FIRES (Florida’s Integrated Report Exchange System) reports that over the last two decades, the number of people injured in bicycle accidents with motor vehicles in the United States has been rising, with some injuries leading to fatalities. In Southwest Florida, 216 bicyclists were injured, 2 of which led to fatalities. As of March 2018, 49 bicyclists have already been injured.
Bicyclists are twice as likely to die on U.S. roads than occupants of motor vehicles, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In Florida, the bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle. Bicyclists have the same rights to the roadways and must obey the same traffic laws as the operators of other vehicles.
Common causes of bicycle accidents
Motorist negligence and error are among the most common causes of bicycle accidents, meaning that cyclists may not always be able to avoid a crash.
The Florida Bicycle Association (FBA) says that impatient drivers cause many crashes and recommends that when a driver encounters a bicyclist, he/she takes a moment to observe the roadway. In many cases it is not necessary to pass a cyclist right away, or at all:
- Is there a red light, stop sign or stopped traffic ahead?
- Is there an opportunity to pass with greater clearance in a short distance?
- Are there vehicles at cross streets that might turn into the oncoming lane as you are passing?
- Is the cyclist riding within a few mph of the speed limit?
- Are you on a residential street with speed bumps?
- Are you planning to turn off that road in 500 feet?
FBA says that once motorists have assessed the situation and determine it is safe and necessary to pass, they should give the cyclist plenty of space. On high-speed roads, speed should be reduced as motorists pass. Even with plenty of clearance, it is not safe or considerate to pass an exposed human being at 70 mph. Purposely passing a cyclist too closely with the intent to intimidate is considered assault. Passing too close at high speed because the driver is in a hurry is considered reckless endangerment.
FBA says that Florida laws have been passed to make the streets safer for bicyclists. For example, the law requires motorists to stay at least three feet away from bicyclists. They are also supposed to treat bicycles like other cars on the roads, giving them their own lane in areas where a separate bike lane is not provided.
While Florida is making progress in making the state more bike friendly through the passage of laws, making bike lanes wider and planning more bike friendly infrastructure, motorists need to do their part in ensuring the roads are safe for everyone.
Specific suggestions for motorists from Bicycling.com for driving alongside cyclists include the following 6 tips:
- Be Mindful of Space. Give riders at least 5 feet of space when you pass them and be sure to wait until you can pass safely.
- Check Your Driver-Side Door. Look behind you and avoid opening your door directly in the path of an upcoming bicycle.
- Use Airplane Mode on Your Phone. Turn your phone off or to airplane mode and be totally focused on your driving.
- Don’t Get Angry – Always Assume the Best. It’s always easy to assume the worst intentions, behavior, and intelligence of your fellow road users, but that doesn’t help you get to your destination safely. Keep negativity down to a minimum.
- Be Careful With that Horn. A car horn can be dangerously alarming to a cyclist.
- Avoid the Right Hook. Check your blind spot before every right turn so you don’t cut off any approaching bicycle riders.
Should you be injured in a crash between a bicycle and a motor vehicle, we are available 24/7 to assist you. There are no costs or attorney fees unless we make a monetary recovery for you,” said Fort Myers Personal Injury Lawyer, Randall Spivey.
Fort Myers Bike Accident Attorney, Randall L. Spivey is a Board Certified Trial Attorney – the highest recognition for competence bestowed by the Florida Bar and a distinction earned by just one (1%) percent of Florida attorneys. He has handled over 2,000 personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida. For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., in Lee County at 239.337.7483 or toll free at 1.888.477.4839,or by email to Randall@SpiveyLaw.com. Visit SpiveyLaw.com for more information. You can contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.in Charlotte County at 941.764.7748 and in Collier County 239.793.7748.