In January of 2015, local real estate CFO Walter Reyes and his cycling companion, attorney Harry Hernandez, were struck by a 21-year-old drunk driver who was on the way home from a night of partying. The driver, who had been looking down at his iPhone at the time of the deadly accident, initially fled the scene where Reyes lay dead and Hernandez was left injured and in serious condition.
As tragic as this story is - it is representative of a much larger problem here in Florida. Florida has long been the deadliest state in the union when it comes to bike crashes. In fact, the death rate for Florida cyclists is three times higher than the national average.
Some year-round residents of Florida may blame aging snowbirds and retirees for a high number of bike-related traffic accidents. After all, people with different driving backgrounds from all over the country converge on Florida roadways during the winter months. While there is no denying the truth that traffic thickens considerably during the snowbird season, some might be surprised to learn that it is not the vacationing elderly, but drivers in the age range of 20 to 24 that are most likely to be involved in car-on-bike crashes.
Beyond poor driving and cycling, many other factors contribute to the prevalence of fatal bicycle crashes in Florida: road design, city planning, and speed limit laws in Florida all create conditions that are ripe for bike crashes. Contrasted with cities like Amsterdam that have been designed with cyclists in mind, bike lanes in Florida are often added as an afterthought. For example, they do not provide adequate space for safe maneuvering away from fast-moving traffic. In addition, Florida speed limits have not been created with cyclist or pedestrian safety in mind; speed limits that are too high put cyclists and pedestrians in danger.
Designing and implementing more inclusive infrastructure as well as common-sense laws could play a key role in keeping both drivers and cyclists safe on shared roads as we all move toward a greener (and healthier) future with more people using bikes and alternative forms of transportation.
Many in the Florida bike community advocate for these measures. For example, a law introducing harsher penalties for drivers that flee the scene of fatal bike crashes, like the kind that killed Walter Reyes and injured Harry Hernandez, went into effect in 2014. This was a victory for bike safety but has also been criticized for doing nothing to prevent bike crashes from happening in the first place. So there's still a lot of work to be done.
In the meantime, cycling will undoubtedly continue to be a fun, exciting, and healthy pastime, especially here in sunny Florida. Please remember to be safe while you're on your bike - and to pay careful attention while you're out driving. If the worst should happen and you or a loved one has been injured in a biking accident, please call Michael L. Morgan Law Group at (941) 218-8220. We work on a contingent-fee basis, so there is no cost to you unless we make a recovery on your behalf. Please contact us for a free consultation and let us assist you in getting the justice and compensation that you deserve.
Bach, T. (2015, May 26). Venetian causeway closing could spell more bicycle deaths. Miami New Times. Retrieved from http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/venetian-causeway-closing-could-spell-more-bicycle-deaths-7634081
Brito, E. (2015, August 30). Florida's bike death rate highest in nation. The Tampa Tribune. Retrieved from http://www.tbo.com/news/politics/floridas-bike-death-rate-highest-in-nation-20150829/
D.K. (2014, October 21). Cycling in Florida: uneasy rider. The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2014/10/cycling-florida
Van der Zee, R. (2015, May 5). How Amsterdam became the bike capital of the world. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/may/05/amsterdam-bicycle-capital-world-transport-cycling-kindermoord
Zeitlin, J. (2015, March 6). Florida bike crashes: 7 things that may shock you. News-Press. Retrieved from http://www.news-press.com/story/news/local/2015/03/06/surprising-facts-florida-bike-crashes/24431091/