Study: Cyclists Find Safety in Numbers

Florida’s reputation as the worst place for bicyclists is unfortunately well-deserved. Just this year in Lee County, there have been 113 bicycle-related crash injuries reported.


Recently, a Naples man who stopped in the bike lane to aid a fellow cyclist was struck by a vehicle seconds later, causing him to suffer a cracked pelvis and a fractured eye socket. His helmet was cracked in three places. The Estero driver was cited for failure to use due care.

Our Fort Myers bicycle accident lawyers know instances like this are a nearly daily occurrence. The Florida Department of Transportation reported last year that while this state holds six percent of the national population, it accounts for 17.4 percent of all the nation’s bicycle fatalities.

Given the kind of danger that exists for cyclists in Florida, it might seem reckless to suggest that more riders take to the road. But in fact, that’s exactly what a recent study by researchers at the University of Colorado in Denver suggests. The idea, generally, is that there is safety in numbers.

The civil engineers analyzed the relationship between bicyclists and motorists, and the frequency of crashes between bicyclists and motorists in Boulder, where 12 percent of an estimated 10,000 residents routinely commute to school or work on a bicycle. What they found was that any intersection where 200 or more bicyclists past through daily saw major decreases in bicycle-versus-car crashes.

In fact, crashes in those location plummeted on average by two-thirds.

Researchers noted similar studies conducted in Europe, where bicycle riding is extremely popular, have reached similar conclusions.

While researchers don’t know for sure the cause of the decrease, they have a number of plausible theories. The first is that when motor vehicle drivers become accustomed to seeing bicycles regularly, they take care to watch for them.

Secondly, it seems bicyclists gravitate to areas that are inherently safer for them. So for example in Boulder, city officials have been engineering the streets for the last three decades to be more bicycle-friendly. They have done this through the construction of bike-only paths, bicycle underpasses built beneath heavily-traveled roads and the addition of bicycle lanes on most major streets.

The researchers were quick to say that such changes did not and could be expected to occur overnight.

While some Florida municipalities have taken efforts in recent years to promote safety for cyclists, it’s likely we may not see the rewards of that for many years. For example, the Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization has been instrumental in facilitating millions of dollars for creation of new bike paths and bike lanes. Still, many major thoroughfares lack these features, and drivers aren’t used to seeing bicyclists on the road as a matter of routine.

When drivers take notice, it means they are attentive, they frequently check their blind spots and they adjust their behind-the-wheel behavior accordingly. That makes it not just safer for cyclists, but everyone.

As an example of how an increase in cyclists makes cyclists safer, consider the most recent report from New York City’s Citi Bike program: Not one patron of the Citi Bike program has been killed since the program launched in May 2013. This was against the deep concerns of critics, who feared more bicycles on the road would inevitably mean more bicycle crashes.

Similar safety records have been reported in the 36 other cities with bike-sharing programs.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (561) 347-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Roads are safer with more bicyclists, study says, August 12, 2014, By Dan Tracy, Orlando Sentinel

More Blog Entries:

Pre-Trial Investigation Critical to Civil Case Success, Aug. 8, 2014, Fort Myers Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog