By: Audrey Gibson, State Senator and Paralegal
As a young girl, I remember riding my blue bicycle on my cul-de-sac, and hitting the “circle” at a good pace with one leg down as I leaned over. One day me and a friend who was sometimes my passenger, leaned in just a bit too much and went crashing to the ground. After our wounds were properly bandaged by both of our moms, we got right back “on the road.”
According to a 2017 report published by NHSTA, 818 bicyclists were not able to get back on the road following fatal crashes involving motor vehicles. Additionally, another estimated 45,000 cyclists were injured in crashes. From 2006 to 2015, cyclist crash fatalities peaked at nearly 43,000 in 2006, dipped in 2010, and increased again during 2015. In 2015, the largest number of pedalcyclist fatalities occurred in Florida (150), followed by California (129). Every other state less than 50 fatalities and there were no reported fatalities reported in the states of Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Rhode Island, or Wyoming.
The average age of bicyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles has increased over the years to age 45 in recent years. 88 percent of those killed were male; 71 percent of bicyclist fatalities occurred in urban areas; 20 percent of bicyclist fatalities occurred between 6 and 8:59 pm; 19 percent of bicyclists killed had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 g/dL or higher; In 35 percent of the crashes, either the driver or the bicyclist had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 g/dL or higher.
Pedestrians versus vehicle crashes are on the rise as well. There were 5,376 reported pedestrian deaths in 2015, up by over 6oo in the previous year. California followed by Florida rank the highest in pedestrian deaths too! Many of the demographics for pedestrian crash data fits that of cyclist.
Florida’s Plan for Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety
Realizing the magnitude of bicycle and pedestrian safety, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) implemented “Complete Streets,” a comprehensive plan to make sure the right streets are in the right places and with correct markings for public safety.
Through the Duval delegation, the city of Jacksonville requested state funds to help with the high number of pedestrian and bicycle involved crashes in the city. One of those projects, the “Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Improvement Program,” would include 7 locations identified as having the highest number of bicycle and pedestrian crashes in the last 4–6 years. The safety improvements, all on state roads that intersect with city roads, will include emphasis on upgrading crosswalks, sidewalks, and ADA curb ramps, and adding new pedestrian signals, pedestrian refuge islands, and Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB).
Safety improvements on our roads are necessary, but so is an attitude and understanding of sharing the road. Drivers should be aware allowing at least three feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist on the road; look for cyclists before opening a car door or pulling from a parking space; yield to cyclists at intersections, and as directed by road signs and signals. Pedestrians should not cross the street in the middle of the road, limit texting while walking, and drivers should not be distracted and inattentive by driving and talking or texting on a cell phone.
Tips for bicycle safety include: wearing a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride; be aware that bicyclists are considered vehicle operators and are required to obey the same rules of the road as other vehicle operators, including obeying traffic signs, signals, and lane markings; when cycling in the street, cyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic; increasing visibility by wearing fluorescent or brightly colored clothing during the day, at dawn and dusk; using a front light, a red reflector or flashing rear light, and retroreflective tape or magnets on equipment or clothing, at night.