Tampa has a reputation for not being a safe place for bicyclists. Whether that is accurate is up to discussion. But with National Bicycle Safety Month in May, bicyclists and drivers are encouraged to focus on safety by sharing roadways, obeying traffic laws and respecting each other’s road rights.
If not, more bicycle-related crashes and deaths will continue to occur. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, close to 6,400 bicycle crashes and 182 bicycle-related fatalities occurred in the state in 2021. The fatalities marked a 15% increase from the 158 bicyclist deaths recorded in 2020.
Speeding and sudden road maneuvers
Most of the blame for such crashes lies squarely with motor vehicle drivers and their behavior. Here are some of their actions that often lead to collisions with bicycles:
- Speeding: Such behavior contributed to 26% of all traffic fatalities in the country in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
- Changing lanes without looking: Drivers fail to look for bicyclists or neglect to check blind spots, leading to a preventable crash. All it takes is an inattentive driver for this to happen.
- Making sudden and illegal road maneuvers: The list may include an abrupt stop or U-turn. There are two other such common threats. The “right hook” happens when a car passes on the left and turns right in front of the bicyclist, causing a collision. The “left cross” happens when both approach an intersection from opposite directions and the driver abruptly turns left either failing to see the bicyclist or misjudging its speed.
- Subscribing to distracted driving: Whether talking on the phone, texting, operating a navigation system, eating or talking to passengers, these behaviors may lead to a collision with a bicycle.
- Failing to share the road: Drivers, sometimes, fail to provide enough room on the road for bicyclists and pass dangerously close to them. Florida has a law requiring drivers allow a safe distance with bicyclists of at least 3 feet when passing them.
- Subscribing to impaired driving: The use of alcohol and illegal drugs by drivers affects their judgment, slows their reflexes and impairs their vision.
Continuing to education drivers about bicycle safety is essential. But too many of them continue to subscribe to dangerous behavior such as speeding and distracted driving.
Be aware and safe
Florida is a place where bicyclists ride all year round. For some, National Bicycle Safety Month is a year-round campaign, not just in May. By being aware of road hazards, focusing on safety and making yourself visible, bicyclists can have safe ventures.