Bicycling in Florida: More Hazardous Than Any Other State in the Nation

Bicycling in Florida is and always has been an extremely hazardous pursuit, even more so than in many other parts (or really any other part) of the country. Florida always has had one of the highest death rates for bicyclists of any state in the nation. Talk to any serious bicycling enthusiast in Florida and they will have a story for you of a close call with a motor vehicle or, even worse, a tale of an accident the bicyclist has been in with a motor vehicle.  According to a recent report from the Florida Phoenix, Florida consistently has been ranked as the most dangerous state in the country for bicyclists over the last decade. This is due to a variety of factors, including the presence of fewer bike lanes in many Florida cities than in other major metropolitan areas of a similar size, the seriousness (or lack of seriousness) with which both local law enforcement and state and local officials take the issue of bicyclist safety, the fact that Florida’s balmy climate allows Sunshine State residents the opportunity to bike all year long, the fact that bikes are some people’s only means of transportation in a state where public transportation may be limited or non-existent, and inadequate lighting on many roads and at many intersections.

Florida: A Truly Deadly Place for Cyclists Across the Entire State

As confirmation of the harrowing experiences of close calls anecdotally reported by Florida bicyclists, Florida has by far the highest per-capita bicyclist death rate in the country, according to federal statistics.  hose statistics show the state’s recent ten-year cyclist fatality rate of 6.2 deaths per 100,000 residents is 59% higher than the rate in Louisiana, the state with the second-highest level of bicyclist fatalities over the same decade. This is a staggering difference that is truly scary for Florida’s cyclists.

The deadliest region in Florida for bicyclist deaths has been the Tampa Bay area. The Tampa-St. Petersburg region led the nation in 2016-2017 in terms of its bicyclist fatality rate, and three other Florida major metropolitan areas were right behind Tampa Bay. Jacksonville, Orlando and Miami took the #2, #3 and #4 slots in terms of the most dangerous cities in the country for bikers, according to the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This means that the four most dangerous cities in the country for bikers in 2016-2017 were all located in Florida. Bicycling deaths in Florida did drop to 116 in 2017, the lowest annual figure since 2010. This appeared to signify that recent safety efforts by state and local officials were having an effect on reducing the danger of biking in Florida.

However, the rate has since gone back up for 2018, increasing to 122 bicycling deaths as of December 14th, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. What these sobering statistics reflect is the sheer danger of bicycling in Florida. As compared with other states that have similar large populations, Florida simply does not provide the same level of protection for cyclists, whether it is the availability of bike lanes or sidewalks, motorist attitudes towards cyclists, police indifference to incidents involving bicycles or enforcing laws meant to protect cyclists, or the lack of available public transportation options in many urban areas in Florida. 

Motorist Responsibilities Under Florida Law When Bicyclists Are Present

Motorists also have particular responsibilities when cyclists are present on the road in Florida; their failure to observe them contributes mightily to how dangerous it is to operate a bike in the Sunshine State. Cyclists are not required to ride on the shoulder of the road or even in the very right-hand portion of the right lane of a road, despite what many drivers in Florida may think to the contrary. Instead, cyclists are permitted to ride their bikes on the road in Florida and are entitled to the use of a full lane when doing so. There has even been recent activity at the level of the Florida Legislature to widen most bike lanes on Florida roads from four feet to seven feet in width. Cyclists are not required to share their lane with motor vehicles nor are they required to move all the way over if a motor vehicle attempts to pass them using the same lane in which the cyclist is traveling. Therefore, a driver who passes (or attempts to pass) a cyclist in the same lane in which the cyclist is traveling is violating the law and could be ticketed for reckless endangerment or a similar type of charge depending on how close the motorist comes to the bicyclist and how fast the motorist is going. However, as any avid cyclist will tell you, these rules are not aggressively enforced by Florida law enforcement personnel.

Contact the Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys of Schwed, Adams & McGinley

As reflected in the statistics regarding the dangerousness of biking in Florida and in particular the number of Florida bikers killed over the past decade, collisions involving motor vehicles and cyclists often can result in critical injuries or death, particularly for the cyclists. Florida drivers often fail to do their part to follow their obligations under Florida law to ensure the safety of everyone involved in sharing the road. To make matters worse, law enforcement often is not as aggressive in enforcing laws to protect bicyclists as to they could be.

If you are a cyclist and you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident in Florida, you will need an experienced personal injury attorney who has represented cyclists who have been injured by Florida motorists in the past in order to help you to recover maximum damages for your injuries. Contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A. today. We have achieved great success in representing clients in collisions between bicycles and motor vehicles, and other situations in which our clients were riding a bike and were injured, during our attorneys’ 150 combined years practicing law. Contact us today at (877) 694-6079 or contact@schwedlawfirm.com for a free consultation regarding your situation.