Florida’s roads and streets are the main scenario for the interaction between pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists and more. We face the everyday hazardous act of sharing the roads, trusting in the driving and riding knowledge of everyone in traffic. But what happens when this knowledge is affected by a different perception of reality?
According to the Association for Phycological Science (APS), a 2012 study revealed there’s a difference between cyclists’ and drivers’ perceptions about road interaction. The study showed that cyclists look at the car-bike road interactions as risky and with a high crash propensity. On the other hand, the study found drivers look at the car-bike dynamic with less chance of accident and less risky than other automobile accidents. These hard findings make drivers think about the importance of complying with the regulations and, above all, the need to respect other users on the road. Cyclists must also engage in responsible riding and respect all motor vehicles.
Looking into the statistics published by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the annual average number of bicycle accidents in the last five years is 6,800 and the number of bicycle crash fatalities is 135 per year. This fact makes it even more imperative for both parties to become aware of the dangers they face when driving and riding the public roads.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and bicycling.com reminds us to keep in mind the following guidelines when riding a bicycle to reduce the risk of accidents and avoid injuries.
• BE VISIBLE – Use protective equipment such as a helmet, a white front light, and a red rear light. Don’t forget to use reflectors on the bicycle, helmet, and clothes.
• GO STRAIGHT – Plan a safe route. Choose roads with less traffic and slower speeds. Always ride in a straight a line as possible so drivers can sense how far left they have to go to get past you safely. Don’t weave in and out of traffic.
• DON’T GET DOORED – Avoid getting clotheslined by a car door! On a road line with parked cars, take up more of the lane. Assume that the person in car does not know you are coming and will open the car door. Look over your left shoulder to check that traffic is clear and give the car a wide berth. Also, look at wheels and be prepared to take defensive maneuvers if the car’s wheels are turned and they pull out in front of you. The driver may honk at you…but at least they saw you.
• USE COMMON SENSE – Do not use your cell phone or listen to music during your ride. It requires that your vision and attention stay focused on the road.
• SIGNAL A WARNING – Before passing a pedestrian announce yourself with “on your left” or “passing on your left” or using a bell so they can be aware of your presence. It is also important to use your ears in vehicle traffic, since many engine sounds can tip you off to any danger, with possibly the exception of hybrid engines that don’t make much noise. When a potential dangerous encounter occurs, a scream is instant and can get a driver’s attention.
• STAY TO THE RIGHT AND BE PREPARED FOR AN EMERGENCY MOVE – Drive in the same direction as traffic. If the driver passes you and immediately begins to turn right, you have two choices: a panic stop or instant turn. If you must panic stop, then shift your butt to the right of your saddle, straighten your arms as you lower your chest, and squeeze both brakes firmly. Never squeeze just the front brake or you’ll pitch forward. Or you can avoid the collisions by making a right turn with the car. If possible, brake before the turn, not during it. Keep your right pedal up so it won’t hit the curb. Be fair and take your fair share of the lane to avoid being overtaken by a car.
• READ THE LIGHTS – Obey road signs and drive predictably. Stay clear of traffic by staying ahead of it, however, don’t gain ground at red lights by passing a lane of cars on the right. It’s illegal and you can get “doored” from either side.
• KEEP PEDALING & RIDE ASSERTIVELY – If you have the right of way at an intersection, don’t coast through or drivers may assume they can cut in front of you. Keep pedaling, but be prepared to stop.
Drivers should also keep in mind the following key points when sharing the public roads with other cyclists.
• BE COURTEOUS – Give way to cyclists in the same way you would with another vehicle on the road.
• RIGHT ON RED – Avoid hitting a cyclist when you turn right in red. Observe to your right and behind you to make sure there are no cyclists nearby.
• OBEY SPEED LIMITS – Reduce speed if road conditions are hazardous and drive defensively to avoid a crash with a cyclist.
• PASSING – Do not pass a cyclist too closely. Pass a cyclist only when it is safe if you need to cross into the adjacent lane.
Common Motorist Errors: How to Avoid them
• TURNING LEFT AND CUTTING CYCLIST OFF – When a driver is turning left in front of an oncoming cyclist who is going straight through an intersection: Make eye contact with the driver and nod to indicate you’re moving forward.
• RUNNING THROUGH A STOP SIGN – If a driver fails to obey a stop sign and pulls in front of a rider: Stand on your pedals at stop signs to improve visibility.
• TURNING RIGHT AFTER PASSING – Keep your hand on the brake when a driver passes and look for a turn signal.
Sharing the road is mandatory, so it is important to to have a sense of safety and security for both cyclists and drivers. Practice the guidelines above to keep roads free of accidents. Remember that sharing the streets is about promoting mutual understanding and above all avoiding accidents and injuries.
Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. OUR AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a bicycle accident, it is important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit www.zarzaurlaw.com.
Association for Psychological Science. (n.d.). Bicyclists beware: The psychology of car-bike crash risks. Retrieved from https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/motr/bicyclist-beware-cars-view-less-risk-in-crashes-with-bikes.html
Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (2016) Crash and Citation Reports & Statistics [Statistics]. Retrieved from https://www.flhsmv.gov/resources/crash-citation-reports/
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (n.d.). Bicycle safety. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/bicycle-safety
333 Secrets of the Lifetime Rider. https://www.bicycling.com