Lee County, Florida, most dangerous in the US for cyclists

Local and state departments are working to make roads safer

With its year round, near perfect weather Florida should be a bicycle rider’s paradise, yet the state actually leads the nation in bicycle accidents. In Lee County, a cyclist is hit or otherwise injured by an automobile approximately every 34 hours.

The conditions are unacceptable for many cyclists. “Our shop is right on a busy road, it is kind of harried out there,” Beau Cautens, shop mechanic at Paradise Bicycles in Cape Coral told BikeRadar. “We wouldn’t dare have our group rides start from the shop. Several of our good customers have had encounters with cars.”

If those doing group rides are worried about dangerous roads, what is the causal rider to do? Fortunately, help may be on the way.

The county’s transportation department is looking to better the situation with two new projects slated to begin this summer. The first links several recreational centers with a bike route, aptly name the Tour de Park, while the second project will see the construction of a university loop bike path.

These are just the first steps in Lee County’s first bicycle and pedestrian plan, and additional long-term projects that include converting the Seminole Rail Line into a multi-use path. The county has reportedly set aside US$2 million to get these first projects rolling, with hopes that state grants can be used to pay for future projects.

Other grassroots efforts are underway as well. “Some of the things we’re doing include conducting ‘Cycling Savvy’ bike education programs and aggressively pushing for complete street politics to be adopted and implemented by all governments in our county,” Dan Moser of BikeWalkLee told BikeRadar. “We’re seeing a lot of progress on that front.”

And yet, despite the notoriety of leading the nation in accidents, both Cautens and Moser say the problem is a bit overstated. “I think it is a fact that more people are out riding year round,” said Cautens, “and because more people are riding year round, there is going to be more accidents.”

Cautens said his shop took part in the recent Ride of Silence to help bring awareness, and to encourage riders to share the road. He also sees that improvements are being made locally, as well as county wide. “Cape Coral is getting better,” said Cautens. “When new roads are built there are now an easement with bike lanes, and many older roads are being reduced from four lanes to two, to provide a dedicated bike lane. It is taking time, but this is becoming a better community for biking.”

Moser agrees, and said that cyclists need to do their part as well.

“Overall, cycling conditions aren’t too bad for those who pay attention and follow basic road and side path rules,” said Moser. “We don’t have a cycling culture here so motorists still think they rule the road, but things are looking up.”

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