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Bicyclist killed in bike lane raises questions about bike lane safety

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Are bike lanes safe? A collision that killed a woman riding her bike in a bike lane along Semoran Boulevard last week has some people asking this very question.

The bicyclist was struck from behind and killed when the driver, Daniel Lomas, lost control of his car and swerved into the bike lane. The collision took place around 5:42 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 30. The section of Semoran Boulevard where the collision occurred is six lanes wide with a posted speed limit of 45 mph. The bike lane is not protected.

Both safety and comfort level matter to people who bike

Maybe we should be asking a different question. Are unprotected bike lanes on 45 mph, six lane highways safe? Or is riding your bike on any part of the road safe in Central Florida?

Debate over the safest spot on the street for people to ride their bikes is nothing new. Should we…use painted bike lanes or only protected bike lanes? Ride on the road or the sidewalk or trails? A lot of this may depend your own comfort level with the type of road, posted speed limit, traffic congestion, time of day, weather and other variables.

Florida streets are the most dangerous in the U.S. for bicyclists

Regardless of where you ride, Florida streets can be dangerous for people who bike.   We are currently the most dangerous state in the country for bicycling according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

Since bicycling in Central Florida is not a one-size-fits-all activity, here is a brief overview of different bicycling strategies ranging from taking the lane to bike lanes to sidewalk riding and trails. No one strategy is failsafe. Bicyclists should still be extra alert, cautious and clearly visible to drivers at all times.

Controlling the Lane

Cycling Savvy, for example, advocates for lane control. They encourage bicyclists to ride on the road as a vehicle and take the lane (this is permitted by Florida law). Lane control proponents say that controlling a road lane can help a bicyclist be more visible to drivers and also encourages motorists to pass bicyclists at a safer distance.

Painted Bike Lanes and Protected Bike Lanes

Proponents of bike lanes argue that infrastructure (i.e. building bike lanes, cycle tracks, etc.) ultimately drives safer behavior changes in both motorists and bicyclists and is good for business. Some people who bike also feel more comfortable riding in a bike lane or are not able to bike on the road. Lane control also may not be an option for young children or people who bike at slower speeds.

People for Bikes supports protected bike lanes. They cite numerous studies and stats in favor of protected bike lanes improving both bicyclist safety and comfort levels. These are few and far between in Central Florida. A cycle track was recently installed over the summer near Brookshire Elementary in the City of Winter Park.

Sidewalk Riding

If you are unsure about either taking the lane or bike lanes, sidewalk cycling could be an option. In Florida, bicyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalk in the same direction of traffic but are required to follow the rules of the road as well as pedestrian traffic laws. Riding against traffic on the sidewalk is against the law. Though some Florida cities have amended this such as the City of Orlando which prohibits people from biking on the sidewalk in the downtown area. The League of American Bicyclists points out that sidewalk riding comes with its own unique set of obstacles and potential dangers.

Trails

Central Florida’s bike trail network along with the SUNTrails statewide system continues to grow and provide people who bike with additional options for riding around the region mostly away from busy roads. Some trails may be more suitable for recreational riding versus commuting for work or school or to run errands.

The lane control/bike lane/protected bike lane/sidewalk/trails conversation continues to raise important questions about how we design roads for all types of bicyclists. It may not be an either/or solution, but rather a combination of safety strategies that helps improve bicycling conditions in Florida.

Bike safety is more than painting lines on the road – overhaul in education, engineering and enforcement needed

At the end of day, this bicyclist’s death is tragic. More has to be done to ensure the safety of people biking in Central Florida. The League or American Bicyclists’ 5 Es (engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation) as well as FDOT’s new Complete Streets standards are some of the guiding principles for how Bike/Walk Central Florida is working in the community to create change and advocate for a safer, more bikeable Central Flordia.

Read the news coverage below from News 6 and News 13.



Driver loses control, strikes bicyclist in bike lane – Charges pending against Daniel Lomas

November 30, 2015

By Dawn Brooks | News 6/ Click Orlando

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – A bicyclist was killed early Sunday when a driver lost control of a vehicle and went into the bicycle lane.

It happened at 5:42 a.m. on Semoran Boulevard at Post Lake Place.

The Florida Highway Patrol said Daniel Lomas was driving his car west on East Semoran Boulevard when he traveled into the bicycle lane, hit a curb and then struck a female riding a bike.

The female, who hasn’t been identified, died from her injuries.

Troopers said charges are pending against Lomas.

Click here to view original story.

Bicyclist struck, killed on Semoran Boulevard
November 30, 2015

News 13

SEMINOLE COUNTY —
A bicyclist was killed early Sunday when a vehicle collided with her on Semoran Boulevard, troopers said.

At about 5:42 a.m., Daniel Lomas’ vehicle was traveling west in the outside travel lane of State Road 436 near Post Lake Place in Forest City. At the same time, a woman on a bicycle was also traveling west, in the bicycle lane, on S.R. 436.

Lomas failed to stay in his lane and drifted into the bicycle lane, where he hit the curb, lost control and struck the back of the woman’s bicycle, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

The woman’s identity has not been released pending notification of next of kin. Lomas was not hurt.

The crash is under investigation, and charges are pending.

Click here to view original story.

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