Bicycling is more than just a hobby for Floridians – it’s a way of life. With more cyclists and cyclist fatalities than any other state in the U.S., it’s clear that Florida bikers are not a minority on the roadways. Unfortunately, more bicyclists mean more opportunities for collisions. From 1975 to 2012, Florida saw the second-smallest (Wyoming was first) decrease in cyclist mortality rates at just 9.7%. Now, researchers have uncovered areas that appear to be extremely dangerous for bicyclists in Florida.
In the 2017 “Statewide Analysis of Bicycle Crashes,” researchers from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) divided the state into seven districts and mapped all of the state’s 26,036 bicycle crashes over the prior three years. It used the map to identify “clusters” where bicycle accidents statistically occur the most often in the state. The FDOT’s hope was to identify crash-prone areas and make them safer and more efficient for bicyclists and pedestrians. There were 16 clusters throughout Florida, four of which were in Gainesville, Florida:
Not surprisingly, one of the major “hot spots” for bicyclist accidents is the area located near the University of Florida (UF)’s campus. University Avenue and the intersection of 13th Street and Archer Road reported 199 bicycle crashes from 2011 to 2014, making the area near UF one of the most dangerous in the state for bicyclists. Only Hollywood Beach reported more accidents. The high number of students commuting by bicycle in this area increases the risk of collisions.
The Tampa Bay area, encompassing Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Pinellas Park, accounted for another four accident clusters. One of the clusters recorded the greatest number of accidents in the study (10 injury accidents), although none were fatal. These clusters of accidents occurred at 34th Street North near 62nd Avenue North in St. Petersburg. The other three clusters are as follows:
Collectively, these accidents killed four bicyclists and injured 20 others within the timeframe of the study. Despite pedestrian deaths dropping in Hillsborough County by about 25% in 2016, the county still reports the greatest number of fatalities in the region. Initiatives by the county to increase bicyclist and pedestrian safety include adding more crosswalks and signal boxes.
Another hot spot for bicycle accident clusters was near the University of Central Florida (UCF) campus in Orlando. The North Alafaya Trail near the campus had two hot spots, both recording six crashes each – four of which were fatal. The North Alafaya Trail near Lokanotosa Trail and Challenger Parkway made up these two hot spots. The other Orlando hot spot exists in West Michigan Street near South Orange Avenue, accounting for seven injury bicycle accidents.
Campus bicycle safety initiatives could go a long way toward reducing the number of accidents near colleges in Florida. Where busy city roadways transect college grounds, the city should erect plenty of crosswalks, lights, and stripes to help increase bicyclist and pedestrian safety. Discouraging speeding and distracted driving could also help decrease the rate of severe and fatal collisions.