By Sheriff Carmine Marceno
The population in Lee County continues to grow and, along with this growth, comes an increasing number of motor vehicles on our roadways and a larger number of residents enjoying biking.
Both drivers and cyclists have responsibilities, as per Florida Statute, in regard to the safe operation of their vehicle and failure to do so often leads to injury or death. Each year, nearly 1,000 cyclists lose their lives in the United States as a result of an incident involving a motor vehicle.
Many streets and roads, in Lee County, have bicycle lanes to accommodate cyclists. Unfortunately, many roadways do not. This forces cyclists to share the outermost section of roadway with motor vehicles. Additional vigilance is needed under these circumstances.
Drivers must recognize the vulnerability of cyclists. In addition to operating a two-wheeled vehicle lacking any form of collision-protection, cyclists are limited in their ability to fully see around their bicycle and must depend on peripheral vision in order to see objects alongside them. They are fully dependent upon motor vehicle operators to both see them and avoid contact.
When one considers the popularity of cellular phone usage…unfortunately common while driving…we begin to recognize the increased risk of collisions with cyclists. According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles statistics, distracted driving fatalities increased by 36.53 percent since 2015. That same report indicates that there were 48,488 distracted driving crashes in 2020 alone!
All drivers are encouraged to review Chapter 316 of the Florida Statutes also known as the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law.”
In a recent conversation with Oscar Rattenborg, Florida Bicycle Association Certified Ride Leader and Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club Ride Leader, “It is common to see texting drivers sitting at green lights, running red lights and veering into bike lanes.”
The “three-foot rule” clearly defines the distance required between the motor vehicle and the bicyclist.
Additional vehicle vs. bicycle incidents occur when drivers exercise “right-on-red” turns. Right turns made at steady red signals require a FULL stop. When a bicycle is simultaneously approaching that steady red signal, drivers may only turn AFTER yielding to pedestrians and cyclists. Please note that drivers are required to come to a full stop prior to the crosswalk and the turn to be completed having given right-of-way to those crossing the street or entering the intersection on a bicycle.
Drivers approaching stop signs or red traffic signals must stop prior to the crosswalk. Bicyclists and pedestrians are all around us and, sometimes, difficult to see. Please make certain to look carefully for these individuals when approaching all crosswalks.
Remember… marked crosswalks serve an important purpose…they notify pedestrians and cyclists that it is safe to cross at this specific location. Florida Statutes clearly support the sanctity of the crosswalk.
This, of course, includes bicyclists.
Rattenborg also expressed concerns regarding aggressive driving and mentioned being both “coal rolled” and run off of the road, intentionally, on a number of occasions.
Please be advised that it is my intention, as sheriff, to ensure the safety of cyclists and pedestrians and to utilize whatever resources necessary to do so. Lee County Sheriff’s Office staff have been instructed to remain vigilant regarding violations related to bicycle and pedestrian safety.
No one wants to be responsible for a traffic fatality. Both drivers and cyclists must be alert at all times and considerate of each other’s right to the road. Please…share the road.
For additional information regarding bicycle safety, please visit https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/bicycle-safety and/or https://www.nsc.org/community-safety/safety-topics/seasonal-safety/summer-safety/bicycles.