Many people have retreated to trail riding as a safer alternative to contending with vehicle traffic on the roads. But trails are not without their issues.
I receive calls regularly from people who have been involved in a collision on a trail resulting in serious injuries. Here are some of the issues callers have reached out to us about.
One of the most common dangers is meeting a bicycle coming from the opposite direction. Some inexperienced riders will leave their lane and casually swing into the opposing lane as they go through a turn. Having a head-on collision with another cyclist can be as dangerous as colliding with a vehicle.
Another frequent problem is caused by a bicyclist who suddenly attempts to change direction or make a U-turn. Any change in direction needs to be clearly signaled and should only be done when it's safe to do so. Some riders are not consciously aware of the danger of simply changing direction without contemplating the possibility another cyclist could be passing them or be immediately behind them.
Trail intersections with roadways still put us on a potential collision course with vehicles. Unfortunately, there is a tendency by some cyclists to blow through stop signs at these intersections. Not only is this against the law but it's dangerous. We should never assume a car will see us or that they will obey a stop sign at a trail intersection. We are handling a lawsuit in a case just like this in Pinellas County. Our client insists she stopped on the trail before crossing an intersecting road. She was still run down by a car accelerating across the trail after it had come to a stop.
Trail construction is an evolving science. There are still intersections on some of our trails where shrubs and other obstructions completely block an approaching cyclist's view of a vehicle emerging from a driveway hidden by shrubs. There was a well-publicized example of this in the Tampa Bay Times in 2016 involving a cyclist on a trail who was hit by a car crossing from a driveway. The driveway was totally shielded by shrubbery and there was no markings or warnings to the cyclist he was approaching a hidden drive ahead.
Many municipalities erect bollards or fixed posts at trail entrances to keep vehicles from entering the trail. Most of these bollards are made of a breakaway material such a PVC in order to minimize injury if a bicycle collides with it. Unfortunately, in some locations steel posts have been installed . These steel bollards are extremely dangerous to cyclists and should be replaced. When they are used the DOT guidelines call for clear warning stripes on the trail to alert approaching riders.
I assure you I could raise other issues. Hopefully being aware of some of these potential dangers will decrease the odds of an unexpected collision. If you are injured in a collision with someone riding a bicycle make sure someone gets their contact information. Never let them ride off unidentified. This happens regularly and can create a problem in successfully pursuing your case.
If you need our help after a collision on a trail in Florida just call us. There is never a charge to talk about your case. We will tell you if you have a case or not and exactly what we can do to help you.