On Thursday, January 2, 2014, a reckless driver hit Critical Mass bike ride leader Ray Strack while he was riding his bike home from the store. Strack suffered serious and painful injuries from the car accident that have left him bedridden.
According to Strack’s Facebook page, he went to the store on his bike to get a loaf of bread. Christian Alexander Stewart of Fort Lauderdale was driving a red Mazda down Oakland Park Boulevard across the Intracoastal Waterway. When the vehicle in front of Stewart switched lanes suddenly, Stewart glanced away for a second. When he looked back up, he saw Strack and immediately hit him from behind. Stewart was driving around 30 mph at the time and was ticketed by police for not exercising due care.
While Stewart was fine following the accident, Strack was transported to the emergency room. He suffered a spinal vertebra fracture, as well as a deep cut on his head. Strack is now at home and is recuperating in bed.
Critical Mass is a worldwide bike riding coalition in which cyclists gather for a group bike ride weekly. Fort Lauderdale’s Critical Mass chapter has several hundred active cyclists, and Ray Strack has taken the role of impromptu leader, organizing rides and setting routes.
Bike Accident Risks in Florida
The state of Florida has long been known as a leader in car accidents, but the state is even better known for pedestrian accidents and bike accidents involving car driver negligence. In fact, Green Mobility Network labeled South Florida, including Fort Lauderdale, “one of the most dangerous places in the country for bicyclists and pedestrians.”
Strack had long criticized Oakland Park Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale as one of the city’s most dangerous roads. While his car accident injuries are truly unfortunate, the accident has brought attention to pedestrian and bike safety issues in the aggressive southern corridor. Like in this incident, many drivers who are negligent and hit cyclists receive non-criminal citations and are never prosecuted. Many victims’ only hope for justice is to seek restitution by filing a car accident negligence claim.
Unlike other bike-friendly cities, Fort Lauderdale has a surprising lack of bike lanes. When criticized on the lack of bike lanes, James Wolf, District Secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation, stated that there simply isn’t enough room for bike lanes. Cars require certain lane widths, and it’s often too hard to squeeze in bike lanes. To add bike lanes, DOT would have to buy property and convert it into roadway.
Currently, Florida law requires four feet for a bike lane, which creates a challenge on slimmer roadways. When streets are resurfaced and cyclists request a bike lane, DOT often opts instead to create additional driving lanes. When it can, it will add a bike lane and include painted cyclist signs on the roadway to inform drivers that they must share the road with cyclists.
Many cyclists opine that bike lanes themselves don’t even decrease the frequency of car accidents. They argue instead that it is a matter of driver education and willingness to share the road with cyclists.
Wolf of the DOT shared that the DOT was currently discussing revising the bike lanes requirement from 4 feet width to five feet. DOT will be investigating engineering, safety data, and practicalities. Should the law change, the rate of Fort Lauderdale car accidents and bike accidents will hopefully decrease.
If you or a loved one has been in a car accident in Fort Lauderdale, seek the expert legal advice of Cohn & Smith, Fort Lauderdale’s premier auto accident lawyers.