(By Ed Ryan) If you’re a regular bike rider in the state of Florida it’s inevitable you’re either going to have a close call with a vehicle or be hit by one. Florida is consistently ranked one of the most dangerous states for bicyclists. So why would you make yourself an easy target?
You don’t have to be a Harvard graduate to figure out that 100% of the time a vehicle will win in a collision with a bicycle.
Being married to someone who collided with a vehicle while riding, and close friends with someone killed by a vehicle on the Sanibel bridge, you see up close and personal the damage that can be done when a vehicle and bicycle make contact.
Both of those accidents were in broad daylight so it’s understandable that Fort Myers Beach elected officials and committee members are frustrated that bicycle riders are not following rules that will keep them and others safe.
Too many people are riding their bikes at night without lights, bells and helmets. Helmets are only required for riders 16 and under by the town. However, lights and some sort of bell or horn are required on every bike, whether it’s day or night. And, that’s a good thing. There’s no downside to having a light on a bike, whether it’s day or night, but especially at night.
I ride from 3AM to 7AM. There are several reasons for that. I ride the same route so I know where the potholes are, where the sprinklers leak onto the pavement and where the bike lanes end. It’s also because there is very little traffic. However, if there is a vehicle on the road at the time I ride, there’s no question they will see me. I have 2 high powered lights on the front of my bike (with two backups at the ready), 4 flashing red lights on the back of the bike, one on my helmet and reflectors around my ankles.
When you ride without a light you’re putting more than yourself in danger. You’re putting pedestrians and drivers, who may not see you, in danger as well. And that’s just selfish.
The town is trying to put the responsibility at the feet of bike rental businesses. And, while it’s good business for those shops to provide lights on every bike and tell people it’s the law to ride with lights on, any rider can simply walk out the door and ignore those instructions.
Riders need to take responsibility and ride safely. When you ride reckless in the dark you’re doing more than making the people around you unsafe, you’re giving riders a bad name. Like it or not, we’re all lumped together, and while the rest of us are dodging the drivers texting on their phone, or dealing with angry drivers that don’t like to share the road where there are no bike lanes, we don’t need inconsiderate riders adding another reason for drivers to dislike us.
With traffic and parking a big challenge on the beach now, more people are riding than ever before. This week Mayor Murphy noted that on his way back from Naples he saw two people riding their bikes in the dark who were “lit up like Christmas trees.” That’s the way it should be all the time when riding at night.
Here’s a link to my favorite rechargeable bike light. They last up to 3 hours before they need a charge and last for years. They take 5 seconds to put on your handle bars. You can also blind an intruder with one if you need to. It also comes with a small red flashing rear light (which will not blind an intruder).
Here’s a section of the town’s ordinance (18-02) every rider should read and follow: