Is It Just Too Dangerous to Ride on Our Florida Roads?

With the latest news of a father killed and his child seriously injured while riding on a paved trail off the main road in New Tampa, one has to at least ask the question. I understand this latest accident (well, apparently not an accident at all, but an intentional act of a deranged person) is different than the “normal” distracted driver accident we have seen so often that we are now becoming numb to such news. Nonetheless, we, as cyclists using our public roads, have to be aware that not only are many drivers distracted (texting, dialing their phone, checking phone messages, eating, putting on makeup, reading, and a myriad of other clearly unsafe acts), but it seems we are regularly having to deal with irate drivers, who can’t wait the five seconds for cyclists to clear, or who just fume that we are not on the sidewalk “where we belong!”

Perhaps it’s a sign of the very polarized times we live in today. Whatever the reasons, the streets are getting “meaner” and the motorists more aggressive (am I the only one who has had a motorist “buzz” me when I’m doing everything right?), and the very act of riding for pleasure becomes less fun.

What can we do about this? Become more vocal with our elected officials and law enforcement. The time for not prosecuting drivers for their criminal behavior is over. Slaps on the wrist for running down, maiming, and even killing cyclists have to stop.

As cyclists, we need to be more proactive on the roads as well: use front and rear strobe lights day and night; go out of our way to be verbal in a positive way to motorists and pedestrians while on your bike. Make an effort to be friendly. Start actually obeying traffic control devices as the law requires, but as very few of us actually follow. Every time you run a stop sign or light when vehicles are already stopped at that intersection makes us one or more new hateful motorists. Why do we think the laws don’t apply to cyclists when we are the violators, but expect the laws to be strictly enforced when motorists do the same thing?

We, as both cyclists and motorists, need to be the example of how to treat others, of how to abide by the laws, even if it means a bit more work starting and stopping our bikes. Aren’t we out there for exercise?

It’s not unusual for me, having just stopped for a red light, to have another club member heading for the same ride blow through the intersection I and vehicles have stopped at. Think, and if you do this, you’ll realize you’ve just made us all another enemy behind the wheel. I implore all, please be the example of how everyone should safely use the roads.

Cycling Reminders to Keep You and Other Cyclists Safe When on the Road Together

Recently, on the St. Pete Bike Club newsletter, there have been concerns about some riders’ group riding habits. Even our best riders can benefit from this review. The following is just an initial list of things a cyclist should never do when riding with a group. There are other “no no’s”, but these are a start:

  1. Never pass a slower group, or individual, on the road without announcing your presence. An “on your left” is appropriate to notify others of your approach. And leave a bit of space between you and the passee.
  2. Never pull up behind another rider to draft without letting them know you are there. Some riders are not good at group riding, and may think ill of you entering their space without permission.
  3. Never check your phone while riding or, for that matter, your play list. It goes without saying not to text while riding either, especially when in a group.
  4. Earbuds in both ears: DON’T DO IT! This behavior ranks right up there with running red lights as extremely dangerous. You need to be able to hear what’s going on around you; if you must, use only one ear. (Read more in this article.)
  5. Always use your gears when stopping in a group. If you stay in a big gear, you impact everyone behind you when you restart.
  6. Consider using both front and rear lights, day or night. During daytime, riding to the far right side of the road, where we are required to ride, sometimes makes us all but invisible to approaching vehicles. Lights on, especially in strobe setting, can make the difference between a ride on the bike and an emergency transport to the nearest hospital.
  7. Finally, check your auto insurance policy to make sure you carry uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage. Your auto insurance covers you while on your bike if struck by a vehicle, and, especially if it turns out to be a hit and run, that coverage will be the only liability coverage you can look to for your injuries. It also provides coverage if the at-fault driver has insufficient liability coverage for your injuries. Get the highest limit you can afford; this protects you, not the other guy.

As always, be safe out there.