Driver Ticketed in Ray Strack's Collision; DOT Says Standard Bike Lanes Might Be Widened From Four Feet to Five

Categories: Transportation

strack_report.jpg
Diagram from the police report of Ray Strack's collision with a car.
A lot of people in South Florida's biking community were upset to see that Ray Strack, a leader of the monthly Critical Mass bike rides in Fort Lauderdale, got hit by a car while riding to get a loaf of bread on January 2.

He is currently home recovering from a broken vertebrae and head gashes but is reportedly in a lot of pain. His accident brought attention to bike safety in South Florida -- or the lack of it. (In a 2012 interview, Strack had specifically mentioned Oakland Park Boulevard as one of Fort Lauderdale's "very dangerous" roads.)

Peter Schuetz of the Green Mobility Network tells New Times, "Florida is probably the most dangerous state in the country, and we have many dangerous cities for bicycling -- it's too much of a car culture, and safety is disregarded too much. A lot of people talk about crashes like that as 'accidents,' but it's actually very predictable." Schuetz says that "distracted drivers, high speed limits, and low courtesy in the roads" make a combination that almost guarantees collisions.

A New York Times article from September called "Is It OK to Kill Cyclists?" noted that around the country, drivers are almost never prosecuted for hitting bike riders, even when the cyclist is severely injured or dies (unless the driver is drunk).

In Strack's case, the driver, Christian Alexander Stewart of Fort Lauderdale, told police he had been traveling behind another car. That car changed lanes suddenly, so he looked down to downshift, and when he looked up, he saw Strack only the instant before he hit him. Stewart was going an estimated 30 mph in a 35 zone. He was given a citation for failing to exercise due care, a noncriminal traffic infraction.

Some commenters on our original story about Strack's collision blamed the lack of bike lanes. But Green Mobility's Schuetz says, "Bike lanes are a double-edged sword -- on one hand, it's an encouragement of bicycling -- motorists have better sense of expecting bicyclists -- but they can be very dangerous." The lanes are often placed in between roads and parking spaces; cyclists have to navigate around people parking cars, opening doors, making right turns into the bike lane, and more. He believes part of the problem is that Florida's roads are generally wide and straight, so drivers treat them all like highways. Driver education and better enforcement of existing laws would help, he says.

James Wolfe, district secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation, responded to allegations that his agency had unfairly nixed bike lanes by saying that when his staff restripes or resurfaces a road, it often considers adding bike lanes. In many cases, it comes down to having enough pavement. For instance, he said, "Sunrise Boulevard was built in the 1960s. It was four lanes with parking -- two 12-foot lanes and eight feet for parking -- 32 feet wide. Now, it's a six-lane road, and it's still 32 feet wide." He says six lanes were fitted by making each lane 11 feet. A lot of six-lane roads have three 12-foot lanes for cars -- which is the DOT standard -- and "it's hard to squeeze in a four-foot bike lane" on top of that.

"A lot of the roads are too narrow and have a high volume [of traffic] and trucks -- we can't go down to less than ten-foot lanes," Wolfe said. "If we want bike lanes, we'd have to widen the roadway... buy property." He said it was in many cases "extremely expensive" and "not feasible for us," though he agreed that bike lanes not only offered bikers a space to ride but also the "sharrows" -- those little pictures of a stick-figure bicyclist that are painted on the lanes -- "alert driers they need to be sharing the road."

"We have standard policies," he continued. "We put bike lanes in where we can -- we narrow the lanes when we resurface and put in a bike lane. It's four feet for a bike lane, though I expect that will change -- there's a general recognition that it needs to be wider, also to add to the bike lane so there is a greater separation between cars and the bike lane -- but that makes it even more challenging to fit these in."

He said that within the DOT, it was "under discussion now that four feet lanes should be revised larger to five feet... It is very likely that we will be revising the policy." He said that would be an internal decision based on engineering and safety data, as well as design practicalities; there probably wouldn't be public hearings about it. "It's not a matter of the public indicating a preference -- it's either safe or it's not."

Green Mobility Network's Schuetz says it's best to figure out good routes between destinations and bike along those. Whatever the risks of cycling, "you're almost guaranteed going to die of heart disease if you never get out of car. Plus, it's no fun being in the car."

Check out the next Fort Lauderdale Critical Mass ride on Friday, January 31. By the way, it ends up with an afterparty at Makers Square -- a fascinating new tool shop/social club/bar concept.

Send story tips to Deirdra.Funcheon@BrowardPalmBeach.com



My Voice Nation Help
14 comments
Benjamin Prows
Benjamin Prows

Im going to talk to the city about it next month

smdrpepper
smdrpepper topcommenter

What about those people on bikes who live to swerve directly into the path of oncoming cars?  I see this DAILY, if I am driving or not.  There are rules of the road for bikes as well as cars.  They actively ignore traffic signals choosing to go across against the red.  Perhaps they should take a traffic safety course as well.

redd
redd

Critical Mass needs to raise funds for bike paths.


-Motorist pay for the roads they use with gas taxes, and other forms of taxes.


    Do bicycle riders pay  for the roads they use?   

*(If they did they would have a better say in how that money was spent)




thedogatehim2
thedogatehim2

@smdrpepper people who cycle into oncoming cars are jackasses like any other jackass, but still a person in the street to avoid maiming and killing. 


Of course the bike was in the middle of his lane, if it were not, most car drivers make an attempt to drive in the lane with him instead of changing lanes like they do when they come up from behind other vehicles like motorcycles, scooters and other cars.

redd
redd

@smdrpepper  I tend to agree Critical Mass wants it both ways.


they ignore laws, ride in the middle of the road, and when someone move out of 'their' lane, the person behind them, is surprised to find a bike there and runs them over.

It doesn't sound like this person did it due to aggressive driving, (OTOH, I'd love to see their phone log just prior to the accident).


-the drawing appears to indicate the bike was in the middle of the lane, so the car wasn't able to pass and avoid in the same lane.





cpchester
cpchester topcommenter

@redd  You have a fundamental misunderstanding of who and how roads are financed and paid for in the USA. Those fees you mention mainly go toward interstate highways which cyclists can't use anyhow and the administrative costs of running the DMV. Over 50% of roads in the USA are funded with a combination of local and state taxes - mainly property and sales taxes in FL. Those are taxes that everyone pays. And when you consider that one car equals the damage to the roadway of 9,000 bicycles, it becomes increasingly obvious that the cyclists are the ones actually subsidizing the drivers. But anyhow, did it ever occur to you that many people, like Ray, are drivers AND cyclists? Educate yourself further here: http://www.planetizen.com/node/66359

cpchester
cpchester topcommenter

@redd @smdrpepper Critical Mass is a once a month event intended to draw awareness for cycling. And cyclists are entitled to use a full lane if the lane is too narrow for the bike rider and car to both fit in it with a 3 foot buffer - which the vast majority of roads are not. So you treat the bicycle like vehicle and pass when safe. Didn't you learn that in drivers ed?

redd
redd

@cpchester

Thanks for correcting me.  (if local streets are paid for by property taxes then yes, bikes have a valid stake in bike lanes).

-I have a mtn bike but don't use it for commuting, because its too damn dangerous.    

if you choose to ride in the street, well,  Darwin culls the herd.....

redd
redd

@funchey1@smdrpepper@cpchester@redd

That is correct, 2 cars in right (slow) lane, front moves to center, (because of bike) 2nd car runs into bike, because it only going 10 mph in a 35 zone...  

-I would really like to see the cell phone records of the car driver... -distracted driving?

OTOH, you are taking your life in your hands choosing to ride a bike in the street.  same for motorcycles.  - you just don't have a chance against a car....  

funchey1
funchey1 moderator editor

@smdrpepper@cpchester@redd with all due respect, it does not say that Ray swerved into the path of the car.   It says the car in front of Stewart swerved OUT of the way -- from the right lane to the left.  Ray and the car that hit him remained in the right lanes. See diagram pictured. 

smdrpepper
smdrpepper topcommenter

@cpchester@redd@smdrpepperPerhaps you should take up some reading comprehension?  They STILL have no right to suddenly swerve in front of a car, and from the accident report, thats what happened.

Now Trending

Miami Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...