NAPLES — The wheels are in motion for a new task force on bicyclist and pedestrian safety following a crash last week in Naples that sent a bicyclist to the hospital.
The nine-person task force will be known as Turning Point, said Patrick Ruff, president of the Naples Pathways Coalition. Plans are underway for an upcoming rally to bring together bicyclists, runners, law enforcement and drivers.
“The primary purpose will be to direct the energy from the incident into the community so there’s more awareness,” Ruff said.
Last Wednesday, a speeding pickup struck bicyclist Chuck Kelly while he was on a morning ride with several dozen other riders. Kelly, 57, was taken to the hospital with a concussion, broken bones and a punctured lung. Naples police cited the driver, 34-year-old Scott R. Hutton, of Key West, for improper passing.
The crash prompted police to put up flashing signs warning drivers about sharing the road and giving bicyclists 3 feet upon passing, as required by state law.
“After what happened with this accident, we wanted to take the time to do some education and campaigning to get the message out there,” said police Chief Tom Weschler.
Weschler said the city has ordered bumper stickers about sharing the road and the 3-foot law for all city vehicles.
“We talked to the Naples Pathways Coalition, and it just seemed like a lot of people are in town for season and we wanted to make the attempt to put the word out there,” he said.
Several members of the group cycling with Kelly said Hutton appeared to be annoyed while following the riders. A crash report says Hutton crossed into a lane of oncoming traffic before hitting Kelly at Crayton Road and Harbour Drive.
Although reports indicate Hutton was going 40 mph in a 30 mph zone, he was not cited for speeding because police did not see the crash and there was no device to corroborate witness accounts, said acting police spokesman Lt. Matt Fletcher.
Kelly was expected to be released from the hospital late Monday, said his wife, Tish Kelly. She said Monday that she was happy the police department was investing in prevention campaigns.
Tish Kelly said the best way to get compliance for the 3-foot law would be for law enforcement to educate drivers and ticket the ones who don’t abide.
“It should be criminal if they don’t give 3 feet,” she said. “They wouldn’t think it was funny if they’d get a huge ticket and fine for it.”