Sanibel Island is renowned for its vast network of beautiful bicycle trails, and cyclists generally enjoy a good rapport with vehicle drivers.
But while the island is nationally recognized as bike-friendly, it seems not everyone there shares the same view. A bike-cam video recently shared with local media on the heels of a personal injury lawsuit reveals how dangerous that hostility can be to cyclists.
The video shows it to be a clear, sunny afternoon when a group of bicyclists were traveling along West Gulf Drive. They were traveling at approximately 20-mph on that two-lane road, the GoPro video reveals. The driver whizzes past the cyclists, pulls ahead of them, and then suddenly comes to a dead stop.
Off camera, a serious of clunking noises, and then commotion. The lead cyclist has fallen off his bicycle and is on the ground, bleeding, badly injured and suffering a concussion.
One person can be heard yelling an obscenity, while someone else retorts with another expletive, saying “You f–ing hit him!” At that point, the driver speeds off.
The 53-year-old cyclist – a bicycle shop owner – is still recovering. His shoulder remains sore and his neck is still stiff. But he knows it could have been worse if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet.
Perhaps what was especially galling about the alleged incident: The driver of that car was a medical doctor. He was identified as a 64-year-old resident of Sanibel and a physician.
Police viewed the video and ticketed the doctor with careless driving. The doctor paid that ticket and his case his closed – at least from a criminal standpoint.
Those who witnessed the incident are concerned police didn’t take a harder line against the driver. But police said several issues complicated their pursuit of criminal charges. The first is that the doctor only answered police questions before he’d been read his Miranda rights. He declined to do so after. Authorities didn’t feel they had enough evidence – absent those pre-Miranda statements – to file charges. This was also partially due to the fact neither the victim nor witness could positively identify the doctor as the driver.
Still, the case is being reviewed by the local state attorney’s office, which may consider filing more serious charges.
The victim has filed a personal injury lawsuit against the doctor for negligence in operating a motor vehicle.
Some have criticized the cyclists for not simply staying on the bike path. However, avid cyclists note aside from the fact they legally have the same rights to the road as motor vehicle drivers, it would not be safe for them on the bike paths. Cycling tourists and pedestrians routinely use those paths at a leisurely pace. Cyclists speeding by at 20 mph could be a danger to themselves and others on those paths.
This is not the first time in recent memory South Florida cyclists have faced danger as a result of road rage from drivers. There was a case not long ago of a driver firing gunshots at a bicyclist who shouted at him to slow down. In another case, a motorcyclist intentionally slammed into a cyclist. In yet another case, a driver who hit and maimed a bicyclist allegedly got out and spit in her face before driving off.
Individuals who carry out these kinds of despicable acts must be held to account. Even if charges or a conviction does not result from the criminal investigation, our experienced Sanibel bicycle accident lawyers are here to help you explore your options.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Sanibel cyclists allege road rage in crash video, July 16, 2015, By Janine Zeitlin and Laura Ruane, The News-Press
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