With the summer season in full swing in Jacksonville, a drive to the beach brings additional concerns. The roads are busy, it’s hard to find a parking space and there are pedestrians and cyclists seemingly everywhere. In such conditions, it’s easy to fail notice cyclists and pedestrians until it’s too late. Every summer, we hear of numerous bicycle vs. car accidents at Jacksonville Beach, often resulting in the death of the cyclist.
In 2014, a report highlighted the rising number of accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians in Jacksonville which increased by five percent from the previous year. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, along with the Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida Department of Transportation, launched a campaign called “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow” with the aim of educating drivers, cyclists and pedestrians about existing traffic laws regarding pedestrians and bicyclists.
Jacksonville is considered one of the least bicycle friendly cities in the United States. It has few dedicated cycling lanes and many expressways and interstates. There were about 200 cyclists injured in motor vehicle accidents in Jacksonville in 2010, making the city the third-most dangerous city in the United States for bicyclists and pedestrians. The lack of cycling lanes means bicyclists frequently use sidewalks that are potentially dangerous because they can be uneven and sometimes do not have curb cuts allowing for safe access on and off the sidewalk at intersections.
Many car and bicycle operators know very little about the laws they are supposed to follow. For example, drivers are required to give bicyclists at least three feet of room when passing. Also, as a bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle in Florida, cyclists must follow the same rules as vehicle drivers, including:
1 – Stop at Stop Signs and Red Lights – Intersections are a common location for accidents involving bicyclists and cars. Cyclists should never fail to stop or sneak through on a red light. Car drivers should look out for cyclists when making turns, especially when turning right on a red light.
2 – Ride with the Flow of Traffic – Many cyclists think it makes sense to ride into oncoming traffic. Not only is this practice dangerous and off-putting to motorists but it’s illegal.
3 – Use Lights – It can be difficult enough to see cyclists in the daylight, particularly during afternoon storms in Florida. It can be almost impossible to see a bicyclist at night if he or she is not using lights. It’s also against the law. In addition to using lights, you should wear reflective clothing and be as visible as possible. A legislative change in 2012, now allows cyclists to have lights that flash.
4 – Wear a Helmet – Accident statistics support that helmets provide protection against brain injury. Research reflects that injury rates were about 20 percent lower in states with helmet laws.
5 – Don’t Be Distracted – Don’t use a cell phone or listen to music while you are riding. It could distract you from what’s going on around you.
6 – Check Your Bicycle – Regular checks of your bicycle could help prevent unexpected accidents. In particular, check tires and brakes because failure of either could cause an accident.
Written by David Macauley
If you have been injured by the operator of a car while you were driving a bicycle, please contact our Jacksonville personal injury lawyers for a free consultation. Our attorneys have years of experience in handling bicycle injury cases.