Cyclists face the risk of catastrophic and fatal injuries in the event of collision with larger and more powerful motor vehicles. A cyclist’s lack of protection in the event of a crash leads to hundreds of emergency room visits and deaths in Florida every year. A Florida Department of Transportation study found that bicyclists are consistently at least twice as much at risk of fatal injuries in Florida as the national average. The same study listed Miami-Dade as number one on the list of top 10 highest-priority counties for vulnerable road user safety improvements.
Disregard for Bicyclists’ Rights to the Road
It is dangerous to bike in any major city, but Miami is one of the worst cities in the nation when to comes to bicyclist safety. Miami’s roads are jam-packed with traffic – and all drivers seem to have it out for bicyclists. One man’s GoPro camera compilation of bicycling around Miami in 2016 is proof of drivers’ disregard for biker’s rights to the roadway. Drivers pull directly out in front of bicyclists who have the right of way, honk angrily as they pass bicyclists, and drive through crosswalks despite bikers trying to cross. It is clear that Miami drivers aren’t just oblivious to bicyclists’ rights to the roadway – they are aggressively against them.
In Miami, cyclists have a legal right to bike on regular roads around the city. They often have no choice but to ride in the road, when the city’s statutes bar them from riding on sidewalks. While they must obey all the same rules as motorists – moving with traffic, stopping at traffic lights, signaling their intentions – they also have the same rights. Other drivers in the city, however, blatantly ignore these rights, treating bicyclists as a nuisance and not as fellow vehicle operators.
Miami-Dade: Dangerous by Design
According to a 2016 study, Miami is the fourth-most dangerous metropolitan area for walking and bicycling in the country. While heavy traffic and the number of bikers contribute to the threat to bicyclists in Miami, it did not make this list because of driver error alone. Miami is also on a list in the 2016 “Dangerous by Design” report, which points to an inherent issue in the infrastructure of Miami’s streets, sidewalks, and bike paths. Miami came in as the 11th most-dangerous area out of 20 total on this report.
The study places responsibility for Miami’s dangerous roadway design on everyone involved in the design process, at every level of legislation. It states that policymakers designed the streets to prioritize speed, not pedestrian safety. This is particularly true in Miami, where an ever-increasing city population makes traffic flow a significant issue. Bicyclists do not have proper lanes, crosswalks, nor routes to safely transport them around the city.
Hope for the Future
A detailed 2017 Action Plan by the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners reports that traffic fatalities jumped 8.1% in the first half of 2015. The number of bicyclist injuries in the county more than doubled from 2006 to 2016. The Action Plan defines a “Complete Street” as one where engineers design, plan, and operate the right-of-way for all modes of transportation and users. Features of a Complete Street might include frequent and safe crosswalks, median refuges, pedestrian signals, roundabouts, and secure bicycle parking. Complete Streets are just one of the many hoped-for outcomes of the county’s Action Plan. Other points of improvement include:
- Fix barriers
- Gather and analyze biking and walking data
- Implement context-sensitive street designs
- Take advantage of maintenance opportunities
- Improve walking and biking safety regulations
- Educate the public and enforce proper road use behaviors
The Safer People Safer Streets Local Action Plan for Miami-Dade County will ideally work to improve bicyclist and pedestrian safety for years to come.
If you are a cyclist and have been injured by a Miami driver, our team of bike accident attorneys are here to help you recover from those injures. Give us a call to discuss your options.