FORT MYERS, Fla. — Every day, on average, 18 people are in a bicycle crash in Florida, according to numbers from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Every two days, a person dies from their injuries in a bike crash, so far in 2022.
The Sunshine State is the most dangerous state in the country for bike riders.
Lee County, according to numbers analyzed by Fox 4 Investigates, is one of the leading counties in the state when it comes to injuries and deaths from bike crashes.
A normal bike ride on the shared use path along Six Mile Cypress Parkway nearly took Diana Giraldo’s life six years ago.
The lifelong cyclist was hit by a fellow rider when she crashed into a post.
"If I wasn’t wearing my helmet, my head would have hit the post. And I wouldn’t be able to talk with you right now."
“I was wearing a helmet, (the) helmet hit the post. If I wasn’t wearing my helmet, my head would have hit the post. And I wouldn’t be able to talk with you right now,” said Giraldo, the President and co-founder of Streets Alive of Southwest Florida, a bike and pedestrian safety advocacy organization.
Even though her injury from the crash means she can never ride again, she now passionately talks about protecting bicyclists.
She constantly carries bike lights and other safety features in her car, just in case she sees a rider in need of protection devices.
“It is a dangerous state. We may be able to contribute some to tourism, but I think our awareness all together, if they’re driving, they don’t know where they’re going,” said Giraldo.
“We have so many needs in our community for outreach and education for awareness for bicycle and pedestrian safety education.”
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, last year there were more than 6,300 crashes involving bicycles.
182 people were killed.
Lee County’s eight deaths were some of the highest totals in the state.
The Tampa Bay, Orlando and Miami metro-areas topped the list.
“The driver didn’t see them. That’s number one."
State officials say Florida’s year-round warm weather and large tourist numbers are two reasons to attribute to the deadly trend.
“The driver didn’t see them. That’s number one,” said Officer Alain Gagnon with FMPD’s Bike Unit. “Either (the bicyclist was) traveling an unpredictable way, the wrong way. Or (the driver) couldn’t see them, meaning they weren’t visible, because they didn’t have lights.”
In fact, in 2019, the most recent year this statistic was available from the National Highway Safety Administration, only one person killed on a bicycle in Florida was wearing protective clothing.
The other 164 people killed in bike crashes were not.
Despite spending every day of the last 14 years on a road bike, Officer Gagnon has never been involved in a crash.
“I try to be predictable,” said Gagnon. “I try to anticipate vehicles opening. I deal a lot with parked cars, doors opening, so I try to drive a few feet out.”
Gagnon says many drivers aren’t aware that Florida law treats bicyclists with the same laws as cars on the road.
“From my experience, morning rush hour is (the worst) people are late, they’re on the phone, doing their makeup. They’re distracted,” said Gagnon.
Lee County has invested millions of dollars in recent years to build new bike lanes and shared use paths.
In Cape Coral, the city has created 90 miles of road paths that purposefully guide riders off the main thoroughfares.
But the crashes keep coming.
Giraldo says while the improvements to cycling facilities help, ultimately, she believes changes in driving will save more lives than changes to the roads.
“We also have to be mindful of the road,” said Giraldo.
“The people driving, we have to be aware of the people around us.”