Safety in Atlantic Beach – are cyclists safe?

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Channel 4 reported that the car/bicycle accident that I posted about earlier happened on a dangerous road that locals hope will be a wake-up call.   According to residents interviewed by Channel 4, this wasn’t the first time someone has been hit in the area.  Apparently, there have been two other cases of pedestrians being hit along Mayport Road in the last year, and  residents want something done.  One woman, bicyclist Loretta Parson, told the reporter that she hopes this tragic accident reminds everyone to drive a little more safely down Mayport Road.

According to Debra Gordon who works at Dirtbag Choppers, which is very close to the accident site, said the biggest problem is speed.  In addition, there is no crosswalk at that area, so bicyclists tend to just go out into the oncoming traffic and  try to dodge cars to get to their destination.  Channel 4 investigated the problem further and found stretches of Mayport Road with crosswalks are dangerous. News4Jax has documented at least two separate instances where pedestrians were hit. In May of 2014, a 57-year-old man was walking through a crosswalk when he was hit. In December, a man was hit and badly injured as he was on a crosswalk at Mayport Road at Plaza Road, less than half a mile away from where the lady that was killed on Wednesday.   Ms. Parson hopes after hearing the news, that many people become aware of the danger in this area.   Other residents reported that  they’ve reached out to the city of Atlantic Beach in hopes of getting some help with the road. They said they were referred to the Department of Transportation who said they are planning to look at the intersection to see if any improvements can be made.

I did a little research and found an interesting website that might help bicyclists in this area due to the lack of cross walks.  Bicyclesafe.com gives scenarios between a car and a bicyclists and gives tips on how to avoid getting hit.  According to this website, the most common way to get hit is when a car is pulling out of side street, parking lot or driveway on the right They give the following tips on how to avoid this collision.

1. Get a headlight.  If you’re riding at night, you absolutely should be using a front headlight.  It’s required by law, anyway.  Even for daytime riding, a bright white light that has a flashing mode can make you more visible to motorists who might otherwise Right Cross you.  Look for the new LED headlights which last ten times as long on a set of batteries as old-style lights.  And headlamps (mounted on your head or helmet) are the best, because then you can look directly at the driver to make sure they see your light.
2. Wave.  If you can’t make eye contact with the driver, wave your arm.  It’s easier for them to see your arm going left and right than it is for them to see a bicycle coming straight towards them.  You could also use a loud horn (like the Air Zound) to get drivers’ attention.  If it looks like the driver is about to pull out without seeing you, yell “Hey!”  You may feel awkward waving or yelling, but it’s better to be embarrassed than to get hit.  Incidentally, many countries require bells on bicycles, but the U.S. doesn’t.
3. Slow down.  If you can’t make eye contact with the driver (especially at night), slow down so much that you’re able to completely stop if you have to.  Sure, it’s inconvenient, but it beats getting hit.
4. Ride further left.  You’re probably used to riding very close to the curb, because you’re worried about being hit from behind.  But take a look at the car.  When that driver is looking down the road for traffic, he’s not looking in the bike lane or the area closest to the curb; he’s looking in the middle of the lane, for other cars.  The farther left you are, the more likely the driver will see you.  You might worry that moving left makes you more vulnerable to cars coming from behind.  But the stats say you’re far more likely to get hit by a car at an intersection ahead of you that can’t see you, than from a car behind you which can see you clearly.

Go to bicyclesafe.com to see more scenarios and how to avoid being hit.

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