Cycling is growing in South Florida at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, so are bicycle accidents. As a Miami personal injury lawyer, and avid cyclist I can tell you that most motorist do not respect cyclists rights, and are not aware of the laws regarding a safe passing distance.
Yesterday a group of about 20 cyclists were riding on U.S. 27 in a single line at about 9:00 a.m. These are experienced cyclists, most of which who have been riding for years, and were riding in single file on the right shoulder. Yet, for reasons still unknown, a motorist lost control of a car and crashed into 4 cyclists. This is a scene which repeats itself every weekend in South Florida. A driver, possibly distracted on a cell phone, tries to pass a group of riders within 3 feet. Florida law does not allow PASSING WITHIN 3 FEET.
Specifically, Florida Statute 316.083 states:
Overtaking and Passing a Vehicle
The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions, and special rules hereinafter stated:
(1) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction …. shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance, and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle. The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle.
The problem with the rule is that drivers are not aware of it. It is rarely enforced, and not well publicized. In fact, most drivers think that cyclists do not belong on the road. Avoiding an accident is easier than causing one, All you need to do is pay attention, use common sense, stay off your cell phone, and stay at least 3 feet away from cyclists. 36 inches can be the difference between life and death.