Even though Florida is trying to improve the situation, we all know that bicycling in the state is not the safest mode of transportation. Stats show that there are just too many bicycle accidents – almost all of them avoidable.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that some of the top causes of bicycle accidents are inattentive drivers, bicyclists who fail to stay in designated bike lanes, the failure of both drivers and bicycle riders to yield the right of way, and failing to follow traffic signs or stop at a red light.
There is, however, an added danger – dooring.
In addition to bicyclists having to be hyper-aware of traffic, cars, trucks and pedestrians, they also have to be watchful of people who have just parked their cars and are about to open their doors.
How dangerous is “dooring”?
Although there are fatalities due to a motorist opening a door in the path of a bicyclist, it appears, in some situations, to be safer than other types of bicycle collisions. The extent of injury depends on how fast the bicyclist is riding, how hard and fast the door opens, and whether the bicyclist is hit by another car when trying to avoid the open door.
Common injuries are soft tissue injuries, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), broken bones, strains and sprains, and scrapes and bruises.
To avoid an accident, bicyclists need to be very cautious of their speed in heavy traffic where cars are parked, and drivers and passengers need to check their mirrors and be sure the door-zone is clear of bicyclists before opening the door.
Who is liable when a cyclist gets doored?
Who is liable when the driver or passenger opens the door, causing the bicyclist to collide with it: the bicyclist, the passenger, or the driver?
If there are bicycle lanes, bicyclists must drive in them when traveling on a roadway. If there are no lanes, they are to ride in the right lane of traffic, which puts them in danger of getting doored, as they pass numerous parked cars.
The law is that drivers and passengers are supposed to see if there are any bicycles driving by them (or other traffic, for that matter), before opening the door. Therefore, if a bicyclist is doored, the driver or passenger is liable.
Where it can sometimes get sticky, is when getting doored happens where there isn’t any traffic. Then the person opening the door might try to claim contributory negligence, saying the bicyclist had plenty of room to avoid the open door. In this case, the defendant would try to prove that the bicyclist was partially responsible.
Florida: Bicycle friendly but not yet safe enough
How bicycle-friendly is Florida compared to other states? According to the League of American Bicyclists, in 2022 Florida ranked 8th in the nation for bicycle friendliness. It received an A-in Infrastructure and Funding; an A in Education and Encouragement; a B in Traffic Laws & Practices; an A in Policies & Programs; and a B in Evaluation & Planning.
That said, Florida’s bicycle accident fatality rate is worse than the national average. Since 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, 56% of cyclists killed in Florida were killed on state Department of Transportation (DOT)-owned roadways, despite the state owning only 10% of all roadways. In 2021, there were over 160 bicycle accident fatalities in the state.
Although changes have been and continue to be made in Florida, it is still potentially dangerous to ride a bicycle in the streets and roadways. So please, be safe out there.
If you suffered injuries in a bicycle accident, you might be entitled to rightful compensation. For a free evaluation of your case, call Miami bicycle injury lawyer Julian Rudolph. You can either send us an email or call us at (305) 300-2702.