This past week was a terrible week for cycling in The Villages. Two separate car/bicycle collisions occurred involving three experienced club cyclists who suffered significant injuries.
When a car/bicycle incident occurs, it is the cyclist that is most likely to become seriously injured. During the past week, there were three experienced cyclists admitted to the trauma center in Ocala. Two cyclists were heading south on Morse Boulevard in the right travel lane and one heading east on Hillsborough in the multi-modal lane.
The most alarming part for me as a Villager and a bike rider is that after striking the cyclists from behind, the driver in each case fled the scene of the collision, essentially leaving the victims on the ground bleeding, unconscious and in great peril.
What more can a bicyclist do to improve safety when traveling in and around our hometown?
First and foremost, know the rules of the road and understand how traffic flows. Learn about road position and make yourself visible to other drivers by wearing bright, contrasting clothing that sets you apart from the surrounding environment and always wear a certified bicycle helmet with a “use by date” that has not expired. Use bright blinking lights front and back designed specifically for bicycle use. These lights are very bright and can be used for several hours without recharging. When driving at sunrise and sunset, be aware that both cyclists and motorists may have limited ability to define objects “with the sun in their eyes.” Proceeding more slowly will increase reaction time should you be temporarily blinded by the sun.
Modern technology has given cyclists a new tool. Although a bit costly, front and back light/camera combinations record in high definition and provide clear recordings of the traffic around the cyclist. The front one will record what you see while driving your bike. The back one records what follows you. Used together, these recordings provide a clear record of what is happening around you including the make, model, color, license plate, road position and sometimes the driver’s face. If there is an impact, the camera locks all of the recently recorded files and continues to record for several more minutes. (As an example, see cycliq.com)
As part of our efforts to help keep all Villages bicyclists safer, we have opened portions of our website for anyone to review. Go to www.slbikeclub.org and find Rides in the blue horizontal stripe. When you place the arrow over “Rides” a column will open. Click on “Bicycle Knowledge & Safety” and you are free to read and watch all of the content contained under the “Ride” tab. For your convenience, an abbreviated Florida Law section related to bicycles is included.
In Florida law, bicycles are considered “human-powered vehicles.” When on the road, cyclists must obey the same traffic laws as motor vehicles and must use a lawfully marked bicycle lane when available. Conversely, a driver overtaking a bicycle must pass the bicycle at a distance not less than 3 feet.
The information supplied above and on our website is intended to help cyclists and motorists share the the roads in a friendly, orderly and safe way. As cyclists, we condemn any motorist who through distraction or deliberate intimidation (for example, an intentional close pass) seeks to scare or injure us. Our cameras will assist in the identification of aggressive motorists.
Villager Dave Lawrence is the director of safety for the Sumter Landing Bicycle Club.