Florida has long had a reputation as one of the worst places for bicycling, in terms of safety. Bicyclists face a higher rate of injury and death than anywhere else in the country.

carandbike-300x181Unfortunately, per the latest Traffic Safety report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, that is still true. But what’s even worse, even more bicyclists are dying in Florida.

Although the League of American Bicyclists’ most recent “Bicycle Friendliness” rating does point out some of the more positive recent developments for cyclists in Florida, it’s not enough to overcome the concerns posed by the latest NHTSA report.

Nationally, the federal agency’s May 2015 report a total of 743 bicycle deaths in 2013. That is 1 percent higher than what was tallied in 2012, but it’s 10 percent higher than the 2011 final figures and 19 percent higher than the 2010 count.

That’s a nearly 20 percent increase in bicycle accident fatalities nationally in four years. This is extremely alarming.

When we look at Florida, the news doesn’t get better. In 2013, officials reported there were 133 bicyclist deaths. The year before, there were 122 – an increase of 9 percent in a single year. While the percentage of bicycle fatalities in 2012 as compared to the total number of traffic accident deaths was 5 percent, that figure jumped to 5.5 percent in 2013.

There were 2,407 people killed in traffic collisions in Florida that year.

The number of bicycle fatalities in Florida was second only to California, which reported 141 in 2013. However, we have to consider that California has double the number of people Florida does – 38 million compared to 19 million. California’s percentage bicycle accident deaths is 4.7 percent, compared to Florida’s 5.5 percent.

Also worthy of note is the fact that in the last several years, the average age of a bicycle accident victim rose from 39 to 44. That is a testament to the fact that riders are getting older. It used to be that children were primarily the victims of bicycle accidents. As riding becomes increasingly popular among commuters, we are seeing a shift in that regard.

Children 14 and under account for 7 percent of all those killed and 11 percent of all those injured in bicycle traffic accidents nationally.

As far as all bike accidents are concerned, nearly 70 percent occurred in urban areas (as opposed to rural) and most happened at non-intersections. More than half happened between the hours of 3 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.

Still, there may be some encouragement for cyclists in Florida, per The League of American Bicyclists’ latest rating. Florida ranked 24th out of 50th for bike friendliness, and it scored 39 out of 100 this year, slightly better than last year’s 35 out of 100.

The league weighs factors like legislation and enforcement, policies and programs, infrastructure and finding, education and encouragement and evaluation and planning. Florida received positive marks for the fact that it has an active bicycle advocacy group, recently adopted a statewide Complete Streets policy, passed a three-feet passing law for motorists passing bicyclists and spends more than 2 percent of its federal transportation budget on initiatives for bicycle and pedestrian safety.

But that doesn’t go far enough, some advocates say. Real change won’t happen unless we widely enforce the measures we have (something in which Florida is lacking). Additionally, the adoption of a state-wide, all-ages cell phone ban could help significantly curb distracted driving crashes, which disproportionately affect bicyclists.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Traffic Safety Facts: Bicyclists and Other Cyclists, May 2015, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

More Blog Entries:

UIM Coverage for Pedestrian Accident, May 1, 2015, Fort Myers Bicycle Accident Attorney Blog