Florida leads nation in bicycle deaths

Although May 31 marks the end of National Bike Safety Month, data compiled about bicycle accidents in the U.S. suggests that bike safety should remain at the forefront for residents of Florida.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that Florida leads the nation in bicycle deaths. According to the NHTSA, 16% of the 783 bicyclists killed in the U.S. in 2017 were in Florida. Okeechobee had two high-profile bicycle accidents last year, a each having a different cause. An 18-year old bicyclist was fatally struck when crossing State Road 70 back in January 2018, while Okeechobee’s “man on the bridge” suffered fractures after falling from his bike in October 2018 after the weld holding the front wheel failed.

According to the NHTSA, the most commonly reported factors leading to bicycle fatalities were failure to yield the right of way, not being visible (dark clothing, no lighting, etc.), failure to obey traffic signs, signals, or an officer and making an improper turn.

In a recent survey of Florida cyclists conducted by The American Automobile Association (AAA), 36% say they do not wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, 56% ride with traffic while 21% ride against traffic, and 74% of those who ride against traffic do so because they prefer to see approaching vehicles.

“Motorists and cyclists play an equal part in sharing the road,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins. “While motorists need to eliminate distractions and watch for people on bikes, cyclists can do their part by wearing a helmet and brightly colored clothing. Bicyclists who do not go with the flow of traffic are putting their lives in danger. Although it may be more comforting for a cyclist to see approaching motorists, this creates scenarios where drivers may not see them. That’s because drivers do not always check for wrong-way traffic before entering an intersection.”

AAA recommends cyclists keep the following tips in mind to remain safe:
• Ride on the roadway or shared pathways, rather than on sidewalks.
• Follow the same rules of the road as other roadway users, including riding in the same direction as traffic and following all the same traffic signs and signals.
• Signal all turns.
• Wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet every time and on every ride.
• Be visible by wearing bright colors during the day, reflective gear in low-light conditions and head and tail lights at night.
• Respect is a two-way street. Show motorists the same courtesy you expect from them.
And AAA recommends these tips for motorists to help keep cyclists safe:
• Stay alert — avoid all distractions while driving.
• Yield to bicyclists while turning.
• In bad weather, give bicyclists extra passing room, as you would other motorists.
• Look for bicyclists by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic.
• Slow down and give at least 3 feet of clearance when passing.
• Reduce your speed when passing bicyclists, especially when the road is narrow.
• NEVER honk your horn at a bicyclist.
; it could cause them to swerve into traffic or off the roadway and crash.
• Always check for bicyclists before opening your car door.
• Children on bicycles are often unpredictable — expect the unexpected and look out for them.

Richard Marion is a staff writer and photographer at Lake Okeechobee News and can be reached at rmarion@newszap.com.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment