as reminding riders to obey all traffic laws.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
Recent fatal and serious accidents
• At 10:25 a.m., Jan. 20, driver Carol J. Conneen, 67, of Canton, Ga., struck and killed pedestrian William Sapp, 38, of Sarasota as he walked across University Parkway near its intersection with Medici Court.
• At 10:18 a.m., Jan. 22, driver Kim M. Leto of Sarasota, struck and killed with her 2008 SUV 15-year-old Brenden Edward Barnes, a student at Southeast High School, as he walked westbound on Whitfield Avenue near Tuttle Avenue. His friend, 16-year-old Samuel Garvin, who was walking alongside Barnes in the bicycle lane, suffered serious injuries and was taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital. Leto has been charged with leaving the scene with death and leaving the scene with injuries, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.
• At 1:42 p.m., Jan. 30, 66-year-old bicyclist Sondra Lee Thompson of Mote Ranch was struck and killed by a passing vehicle driven by Mark Ruben, 44, at Whitfield Avenue and Treymore Court. Ruben was driving westbound in the west lane of Whitfield Avenue when his vehicle struck the rear of Thompson’s bicycle, which was traveling on the right shoulder of the west lane.
• At 4:40 p.m., Feb. 1, bicyclist Theresa Chapman, 59, was critically injured at the 1700 block of 75th St. W., in Bradenton, after being struck by a pickup truck driven by William Hertzog, 30, of Bradenton. A Florida Highway Patrol report states Chapman swerved to the left in the southbound lane of travel and into the path of Gertzog’s vehicle. Gertzog attempted to stop, but was unable to avoid contact, sending the front of his vehicle into the rear wheel of the bicycle. Chapman has been charged with improper change of course, bike.
• At 6:24 p.m., Feb. 1 in Charlotte County, 10-year-old Younique Miller, was struck and killed by a pickup truck driven by Jacqueline Leigh, 26. The child attempted to cross over a paved driveway access to the rear parking lot of the home and in doing so, traveled out from behind a building and into oncoming traffic. Miller was not wearing a helmet at the time of his accident.
• At 7:58 a.m., Feb. 3, 11-year-old Tan Le of Sarasota was seriously injured while riding his bicycle at Proctor Road and Woodgate Lane in Sarasota. A Florida Highway Patrol report states Eleanor Larson, 61, was driving southbound on Woodgate Lane when she stopped her 2007 Ford Edge at its intersection of Proctor Road. Larson attempted to turn right onto Proctor into the direct bath of Le’s bicycle, striking its left side. Le was in a marked crosswalk. Larson has been charged with violation of right of way from a stop sign.
• On Sept. 10, 2010, Lakewood Ranch resident and cyclist Debra Dunbar was injured after a passing vehicle struck the bicycle she was riding along Arnold Palmer Green. Dunbar suffered more than nine broken bones, scrapes and bruises, from the accident.