The Town of Jupiter Island has, like just about every part of South Florida, seen a recent increase in bicycling. Jupiter Island Police stand out for maintaining an ongoing dialogue with the cycling community, one notable for its degree of candor, mutual respect and honesty.
You know that sometimes people on bicycles can be our own worst enemies. Most of us are strong defenders of our rights to the road as vehicles (as stated in Florida Statutes) but occasionally, someone on a bicycle forgets the responsibilities that come with these rights. When this happens, it can be detrimental to our community on a number of levels and worse, it can be an issue of safety for one of our own.
Jupiter Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety, Ted Gonzales, knows that when this happens, it can restrict emergency access at crash scenes. He reached out to SFBC friend John Goings and I thought it was worth sharing his email with you here:
From: Ted Gonzales
Sent: Friday, June 25, 2010 11:56 AM
Subject: Request for assistance
Good morning Gentlemen,
Over the past year, the Commissioners and staff of Jupiter Island have seen and great improvement in bicycle traffic, activities and actions. I can only attribute this to your work and the renewed relationship we have developed over the past two years. Part of this growing relationship is your willingness to call us ahead of time and advising us when there is a large group or special event ride coming through the Island. I received a call this week in reference to the proposed “memorial ride” coming from the south this weekend. Our officers will be screening the roadways looking for any dangers or obstructions and will monitor the ride as needed.
Recently, there has been an noticeable increase in the sizes of the bicycle groups. This slight increase has led to several bicycle crashes with substantial injuries to those involved. While our emergency responders are responding to assist the injured bicyclist, we have found other cyclist hindering our responding vehicles by failing to yield the right of way to emergency vehicles. This is not only a concern by our officers, but by the Martin County Fire Rescue crews as well.
I am requesting your help in asking all riders to remember it is state law that all vehicles, including bicycles, must yield to emergency vehicles by stopping and clearing the roadway when emergency vehicles approach. Ride safe and thanks again for all you have done to make the ride on Jupiter Island a safe one.
Chief Ted J. Gonzales
Director of Public Safety
Don’t you like how he refers to more bicycling as ‘improvement’? You can choose to read his email differently, but I see it as illustrating one policeman’s policy of being honest, gracious, humble, proactive and forthright. I believe that when police are doing their job, public safety becomes a collaborative, civic effort. When police and bicyclists work together, it means safer roads for everyone (I know this sounds cheesy, but I couldn’t find a more direct way of saying it, sorry) Of course, not all police are as professional (and cool) as Chief Gonzales or, say, Red from LAPD, but cops are people, too. Many of them ride, either on the job or with us, in their free time. If you have had a problem with your local law enforcement, try to keep your cool and let us know. We’ll help you find the right person in that department to speak to. You SHOULD make a complaint when an officer either mistreats you or demonstrates an ignorance of the law – we can help. (I’ve made my own mistakes here, too, but I’ve learned to ‘cultivate’ awareness.) Equally important, let your local police know ahead of time if a ride you’re hosting might require their support or awareness. Know police officers? Talk to them about why you ride. The better our relationship with local law enforcement, the better equipped they are to police those within their department who don’t know the rules of the road. Think about it.
Natural beauty is obvious – but I think confidence in law enforcement is one strong reason why Jupiter Island is becoming so many Palm Beach residents’ favorite place for a bike ride.