It is simple to understand the popularity of bicycling. Cycling is good
exercise, it's better for the environment, it is economical, and here
in South Florida, it can be done year around. Cycling is not just a mode
of transportation -- for many, it is a recreational activity.
Bicycles are incredibly popular in South Florida, so the latest news about
an increase in bicycle fatalities is alarming. We look at the numbers
and what they mean for cyclists.
What may not be so easy to understand is why cycling accidents are surging.
According to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 818 bicyclists were killed in accidents in 2015. That is a jump
of over 12% from the previous year. In spite of some aggressive safety
measures taking place in the Sunshine State, Florida continues to lead
the country in cycling fatalities, with 150. That is up from 139 the previous
year. California, also a popular state for cycling, experienced 129 cycling
fatalities, the second highest. Other than third-place Texas with 50,
no other state in the country had more than 50 fatalities.
Nationally, cycling fatalities have increased by an average of 55 per year
since 2011. It is estimated that over 45,000 people were injured in bicycle-involved
accidents in 2015. Because not all accidents are reported, that number
could actually be significantly higher.
Understanding the surge in bicycling accidents may start with a better
understanding of who is bicycling today.
A generation ago, bicycling was done mostly by children for recreational
use or as transportation to school. Today, according to a report prepared by the
Governors Highway Safety Association, only 2.2% of school-aged children ride their bikes to school.
That same report states that the average age of a cycling fatality in 2015
was 45 years old. While many cyclists are still young (39% are 16 or under),
cyclists in general are getting older. This is due in part to the large
number of Millennials who have embraced the activity.
More Cyclists are on the Road than Ever
One obvious reason for the surge in bicycle accidents is the number of
people who are participating in the activity. More adults than ever are
cycling. Statistics show that 34% of us have ridden a bicycle in the past
year. The challenge may be that many people who cycle do so infrequently.
About 30% of people who ride a bike do so five or fewer times a year.
A cyclist who rides less frequently can be less skilled and less aware
of their surroundings. Their bike may not be maintained as well, and they
may not have the safety equipment of more experienced riders.
Now the largest generation on the planet, many millennials have abandoned
car ownership and have taken to the street on bikes. Most major cities,
and even some smaller ones, now offer bike-sharing services targeted to
these millennials who also have embraced urban living.
The Role of Alcohol in Cycling Accidents
As in vehicle to vehicle accidents, the use of alcohol plays a significant
role in the increasing number of bicycle accidents. Surveys indicate that
37% of all vehicle-bicycle accidents involve alcohol. What is surprising
is that it is not only drivers who are impaired; statistics show that
22% of bike riders who are involved in a vehicle-bicycle crash were riding
while impaired. Bicyclists in Florida should be aware that riding while
impaired can lead to a citation.
Increased Nighttime Riding
In a challenging economy, many are turning to bicycling as their main mode
of transportation, including travel to and from work. This often involves
riding in the dark. This is particularly dangerous. While nighttime cycling
accounts for only about 20% of all cycling, it involves about half of
all fatal cycling accidents.
More Cars on the Road
While it is easy to understand the correlation between a growing number
of bicycles on the road and the surge in bicycle accidents, one also has
to consider the fact that there are more cars on the road than ever before.
In Florida, in particular, many drivers are of retirement age and older,
when eyesight can begin to deteriorate. This combination of more bikes,
more cars, and older drivers is contributing to the increase in vehicle-bicycle
More Aggressive and Distracted
It doesn't take a long trip on today's roadways to see aggressive
driving is on the rise. Many of these aggressive drivers don't respect
the rights of cyclists on the roadways. Here in Florida, we also get a
mix of driving styles and more aggressive drivers from the Northeast.
An article in the
Orlando Sentinel on the subject of bicycle safety also offers the theory that cycling is
not quite part of our “culture” here in Florida.
Florida has also struggled to pass more aggressive distracted driving laws
and is now second to Louisiana in the number of distracted driving accidents.
What to Do If You've Been Injured in a Vehicle-Bicycle Crash
If you've been involved in an accident with a vehicle while riding
your bike, contact us at Stabinski & Funt, P.A. As one of South Florida's
most respected and oldest law firms, we've been assisting people with
personal injury cases for over 45 years. To learn more about how our firm
may help you, call us at (305) 964-8644 or
fill out our free case evaluation form. We work on a contingency basis, which means that if there is no recovery,
there is no fee or cost to you.