Cyclists Beware: Florida Streets Remain Unsafe

To get from place to place people use many different modes of transportation; however in Florida, one of the modes may be more dangerous than others.

In a March 1, 2010 USA Today article, Florida was ranked as of the most dangerous states for cyclists in the country. This information was compiled from a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association in 2008.

Whether it is from home to campus or to the workplace, bicycle use is quite common in Tallahassee.

Back in 2008 the Leon County Board of County Commissioners voted to create a bicycle safety task force to provide bicycle and pedestrian safety education to the public. The goal of this task force was to focus on making cycling in Tallahassee safer.

There are also many organizations throughout Florida that advocate safer cycling in the state.

Organizations like the Committee for a Bikeable Community aims to increase the safety of cyclists as well as increase the number of cyclists.

According to Hans Van Tol, the chairperson of the Committee for a Bikeable Community, while his organization does not collect cycling statistics in Florida, there are some points to be made about the dangers of cycling.

“There are many reasons that cyclists are injured or killed in this state. Some of the factors are distracted drivers, alcohol, speeding, many people do not know basic traffic rules, especially where it comes to bicycles, and people are riding without lights,” Van Tol said.

Many areas in Tallahassee do not have sidewalks and that means that many times cyclists must ride their bikes on the streets with cars and other motor vehicles.

While it is expected for cyclists to use bike lines built on the city’s busiest thoroughfares, sometimes it presents a problem for both the cyclists and drivers.

The problems that are caused when bikes and motor vehicles share the road together stem from a lack of knowledge of the laws of the road according to many cyclists.

Jonathan Fair, 22, a fourth-year Architecture student said that many people disregard cyclists at times.

“When I first came here I almost saw someone on a bike get hit by a car that was riding right beside it,” said Fair.

“Because I used to ride back home, I learned what the rules were here just in case I decided to ride here, but I’m still a little concerned.”

Fair also said that he thinks people don’t know what to think of bicycles when they are on the street. He said that bicycles should have the same rights on the road as cars.

Fair is not far off in his thinking.

According to Florida statute sections 316.003 and 316.2065 when on the road, bike riders are awarded many of the same rights as a motor vehicle. While the rules change based on the situation that the cyclist is presenting, bicycle riders are able to use the whole lane when riding. They also can make left turns in the turning lane.

Some drivers feel that it is the cyclists that can cause the problems on the road. Neil Greene, 23, a fourth-year Computer Information Systems student said that even with the rules for cyclists, some of them put themselves in harm’s way.

“I feel that I am respectful to the people who ride bikes, but there have been many times when I’m driving and they just swing in and out the lane with no warning.”

Greene also said that he feels the cyclists need more help when it comes to an actual area to ride on.

“Some of these streets are just not safe for bike riders. Lots of these one lane streets are bumpy and round so I don’t even see how some of these people ride on them. Without sidewalks I get concerned that many people might get knocked into traffic,” said Green.

No matter which mode of transportation people are using, it appears that some things that need to be worked on for cyclists.

Tol mentioned some of the projects that are meant to help cyclists.

“One of the projects going on is a bike route system for Tallahassee. We are also educating people, for example at Bike Week in May or the website and blog and newspaper articles,” said Tol.

“Also we try to be involved in infrastructure planning to make sure cyclists are not forgotten.”

There are many organizations in Florida that are looking out for cyclists, no matter if it’s for transportation or recreation, like the Florida Bicycle Association, Florida Road Cycling Association, and Committee for a Bikeable Community.

They hold events throughout the year to educate people on cycling as well as bring people in the biking community together.

Visit Florida’s Cycling website for summaries of the laws on cycling in the state.