Florida may be best known as paradise for beach-goers and water sports enthusiasts, but it is also a wonderful place for active cyclists. Covering more than 65,000 square miles, much of it at or near sea-level, the peninsula is known for its scenic coastal flatlands, making bicycle-riding an easy and enjoyable activity for many. Cyclists who wish for more challenging terrain head inland, where gently rolling hills offer more strenuous outings. Free trails for bicycle and pedestrian use have been built and maintained throughout much of the state, offering a safe alternative to street cycling.
Where bike trails are not available, however, bicyclists and motorists often share the same roadways, leading to dangerous consequences. Motorists are protected by seatbelts and surrounded by steel; cyclists are much more at risk of injury, with a helmet possibly being their only real protection. (In Florida, helmets are required for bicyclists under the age of 16, but strongly recommended for everyone.) According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2010, deaths of cyclists accounted for 2% of all fatalities and 2% of all the people injured in motor vehicle crashes. Typical bicyclist injuries included cuts, scrapes, sprains, broken bones, abdominal injuries, and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Bicyclists often mistakenly believe that they will be considered at fault in the case of a collision with a motor vehicle. For instance, a bicyclist is hit by a driver who has run through a red light and believes that he is not entitled to compensation, perhaps because he was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. As a result many bicyclists who are injured in crashes with vehicles are not properly compensated by insurance companies. In reality, although a helmet is required by Florida law, “Failure of a person to wear a bicycle helmet may not be considered evidence of negligence or contributory negligence.”
The fact of the matter is that in Florida, and in most states, a bicyclist is considered a vehicle, with the same rights and responsibilities as the driver of a motorized vehicle. And vice versa: motorists are required to treat bicyclists with the same courtesies that they would extend to other vehicles. This means that both bicycles and vehicles are required to stop at red lights and stop signs, and the one that doesn’t is in violation of the law. If the red light-runner is distracted by a cell phone, iPod, hot coffee, or DUI, witnesses and accident investigators can usually determine who is at fault.
You can help avoid accidents at intersections by knowing the rules of the road, both the laws specifically written for Florida motor vehicles and for bicyclists. Always wear bright or reflective clothing, and remember that although you have the same rights as a car driver, your bike is considerably smaller than a car and may be more difficult to see. As you ride, be aware of the traffic moving around you, and make sure that drivers can see you!
If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a driver’s negligence, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group at (727)451-6900. Our investigative team will review your version of the events that led to the accident and resulting injuries. Do not try to navigate the issue alone contact an experience Florida Personal Injury Attorney so you can be aware of your rights. We know how to negotiate with insurance companies on behalf of injured bicyclists and will help you recover just compensation from the driver responsible for your injuries.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765