Last week, an elderly woman driver struck Jordan Tyler, a 22-year-old cyclist, as Tyler was crossing Farrington Lane on Florida Park Drive. Tyler was sent careening over the hood of the car. The woman stopped, asked him if he was OK, then drove on.
Last August, Tom Gargiulo, the artist and head of Palm Coast’s Tom Gargiulo Foundation, the most generous local philanthropic arts organization, was severely injured when a car struck his bike as he rode on Pine Lakes Parkway and crossed Wynnfield Drive. Gargiulo, who’s largely recovered since, did not have reflective clothing or the required lights on his bike.
Two years ago on State Road 100, 51-year-old Frederick J. Martinez was riding his bike in the bike lane, heading toward Flagler Beach, when van driver Robert Carlton Little says he sneezed, sending his vehicle into the bike lane, striking Martinez and killing him. Later that same year, 63-year-old Deborah Dunn was killed as she roide her bike up U.S. 1, respecting all rules of the road, only to be struck from behind by Leila Gould, a 30-year-old at the wheel of an SUV.
Cyclists have long complained that drivers show them little respect, while drivers—and police—often say that cyclists at times are their own worst enemies, because they don’t respect rules of the road as they are supposed to. Especially in Florida, the most dangerous state for pedestrians in the country, and among the most dangerous for cyclists. “In 2012 some 120 cyclists were killed in traffic accidents across Florida,” The Economist reported last fall. That is as many as were killed in Britain in the same year–a country with three times as many people as Florida and a lot more cyclists. Florida’s death rate for cyclists is three times higher than the national rate. The rate for pedestrians is twice the national rate: 476 pedestrians were also killed in 2012. According to the Dangerous By Design survey, an annual report produced by the National Complete Streets Coalition, a lobby group, the state’s four biggest cities–Miami, Jacksonville, Tampa-St Petersburg and Orlando–are the four most dangerous places to be a pedestrian in America.”
Last week, a South Florida senator filed a bill that would strengthen protections for cyclists, pedestrians and other so-called “vulnerable persons” on roadways while making it a first-degree misdemeanor to “harass, taunt, or maliciously throw an object at or in the direction of a person riding a bicycle.”
The proposed law strengthens the requirement that vehicles maintain a 3-foot distance between themselves and any cyclist or “vulnerable person”, applying that requirement to “anything extending from the motor vehicle, and any trailer or other item being towed by the motor vehicle.” The proposal also shifts the burden of safety further onto drivers at intersection (the scene of most vehicle-versus-bicycle wrecks) by forbidding drivers to make right turns “unless the turn can be made at a safe distance from the vulnerable user with reasonable safety and will not impede the travel of the vulnerable user.”
That provision appears to possibly clash with existing law, which requires cyclists to respect traffic laws and, for example, stop at all intersections, giving vehicles the right of way.
The proposal was filed by Sen. Thad Altman, a Mebourne Republican. It drew mixed reactions from a Flagler County commissioner used to riding about 15 miles a day on local roads and paths, and from a Florida Highway Patrol homicide investigator who’s investigated countless crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians.
“They already do have a 3-foot rule for bicyclists in bike lanes on the road, and I don’t see that working too well,” County Commissioner Charlie Ericksen said Monday. “The tough part is the enforcement of it. The tough thing is like that poor guy on route 100 going to Flagler Beach, he didn’t know what was coming and the guy who hit him says he sneezed and hit him and ran over him.” Ericksen said as he sees it, the responsibility for crashes between vehicles and bicyclists is about evenly divided. Cyclists, for example, don’t have the right lights, and “just assume that just because the law is what it is, everybody is going to give the right of way to the bicycle, and that’s just not happening.” He said he’s routinely seen cyclists blow through intersections without regard for signs, assuming (wrongly) that they have the right of way.
But insurers at times contribute to the problem, FHP homicide investigator Pete Young, who’s based in Flagler County but covers several counties in Northeast Florida, said.
“I had a case where a pedestrian was at fault, he ran across the road in front of an elderly couple, this is down in Edgewater,” Young said, with an older person at the wheel of a vehicle. “He ended up with a broken leg. They sued the older couple. They weren’t speeding or anything, they were abiding by the law, and he was crossing at a no-cross place. And he ended up with $30,000, $40,000 for a broken leg.” Not only that: the plaintiff was in jail when he sued, having been incarcerated for thefts. “Here he is in jail, suing these people and he got 30, $40,000 for a broken leg from the insurance company.”
Young says any additional awareness to add protections for cyclists and pedestrians is welcome, but it shouldn’t stop there. He says cyclists should always wear helmets and reflective gear. Right now, they don’t have to: under Florida law, helmets (but not reflective gear) are required only for children. And, Young says, certain roads should be off-limits to cyclists. “A perfect example is the loop in Ormond Beach, on Old Dixie,” Young says, referring to a very popular biking road, because of its rusticity. “Those lanes are not really built for bicycles, the lanes are only 10 feet wide, if that and there’s no bike lane, there’s no shoulder. Places like that, I don’t think bikes belong, with the flow of traffic.”
As for the 3-foot rule, “it’s kind of hard to enforce,” Young said. “I wish we could get them to move over for emergency vehicles, let alone 3 feet for bicycles.”
“If there’s a state trooper or even a local cop going down the road the last thing they look at is the safety of the bicyclists because of other tasks they’ve got to get done,” Ericksen, the county commissioner, said. “But all you got to do is have that little accident and you have a lot of notice to it.”
Ericksen, 72, last fall completed a nearly 25,000-mile bike trek began in 2008, almost all on local roads. He’s seen his share of drivers disrespecting bikers. “They treat them the same as motorcyclists, they don’t give them sufficient room, they don’t like them having to share the road with them and some make it as difficult as possible to ride your bike,” Ericksen says. “Until people realize that cars and bikes share the road, they’re not going to understand. All you’ve got to do is hit and kill somebody and then you’ll understand it. But it’s probably true, especially in Palm Coast and Flagler County, there are so many bicyclists, you’d think that mentality would start to grow on people. But it doesn’t seem to. The more people use the bike paths as opposed to the road the safer it’s going to be for everybody, but there are bicyclists who say if the bike lane is there, the bike lane is mine.”
He adds: “My rule is that you never argue with a 3,000-pound object. If anybody is going to give the right of way, it’s going to be me, and I can usually tell which cars are going to give you the right of way and which ones aren’t. I don’t mind waiting an extra 10, 15 seconds.”
I am not a cyclist or motorcyclist or an often pedestrian…but in this county specially, I see my fellow car drivers many of them throwing their vehicles and at times intentionally to any of the individuals in the three groups above, that dare to ride so close to “their space”.
What I have witnessed often is murderous!! Drivers are in control of several ton wheeled vehicle and with total disregard for human life they automatically believe that for the sake of use of their space on the road they have the right to kill! No excuses mentioned above justifies all the lives lost in this county in the past 15 or so years. What is going on with you people at the steering wheel killing, children, adults and elderlies on their cycles or walking and even don’t even stop but instead hit and run? A human life is of no value for you all? I thought we were supposed to be different that the extremist overseas! We do not own the roads individually, we have the privilege to share it with all, including wildlife and domestic animals escaped from their owners. Three feet rule for cyclist..is laughable and not enough, I keep my distance no less than 30 from any of them and I SLOW DOWN TOO! In exchange often I received wide surprising smiles and cordial appreciative waving that makes it worth. Yes I slow down and leave plenty of room for those defenseless, cyclist, bikers, pedestrians, wildlife and wandering domestic pets!
Whatever more strict rules the South Florida Republican wants to lobby for, I totally applaud! Also please change the rule that cyclist should ride against the traffic, like in other states, so at least they can avoid by seeing it, a vehicle heading to hit them,, other that being kill by something they never saw coming from behind as many cases lately.
Some kid cycling careless does not justify drivers and cops to dump the blame on them….they are just being kids and do not deserve death for that, but instead cops and community should train them to be responsible cyclist. We spent billions training foreigners to use and give them our weapons but have no $$ to train and give our kids reflectors, vest and helmets to be safe in their bicycles? Once courses taken in school as one more and very important safety class, kids found in violation are to be addressed by law enforcement and this suggestion, should be lobbied for and considered, as a life saver.
Common Sense says
Bikes and motor vehicles don’t mix. Ride bikes around a track or trail somewhere where there is no risk of getting run over. Cyclist’s know the risk when they put themselves out in the road ways, so why do it?!! There is a place for everything, the road ways are no place for cyclists! It is also crazy that cyclists must ride with the traffic. They can’t even see when something is coming at them to allow them to get out of the way. At least if a cyclist were driving against traffic they could possibly get out of the way considering not all motorist see cyclists due to sneezing, sunshine etc.
The roads are made for both bicycles and cars. Drivers wouldn’t think of pulling a daring move with another car so why do it with someone who is vulnerable. And if you believe a sneeze caused that accident on 100 then you must believe in the tooth fairy!
ted bundy says
“single file, indian style, facing traffic all the while”..words you can live by and the law should be changed to it NOW
Ted, you need to ride with traffic and walk against it… I ride 20 miles a day in the city and that is the safest way .. You need to be alert at all times for cars
Usually , the cars go around bicycles with seven to ten feet of clearance. Sure, sometimes the sun gets in the drivers’ eyes and he can’t see. But generally there is enough width to the road for the driver to go around safely. Honestly, myself, I don’t ride into the sunset, when the sun is in the drivers eyes. I don’t ride in fog either. Someday soon, everyone will have a GPS locator which will beep, even steer the car or apply the brakes automatically , to prevent these kinds of accidents.
Riding against traffic was the rule in some states, until 1962 or so, when a ruling was passed to make bicyclists ride WITH traffic in all 50 states. Unfortunately, no one invented a rear-view mirror until 1994 !
But, in 1992, cyclists started carrying small camcorders on their shoulders, with the LED screen flipped, so they could see the traffic coming. Not only could the cyclist see the car as it was about to hit him, but it left a videotape as evidence. A court judge saw the tape, and knew the driver was lying, and threw out the case.
Then , in 1994 someone invented a mirror, which extends from the end of the handlebar, so the cyclist could see around himself, to see what is *behind* him. There is still No law requiring a rear-view mirror on bicycles… I suggest that you amend your campaign to require rear-view mirrors, because going against traffic is a whole ‘other issue… you got other drivers who *complain* when they see a cyclist going against traffic.
Let me finish my comment by saying, there are state roads with 50 mile per hour speed limits, then there are county roads with 30MPH speed limits, then there are local, town and village roads where the speed limit might be 15 or 25. Some roads are straight , some have lots of curves. Some roads are wide enough to make it easy to get past another person or vehicle, some roads are narrow… But the cyclist has the right to use any of these roads. He or she may be riding as a tourist, carrying camping gear, or maybe the cyclist is training for a race. Or maybe the cyclist is just trying to get from one place to another. Some cyclists are holding rides-of-protest, like a march for a cause, and their cause may be against drunk driving, or the lack of decent Bike Lanes. Often, a bicycle ride is on mostly safe roads, but there may be one road connecting the other roads that is dangerous. They should do something about that other road. Usually, it’s the road that is safe, but there is an issue with a dangerous driver.
Obama 2015 says
Ride on the side walk.
Rick Gardner says
Simply put bike/pedestrian paths should be built on all major thoroughfares. Not on the edge of the pavement but separate and away from the flow of traffic. Sure it will cost more money but the roads will be safer. Plus wear a helmet cyclists its protection you may need even without cars running into you. And like Comm. Erickson says don’t assume a vehicle sees you always try to make eye contact with the driver before crossing in front of them especially at points where cars may be entering and exiting shopping centers and other commercial centers.
If a driver can’t avoid a bicyclist they don’t belong on the road!
Well stated Mr. Gardner.
Tax Payer says
Rick–who pays for these paths you think should be built? Maybe a license should be required for those that ride a bicycle and they pay for it instead of taxing everyone that doesn’t. If law makers can make it mandatory that helmets be worn, they should be able to figure this out. Solution will be without a doubt, another fee/tax. Solution-designated areas for bicycle riders that can be multi purpose—share the areas.
If motorized vehicles have a minimum equipment requirement to travel on the road what is so difficult to require that all bicycles should have reflective tape and lights. We could start that here in this county and let the rest of Florida follow that require very bicycle sold by Walmart or Target and the smaller bike shops to have this equipment. Adding an extra $10 to the cost of a bike is less expensive than the cost of EMS, police, and funeral homes.
David B. says
The law states that a bike on the road is considered a motor vehicle, and must abide to all traffic laws as any other vehicle. So please SHARE THE ROAD. How simple is that ?
Those stop signs on the Bicycle Paths are there for a reason. If you’re riding a bicycle or walking/jogging and ignore them then get hit by a car/motorcycle/bicycle, you are the one at fault because you IGNORED a Stop Sign. Bicyclists AND pedestrians can be held to a judgement of primary fault of an accident.
Pedal to the Metal says
This county will continue to be #1 in bicyclist accidents. Population increases..More cars and trucks…more people who think their little aluminum bicycles can intimidate a 3000 lb vehicle…They will LOSE !!! Intelligent humans wouldn’t ride a bicycle on the roads. They respect their human life and don’t have a Death Wish !!!!
In London bicycles have unequivocal right of way. At traffic lights there is a large area in front of where the automobiles have to stop that is reserved for bicycles and when the light turns green, cyclists get to go ahead of the autos.
Surprisingly, I feel safer riding a bike on the streets in the very busy city of London than I do in Palm Coast.
Every Sunday there is a LARGE group of bicyclists that ride the Ormond Loop and down Old Dixie and around Seminole Woods. Most stay to the right like they are required by law, however there are some that do not obey and bunch up, like a pack, making motorist have to wait behind them to pass. They think they own the road. Truth be told, they are being passive-aggressive however the odds are not in their favor when they are up against a vehicle.
As for motorcyclists, I laugh (internally) at the “Look Twice….” motorcycle safety propaganda stickers. There are many law abiding motorcyclists, this is not to whom I am referring. I see a high amount that drive like total idiots. They take off from red lights as fast as their Harley or sports bike will go, they weave in and out of traffic. Lots of dumb things. These are the ones that crash and get hurt, yet its the perception that the motorist did something wrong.
@ common sense, really ride a bike on a track, how about if someone is such a poor driver they stay parked in their driveway. Bikes are the same as motorcycles and share the road with cars, the simple fact is people are doing everything but driving. Cell phones should not function after the GPS signal reachs 10 MPH in the phone, no need to be yapping and driving, or texting, they just do not mix. I think that cell phones should automatically be rendered inopretive after 10 MPH except to dail 911, What most of us do is just shoot the breeze anyway, no real emergency, I am guilty of doing it because I am bored driving to Jax.
Retired FF says
I agree that many drivers do not give the courtesy right of way to bicyclists, BUT, the cyclists do not share the road with the vehicles either. There have been countless times while driving I come across a group of cyclists that will intentionally take up an entire lane of traffic on a road like Old Kings and will not spread out to allow a vehicle to pass safely. These are the same people that are the ones making all the noise about what car drivers are doing. There have been countless times that cyclists will just ride into an intersection and dart through traffic almost daring a car to hit them. Those people should be fined for not obeying the law.
Since I moved here from up North I am dismayed how little regard is given to pedestrians and bicyclist. On my daily walks, I’ve been run off the road. I have seen joggers/runners almost run over while the driver of the vehicle are looking at their cell phone, distracted or not giving a damn. Flagler drivers will not yield to allow individuals to cross, even in shopping parking lots. I was hit by a car, riding my bike on a bike path/sidewalk. I stopped at the intersection and complied with the rules of the road. The driver of the car still hit me. Too busy paying attention to their cell phone and didn’t look both ways. Florida laws are too lenient, and harsher punishments need to be imposed on drivers who fail to yield to pedestrian and bicyclists. In addition, Palm Coast, needs to lower their speed limit in residential areas to 25 mph. We now have kids playing in their neighborhood, riding bikes and homeowners going out for a walk, 30 mph is just too high considering the increase in population.
Totally agree with Anonymous!
Stupidity is still the number one cause of all accidents… and there is no law governing or limiting it.
We talk about pedestrians and bicyclists, but look at the poor girl who died because she was rear ended and sent into an oncoming school bus a few weeks ago. The driver who rear ended her was a 19 year old male who was probably not paying attention to the road and now manslaughter charges will probably be brought up.
We can’t fix a problem that isn’t be solved at the education level (lack there of in FL) as drivers education is only an elective in this state! It’s baffling… We also need more draconian laws on the rules of the road because I see people of all ages driving aggressively and maliciously. In the meantime, I would recommend all pedestrians and bicyclists to avoid the road
Give me a break. Every day when I turn into my subdivision there is one bicyclist or another that ignores the traffic laws and brazenly continues across the crosswalk, oftentimes in my blind spot. Just because a car isn’t there at one moment doesn’t give you the right to ignore the “do not cross” signal. Instead of creating laws for people that cannot follow the existing rules, maybe they should have a license to bike. Yes, I hear the choruses now screaming that people that are licensed to drive don’t do so correctly, blah, blah. And there are people that are injured that are following the rules, blah, blah. Those that break the law and are caught receive fines, points, suspensions, etc. Why shouldn’t bicyclists be punished if they break the rules? I also believe people should have to take a physical driver’s test as a condition of renewing their license when it expires, regardless of age. All I know is I am so tired of seeing people ignore the rules and flip me off for following mine.
Sherry Epley says
It seems we have a “perfect storm” in Florida where supposed “freedoms” (AKA lax regulations/laws) and a tremendous lack of enforcement creates public safety hazards for both riders and drivers:
1. Hand held phone/computer usage while driving should be illegal and ticketed at all times.
2. Tickets given to anyone not using turn signals.
3. Bicyclists should be ticketed for not obeying the same laws at motorists.
4. Helmets should be legally required for those operating any kind of motorcycle, scooter, bicycle, or skating equipment on public roads.
5. Reflective clothing should be legally required, while operating the same, beginning 1 hour before sunset through 1 hour after sunrise.
6. All bikes sold in Florida should be required to have lights and reflectors.
7. Bicyclists should be legally required to always ride in single file.
As my mom used to say. . . “yes, your right of way won’t do you much good when you are in pain in the hospital”. Be careful, considerate and safe out there folks!
+1 to Retired FF
Several times I’ve come to see bicycles spreading across a road who do not do single file forcing the motorist to either slow down to nothing or cross a double yellow on a 2-lane 2 way road to avoid them
Also I will stop at crossings but the cyclist is looking around not at traffic and isnt aware I’ve stopped traffic for them
& please be aware of motorists
I try my best to be aware of you
A cyclist has the same rights to the road as a car does. Hence, the cyclist must abide by those same rules.
if I feel like riding down the middle of the lane in my bicycle I am allowed to by law.
If you hit me, make sure you kill me as I will sue you.
Yes, cyclists are allowed to legally ride in the road. But I will never understand the logic of riding a bicycle in heavy traffic when there is an empty bike path alongside the same road. You see it time and again. It’s like they’re risking their health to prove a point.
Have you not seen the size of the side walks in Flagler???
Bikers would be better off utilizing them.
Doesn’t matter if I am on my two feet or the two wheels of my bicycle. Even when there is a walk sign for me to cross at the crosswalk, I cannot. Right on red trumps everything. Drivers don’t even look. Even when they see me they refuse to let me cross. For the drivers who let me cross I am so appreciative and make sure I smile, wave and say thank you. That courtesy is far and few between. So please folks, look right and let us cross. In this busy town, most of us are keenly aware of the rules because ignoring them is so very dangerous for those of us not on four wheels. And to be clear, I never try to share the road with motor vehicles. Sidewalks only.
Bill Edgbert says
I cannot understand why bikes and cars cannot coexist. I ride thousands of miles on the roads of Flagler county and I find for the most part drivers are very considerate of cyclist. BTW I live close to the Ormond loop and ride my bike there most of the time without problems. As a cyclist you should be respectful of motorist and be aware that your behavior has a lot to do with how motorist react. Same goes for the motorist.