The coronavirus pandemic has spurred a nationwide biking boom. Bike sales nationwide have doubled in recent months compared to last year. Some cyclists like cheap transportation while others find it safer to cycle right now than take a public bus or subway. Many simply welcome a healthy outdoor respite from social isolation. Numerous Florida cities have seized on the reduced traffic counts as an opportunity to get a jump start on building new bicycle lanes or connecting existing ones to create a more expansive, safer biking network. However, South Florida is still one of the most dangerous regions in the deadliest state for bicyclists and the risk of a Fort Myers bicycle accident remains high.
The Miami Herald reports that despite the high demand for bike infrastructure, few South Florida cities are taking the initiative to make biking safer. Transportation safety advocates note that in many communities throughout the state, there is no network of safe bicycle pathways. Instead, we have these fragmented stretches of random bicycle lanes that do not connect to one another, are often not separated from traffic, and are far too frequently ignored by careless motorists.
Our South Florida bicycle accident attorneys know that many communities from Tampa to Miami have made big plans when it comes to bike safety, but many have stalled if they were ever begun in the first place. There has been discussion of expanding and connecting the Gulf Coast Trail, which would serve as a Southwest coast connector from Clearwater to Naples, with segments adjacent to motor vehicle traffic. WINK News reports the last time the City of Fort Myers created a plan to make biking and walking easier was in 2007, though they did recently release a survey asking residents to chime in with suggestions for improvement. Meanwhile, there has been little movement on Miami Beach’s nearly-200-page bicycle master plan for Miami Beach. So far, the city’s only built one-tenth of a mile of the 17 miles of protected bicycle lanes promised back in 2009.
Bicycling is great for individuals and communities in a number of ways, but there is cause for concern when there is an uptick in ridership combined with a lack of safety infrastructure – especially because Florida does not have a great track record when it comes to preventing bicycle accidents.
Why Florida is No. 1 for Bicycle Accidents
More than 780 people in the U.S. died in bicycle accidents in a single recent year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of those, 125 were killed in Florida – more than any other state in the country, including California, which has 18.5 million more people and is known for outdoor recreation. The per capita death rate of Florida bicyclists is 60 percent higher than the next-closest state. Bicycle accidents accounted for 4 percent of all Florida’s traffic fatalities, which was higher than everywhere else except Hawaii, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.
Florida bicyclists have as much right to the road as any vehicle driver, but they are inevitably at a disadvantage if they collide with a car or truck. They are smaller, slower and there is precious little besides a helmet protecting the rider from the pavement.
Elements that make bicycling in Florida specifically unsafe include:
- Roads that were built for motor vehicles. They are wide and speed limits are high – a dangerous combination for vulnerable road users like bicyclists and pedestrians. Lack of bike lanes does not help.
- Poor drivers. Distracted drivers, especially. Every state has bad drivers, of course, but Florida has always been on the high end when it comes to car, motorcycle, and drunk driving crashes, etc., and they have been on the rise in recent years.
- Year-round riding whether. More people riding bikes at all times of the year is going to increase the odds that someone will come in contact with a motor vehicle.
- Rapid population growth. More residents inevitably mean more people – more drivers and bicyclists on the roads.
- Under-equipped bicyclists. Florida law does not require cyclists over 16 to wear helmets, despite ample research revealing that it can be life-saving.
Although some blame the out-sized cycling danger in Florida on the seasonal “snowbird” drivers who flock here in the winter months, the reality is most at-fault drivers involved in serious and fatal crashes are between the ages of 20 and 24.
Fighting for Compensation After a Bike Crash
Proximity to cars is the greatest determining factor in whether a bike crash is serious. More than 70 percent of fatal crashes occurred in urban areas. As the City of Miami transportation planners noted, “Existing vehicle speeds do not provide for a safe environment for bicyclists…”
Motorists are often at-fault when bicycle crashes occur, but it is not a given that insurers will see it that way. Plus, these cases may be more complex than your average car crash claim, both because injuries tend to be more severe and cyclists are not required to carry insurance.
If you are injured in a South Florida bicycle accident, our experienced injury lawyers are available to answer your questions and help you explore your avenues of legal compensation.
If you are injured in the greater South Florida area, contact our injury attorneys at The Garvin Firm at 800.977.7017 for a free initial consultation.
Bike lanes to nowhere: Miami lags behind other cities during coronavirus bicycling boom, June 18, 2020, By Linda Robertson, The Miami Herald
More Blog Entries:
Florida Pedestrian Accident Lawsuits: What You Need to Know, May 20, 2020, Fort Myers Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog