There is so much to love about our state. We have access to some of the nation's best beaches and other glorious natural resources, not to mention the weather tailor-made for enjoying these assets. We have a great mix of diverse cultures and activities for both residents and visitors of all ages. There are some distinctions, however, we aren't so proud of. One distinction that we are not proud of is the fact that Florida consistently ranks as the state with the highest number of bicycle fatalities, the highest proportion of bicycle deaths compared to all fatalities, and the highest bicycle fatality rate per million population (see NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts, Bicyclists and Other Cyclists). As a Panama City bicycle fatality law firm, we are dedicated to reducing these numbers, fighting for injured and lost cyclists, and making Florida a safer place for people on two wheels as well as four.
Fatality statistics are composed of individual stories and real victims, such as the young woman whose death was reported on by WJHG last Friday. At just past 7 A.M., a 20-year-old woman was riding her bike to her job at a Destin McDonald's. She was hit by a pick-up truck as she attempted to cross U.S. 98 near Vinings Way. The bicyclist was taken to Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast where she was pronounced dead.
In past posts, we have looked at bicycle accident statistics generally and discussed the importance of helmets for riders of all ages. Today, we want to speak to drivers about a few important safety issues. These issues are highlighted in the Florida Bicycle Association's "For Motorists" webpage.
The group starts by discussing "Share the Road" signs, noting that these are posted where a road is not wide enough for a car and bicycle to safely operate in the same lane. Therefore, contrary to what some might assume, the signs call for a "one after the other" approach rather than asking the vehicles to "share" a single lane. Bicycles have the same right as cars to the use of a lane, and a motorist wanting to pass must yield and wait until passing is safe for both car and bicycle. Bicyclists do not need to stay out of the way or give up their lane to a motorist. They should be riding where they are most visible and may even be on the left-hand portion of a lane if debris, bad pavement, or an upcoming left turn necessitate.
Motorists should also remember that cyclists belong on the road. They do not belong on the sidewalk, where they cause danger to pedestrians and even to motorists who may hit a bike when entering or leaving a road. Bikes are not required to use the shoulder; some may choose to use the shoulder, but that presents particular risks including risks associated with roadside debris. They do not need to hug the very rightmost edge of their lane. Travelling where they can see and be seen makes the road safer for both riders and drivers.
The Florida Bicycle Association also has two tips for drivers that could prevent a very wide array of accidents: "Pause and think it through" and "Take a deep breath, you have nothing to lose but stress." If drivers followed this advice, there'd be far fewer roadway accidents, including those that involve bicycles and those that don't. Drivers should know that a moment's decision can claim a life, especially when it involves a cyclist (or pedestrian) who does not have the physical protection of a larger vehicle.
Bicyclists and their families should know that there is help available if a careless driver causes a bicyclist injury or causes a rider's death. A consultation with our experienced Panama City bicyclist's attorney is always, free and under our contingency fee agreements, there is no charge unless you recover money.