This photo shows Memorial Causeway near where two cyclists were struck on Labor Day. DOT will be designating the paved shoulders as bicycle lanes soon.
CLEARWATER – There will soon be designated bicycle lanes on both sides of the Memorial Causeway between Clearwater and the beach as the result of a fatal hit and run crash on Labor Day.
Rob Lemon, 25, of Largo was killed when he was struck by a vehicle shortly after 6 a.m. that day. His girlfriend, Hilary Michalak, 27, remains in critical condition at the Bayfront Medical Center as a result of injuries she received in the same crash.
The two were riding a tandem bike on the Causeway when they were struck.
Kris Carson of the Florida Department of Transport said the bike lanes will be designated on paved shoulders, which are already in place.
“The paved shoulders are out there,” she said. “Now it is a matter of adding the symbols to let motorists know that the bikes have a right to be there and to be cautious.”
When asked if adding the bicycle symbols are a direct result of the fatal hit and run Carson replied, “Definitely.”
Carson said FDOT is undertaking a statewide campaign to add and designate bicycle lanes wherever possible.
“We have a campaign, Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow to draw attention to safety because there are too many bicycle and pedestrian fatalities all across the state,” she said.
The victims of the hit and run were no strangers to bicycle safety. Lemon worked at a local bike shop and, according to friends, always rode his bike to work.
Michalak moved to the area from Michigan a year ago. Her family is by her side at Bayfront. She is the director of Youth and Families at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Seminole.
Pastor Pam Wellons said they were honoring the family’s request for privacy and didn’t have much to say about the situation.
“We are praying for her,” she said. “We’re praying for her and her family. That is about all I can say.”
Attempts to reach her family at Bayfront were unsuccessful.
In the Pinellas County Jail is 29-year-old Christopher Weed of Dunedin. He is being held on two felony charges: leaving the scene of an accident causing death and leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury. Weed works at a hotel on Clearwater Beach. His 1997 Nissan pickup truck was seen in the roundabout shortly after the victims’ tandem bike had been there.
Clearwater police say an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers indicated that Weed might have been involved in the fatal crash, and detectives found his truck in his mother’s backyard in Dunedin with the windshield missing and damage to the front end. Weed told investigators that he passed out and didn’t know what happened.
“He came forward on his own to say his truck was involved, but he didn’t say he was responsible,” said Rob Shaw, Clearwater Police public information officer.
Shaw said the police are confident they have arrested the right man.
“This is a horrible tragedy and we’re happy to have gotten the person and have him where he needs to be,” Shaw said.
Area roadways are no strangers to tragedies. DOT’s Carson said the Tampa Bay area has twice the national average for bicycle and pedestrian fatalities.
Despite the fact that there is a bicycle trail running parallel along the Causeway, Carson said many cyclists would prefer to use the paved shoulder.
“Cyclists who like to go faster want to avoid the walkers and joggers who regularly use the trail. They would prefer to use the roadway,” she said.
She said the bike lanes on the Causeway should be designated before the end of the year.