Why Bike Lanes Should Have Physical Protection from Car Traffic

On Behalf of | Sep 19, 2019 | Bike Accidents

In Florida, we are fortunate to have the kind
of weather that allows us to get outside almost every day of the year. Yet many
of us avoid doing one outdoor activity in particular, and for good reason:
riding a bike in many Florida cities — particularly in Miami — is simply not

Although the state of Florida and many cities
have installed bike lanes on roads throughout the state, these lanes are little
more than painted lines on the side of the road. As demonstrated by the number
of people hurt or killed each year in Florida bike accidents, these lanes do
little to protect bicyclists. Too many people are suffering broken bones,
lacerations, brain injuries, and more after being hit by cars, trucks and SUVs.

A recent study offers data to back up what
activists have long claimed is the best way to protect bicyclists: a physical
barrier between bike lanes and car traffic. If these types of lanes are
installed in Miami, we could see a dramatic increase in the safety of bicycling
— and more people out riding their bikes as a result.

The Dangers of Bike Accidents in Florida

In Florida, there are extensive laws and other
systems designed to protect bicyclists from danger. This includes road designs
such as shared lane markings (“sharrows”) and bike lanes where bicyclists can
ride. Yet despite these efforts, accidents and fatalities continue to rise
across Florida — including here in Miami.

According to the Florida Department of Highway
Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), in 2018 alone,
there were 6,568 bicycle crashes in Florida. 148 bicyclists died as a result of
those accidents. In Miami-Dade County, there were 817 bicycle crashes in 2018,
which included 18 fatalities.

The Miami Herald reports that Miami is
consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous places in
the United States for bicyclists. The city averages 7.9 bike fatalities for
every 10,000 commuters each year. Miami is known for driver hostility towards
bicyclists and lack of safety.

When bicyclists collide with motor vehicles,
the cyclist takes the brunt of the injury. Whether the crash is due to distracted driving,
speeding, or simple inattention, when a large object hits a relatively
unprotected person, the results can be disastrous. Victims of bike accidents
often suffer severe or even fatal injuries.

Although South Florida’s climate makes it an
ideal place to bike nearly year-round, without a safe way to do so, residents
and tourists alike will not engage in this activity. One solution to this issue
may be to upgrade our bike lanes to better protect cyclists from drivers.

How Physical Protection Can Help

A recent study from Monash
University in Australia shows how a simple line of paint is generally not enough
to protect bicyclists from drivers.  The
study’s authors collected data from 60 cyclists in Melbourne who rode their
bikes with a device that quantified the distance that drivers provided them
while passing. Over the course of the study, these devices recorded more than
18,500 vehicles passed bicycles in 422 trips.

The results may surprise you — unless you are a
regular cyclist. Out of every 17 vehicles that passed a bicyclist, one came
within 1 meter (3 feet, 3.37 inches) of the bike. 124 vehicles came within 60
centimeters (23.622 inches — less than 2 feet)! In higher speed zones (the
equivalent of 40 mph or greater), almost 1 in 3 vehicles came within 150
centimeters (59 inches).

This study demonstrated what many bicyclists
already know: lines of paint delineating a bike lane do little, if anything, to
protect cyclists from motor vehicles. According to the study’s lead author, Dr.
Ben Beck, “We know that vehicles driving closely to cyclists increases how
unsafe people feel when riding bikes and acts as a strong barrier to increasing
cycling participation.”

The solution to make bikers safer and reduce
the number of accidents and fatalities is relatively simple: put physical
barriers between bicycle lanes and lanes of traffic. This will decrease the
likelihood that cars will strike bicyclists as they are forced to overtake
them. It will also end the practice of bicyclists and drivers having to share a

How a Miami Bike Accident Lawyer Can Help

Each year, far too many Floridians are injured
and die in bike accidents. We can stop this epidemic by taking common sense
action, like putting up physical barriers to protect cyclists in bike lanes.

Kaire & Heffernan is a Miami-based law firm
that represents victims of bike accidents and other types of personal injury
lawsuits. With deep Florida roots, we strongly believe in the right of all
victims to get justice and compensation for their injuries. To learn more,
contact our office at 305-376-7860 or online to schedule a free initial consultation with a Miami bike accident lawyer.

Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 30 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for many years.