Local News

Accident raises concerns about cyclist safety

VENUS - For Chris Jennings, riding his bicycle on County Road 731 not far from his home earlier this month was like any of his other rides, Jennings recalled this week.

That was until a vehicle behind him hit his bicycle, knocking him to the ground and causing him to have broken ribs, a collapsed lung and other injuries, Jennings said.

"I know how lucky I am," he said, adding that he avoided a head injury while not wearing a helmet.

Red Camp, another Highlands County resident and cyclist, said he also feels lucky after an accident last year in which he ended up on the hood of a car.

He said he was behind one car, which turned into a driveway. A car coming in the other direction on Lakeview Drive in Sebring turned and hit him, with the driver not seeing him because the other car had blocked the driver's view.

"My thought was the next thing I would see was the ceiling of an ambulance," said Camp, president of the Highlands Pedalers, an organization of cyclists. "I was sure that it was not going to end well."

But, as it turned out, Camp suffered no serious injuries, he said.

Jennings and Camp say they are very lucky. They said they've known many other cyclists who were nowhere near as lucky as them.

In regards to the accident involving Jennings, the other driver was cited by the Florida Highway Patrol for careless driving.

Although it may not apply to the accident involving Jennings, Camp said, that drivers who are talking on their cellphones may be distracted to the point where they don't take steps to avoid hitting the bicyclist.

Overall, Camp said, there needs to be a better job of educating people about the rules that relate to cyclists.

One area of the law that people seem to be unaware of is that when driving they can cross a double yellow line to pass a cyclist, he said.

Instead of doing that they attempt to stay in the narrow lane and pass the cyclist, putting the cyclist more at risk, he said. The law requires 3 feet between the car and the bicyclist when passing.

Other than taking basic safety precautions, such as wearing helmets and having lights on their bicycles after dark, cyclists can do very little, Camp said.

"We can't move fast enough to stay out of the way of the car," he said.

Robert Summers, a member of Highlands Pedalers, said he would like to see the county add shoulders to more roads to maintain safety.

Summers said that for cyclists being almost hit by a car is a frequent occurrence.

"It happens almost every day when you're out riding," he said.

Although some motorists may resent being slowed down by cyclists, Summers said, "We have the right as much as the vehicles to be on the road."


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