Bicyclists are in a vulnerable position

Dave Lawrence

After reading about the recent and deadly bicycle/tractor crash on Morse Boulevard and the woman driver under the influence that struck a cyclist near Fenney, a few thoughts came to mind.

As bicyclists we are in a vulnerable position when using the roadways.  We are not surrounded by metal cages and bumpers and are at a HUGE disadvantage in a crash with a motor vehicle, regardless of fault.

The Florida Highway Patrol was called in to investigation the crash involving a bicycle and a tractor.

How do we decrease the chances of a crash with a motor vehicle?

Here are some thoughts:

Be seen.  Wear clothing colors that are obvious in the environment like brightly colored helmet, jersey, shoes and socks. Use hand signals and make eye contact with motorists when possible.  Use back and front blinking lights, day and night and especially when riding solo.  Many cyclists are using light/camera combinations that record high definition video for up to 8 hours.

Road position.  Florida law defines the bicycle as a vehicle and grants it all the rights and responsibilities of other vehicles using the roadways.  If there is a legal bicycle lane provided, you MUST use it. 

When is a traffic lane shareable? Staying too far right on a roadway invites motor vehicles to pass you where they should not. The math is simple…. many county roads are 11 feet wide (including The Villages). The space needed to ride most bikes is 3 feet minimum, plus the legislated 3 foot safe passing distance, and the average width of a car is between 6.5 and 7.5 feet. 3+3+7.5 = 13.5 feet.  In the absence of bike lanes take your share of the travel lane.

Obey the Rules of the Road.  Always, ALWAYS wear a properly fitted CPSC approved helmet. It can and may save your life.

Use hand signals (and voice commands on a group ride) for turning, slowing, stopping and pointing out road hazards and dangers.

Never overlap the rear wheel of the bicycle in front of you.  Leave some space between you and the bike you are following.

Use a rear facing mirror (there are lots of variations) to monitor traffic approaching from the rear.

Road cyclists are hesitant to come to a complete stop at intersections because they must take their feet out of their clipless pedals.  Like every other road user, a red light or stop sign means STOP.

Motorists.

Although cars are the most popular road user, they are not the only vehicle type on the roadways.  Keep an eye out for cyclists that are making a turn and pass only when you can safely and legally do so.

Lastly and most importantly, we ask that you never drive distracted. Our roadways are busy with cars, trucks, trailers, golf carts, bicycles and pedestrians. We ask that you be attentive, considerate and careful when operating your vehicle.

Dave Lawrence is a member of the Sumter Landing Bicycle Club.

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