The area around Lake Hollingsworth and Florida Southern College is a popular one for bikers, runners and sightseers. The route is deceptively tranquil though, as the increased amount of pedestrians and cyclists has caused accidents with motorists.
The Ledger reported two accidents in 2012 and 2013 between motorists and cyclists ultimately proved fatal for two cyclists.
“People need to pay more attention when they’re driving around Lake Hollingsworth because it is a site where people exercise,” Dr. Eskin, associate professor of English, said.
During the fall Eskin’s daughter came to the school to meet her mother at the library. She was hit by a truck at the crosswalk at the corner of Johnson Avenue and Lake Hollingsworth Drive.
“She broke her ankle. She had to have surgery and two screws placed in her ankle,” Eskin said.
Eskin’s daughter is not the only one who has been hit on campus this year. On Feb. 3 two pedestrians were walking alongside Johnson Avenue outside of Branscomb Auditorium when a car pulled out of the parking lot.
Although the Lakeland police report stated that the driver said that he looked both ways, and the pedestrians said the same, the crash still occurred. The driver said that they turned back briefly to check for cars behind them when they felt the impact.
One of the pedestrians was transported to Lakeland Regional Medical Center with “a fracture right arm and a contusion to her forehead.” The other pedestrian was later taken to LRMC as well due to pain in their right leg.
According to Alvaretta Vennell-Mastrodomenico from the Safety Office 1,470 parking permits have been issued since the beginning of the Fall 2013 semester. While some of those are replacements for lost permits, it does mean that there are many drivers on campus, not counting the through traffic.
Jon Moses, a runner on the men’s cross country team, is not one of them. However, along with his team, he runs around Lakeland seven days a week.
“I can’t think of a time where I haven’t seen another group of runners around Lake Hollingsworth, or Lake Morton or some of the lakes around the area,” Moses said.
Moses said that he has never had any incidents running the lake, but that it is a little difficult running through crosswalks sometimes.
“There have been a few times where we’ll be in the crosswalk running through, and a car might not slow down or take a little while to slow down, or make us a little nervous,” Moses said.
Captain Rick Taylor, Special Operations Division in the Lakeland Police Department, said that vehicles must allow pedestrians to cross but that pedestrians must signal their intent to cross by standing on a curb or on the edge of the crosswalk if there is no other traffic according to Florida State Statute 316.130.
One way for runners to stay safe is to stay in a group. Moses said that it helps his team.
“Because we’re always in such a big group that means we’re always kind of looking out for each other,” Moses said.
For drivers, being more alert may be the key.
“There’s a lot of responsibility to driving, and I’m not sure everybody always realizes that,” Eskin said. “They always think of it as their right as opposed to their responsibility.”
Photo by Leah Schwarting