Dedicating an entire month to cycling is a great way to remind cyclists why they ride in the first place and to influence others to join along. Cycling can help save money on transportation, reduce the amount of air pollution, improve health, and even prevent disease. By naming March as Florida Bicycle Month, even more residents and tourists may enjoy these benefits without worrying about riding in dangerous temperatures.
Why Florida Bicycle Month Is Great
25 million Florida residents and tourists bike annually, which proves that Floridian’s believe the benefits of cyclist outweigh the many dangers.
In addition, Governor Rick Scott stated that the Florida Department of Transportation encourages residents to use bicycles as a mode of transportation, and the FDOT wants to implement programs that encourage bike safety and prevent accidents. With more of Florida’s population cycling during this time, the FDOT can continue creating and sustaining bike trails as part of the state’s Greenways and Trails Systems Plan.
However, There Need to Be Improvements…
Cyclist fatalties 2012-2016
Although growing the bike rider population is one of the effects of Florida Bike Month, promoting safety must remain the top priority. Governor Scott says, “The FDOT has various programs focused on preventing traffic crashes and improving the safety of, accessibility, and mobility of Florida residents and visitors.” Yet, there is more than enough data to make riders question how serious the FDOT is about cyclist safety. Specifically, Florida is one of the most dangerous states for cyclists.
According to Florida’s Integrated Report Exchange System, in 2017, there were over 6,000 bicycle crashes and 111 fatalities. This year there have already been over 1,000 bicycle crashes and 12 cyclist fatalities.
From 2008-2012 Florida led the US with an average of 21.7 deaths per 10,000 cyclists. The next closest state was New York with only 9.4 deaths per 10,000 cyclists.
How Florida Can Reduce Bike Crashes and Fatalities
Infrastructure and changing laws can drastically reduce and prevent bicycle crashes and fatalities.
In countries like China and Sweden, the departments of transportation take the demand for cyclist safety and the need for cyclist-friendly areas seriously. A “cycle superhighway” may sound like a reach, but building a completely separate bike infrastructure with roads above and below highways sounds like an extremely safe (though expensive) bet.
The United States also has several cities that are constantly improving their bicycle infrastructure. Davis, California was the first city to introduce protected intersections for cyclists. Protected intersections have four important elements: the corner refuge island (physically separates cyclists from cars as they make turns), forward stop bar for cyclists (allows them enhanced visibility so cars can see them and provides significant distance ahead of cars), setback bike and pedestrian crossing (allows space and time for cyclists and motor vehicles to react to potential conflicts), and bicycle-friendly signal phasing (preventing cars from moving while cyclists proceed on their routes).
In Brooklyn, New York, a two-way raised bicycle path on Sands Street provides cyclists a safe and easy passage onto the Manhattan Bridge. A raised, 4-inch curb separates the two-way bike lanes, and concrete barriers separate the cyclists from motor vehicles.
These measures that keep cyclists safe are not excessive by any means. Implementing more bike boxes and education of road sharing is a good start. Other countries have also created speed bumps for cars where bicycles must cross intersections in order to reduce speed and the chance of an accident. Besides, bicycle helmets can only go so far.
The lack of some infrastructure for bicycle riders is not to say that the entirety of Florida has not listened to the needs of cyclists. In fact, last year, Miami introduced more protected bike lanes (with barriers between the cyclists and motor vehicle drivers) in an attempt to keep cyclists safe.
As part of the 2017 FDOT Highway Safety plan, law enforcement was assigned to enforce traffic safety laws and educate the public about these laws in order to reduce traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities. The FDOT also initiated the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Program, where officials passed out materials about bicycle safety to at-risk communities.
The 2017 Plans Preparation Manual for Road Design also brought up new bicycle infrastructure ideas. These ideas include appropriately designing and locating bicycle facilities (such as buffered bike lanes, wide curb lanes, and reduced speed limits for shared lanes) that would foster a safe environment for cyclists. Smooth roads free of obstructions and responsive traffic control devices were also part of this plan. If you take a look at the road designs actually approved, the aforementioned ideas were unfortunately not approved.
New Laws That Should Be Implemented
The most dangerous cities for cyclists in Florida are the ones that have “high-speed urban roads,” which pose a threat to cyclists and pedestrians. Reducing the speed limit for motor vehicles will foster a safer environment for cyclists.
Reducing speeds and requiring protected bike lanes in place of sharrows can reduce the number of bike crashes and fatalities.
Along with speed, motor vehicles that pass cyclists can also be dangerous. The 3-foot passing law mandates that motor vehicles must be at least 3 feet away from cyclists when passing them. This law is meant to provide adequate space to avoid sideswiping cyclists. However, widening the bike lanes could potentially prevent drivers from getting too close to cyclists, hitting them with their side mirrors, and dooring the cyclists.
Sharrows (traffic lanes with a bike icon and chevron-type arrows to indicate bicycles and motor vehicles may share the lane) are not proven to reduce the number of bicycle crashes, which is why protected bike lanes would prove useful. According to the FDOT, “the markings help convey to motorists and cyclists that they must share the roads on which they are operating.”
Why We Created This Timeline
We wanted to put something together for Florida Bike Month that will help us remember the cyclists that have lost their lives throughout Florida. Losing someone is never easy, especially when it is at the hands of a reckless driver.
If you would like to add an image or note to a cyclist’s slide, please fill out the contact form below. You may also submit fallen cyclists who we may have left off the timeline.