The Volusia Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Transportation held a press conference on Monday, May 1, to promote bicycle safety. May is National Bicycle Month.
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, an avid bicyclist, has been in more than one crash while biking.
“I think if there’s anybody who can talk about bike safety, it would be me,“ Chitwood said. “I’ve been run over twice in the past couple years.”
There were 1,147 crashes involving bicyclists in Central Florida in 2021, according to a news release from FDOT. Of those, 37 crashes resulted in a bicyclist fatality; 1,070 bicyclists sustained injuries. Though traffic crash statistics from 2022 have not been finalized, FDOT stated, initial data from Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles showed about a 9% increase in bicyclist fatalities on Central Florida roads.
More than 40% of traffic crashes in Florida involving bicyclists happen at intersections, according to FDOT.
The news conference highlighted the importance of looking both ways, and when in doubt, looking twice. FDOT noted that motorists must give bicyclists at least 3 feet of space when passing them.
“Bicyclists have the same rights on the road as drivers, and the only way we’re going to improve bicycle safety is by making sure everyone understands that,” FDOT Safety Administrator Loreen Bobo said.
Although it is legal to bike on roads, the many trails in Volusia County offer a more secluded ride among nature. For instance, the Spring-to-Spring Trail stretches from Gemini Springs to DeLeon Springs State Park.
“Volusia County trails provide a wide variety of opportunities for cyclists, as well as walkers and joggers,” said Tim Bailey, Volusia County Parks, Recreation and Culture director. “Our trails provide recreational opportunities that meet the needs of all people, regardless of age, economic status or physical ability.”
In Florida, more than 60% of bicycle fatalities take place at night. But night crashes can be avoided with proper lighting. Speakers at the news conference said it is crucial to avoid wearing dark clothing when biking at night. Reflective vests offer additional safety.
“Volusia County Public Works maintains over 1,000 miles of roadways in the county,” Volusia County Public Works Director Ben Bartlett said. “Our staff work hard to ensure that we maximize the safety of all the users from these roads, whether they are motorists, pedestrians or bicyclists.”
To learn more about bicycle safety, go to fdot.gov/agencyresources/bicyclesafety.