Cyclists Injured in One & Two Lane Roundabouts in Florida

Video Transcription:

Hi, I'm Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy. Welcome to our livestream. So what are the common dangers that cyclists face in a roundabout?

I wrote an article recently and I'm gonna talk about three things today, really the danger points that roundabouts pose for cyclists, number one, and number two, we're gonna talk about why designers really like these things. And three, I wanna point out some of the cases that we've encountered that ended up with cyclists being injured in a roundabout.

So roundabouts are becoming more and more popular. They're popular in Europe and they're popular here. They move traffic efficiently through an intersection. So for that reason designers really like them. We came across a study, though, in the Netherlands from 2009, and it really talked about, while designers love them for the efficiency and for, they actually decrease the number of serious collisions between motor vehicles in a roundabout, and across all users for the roundabout with one notable exception, and that's cyclists. And what they found is that cycling crashes with injury actually have increased with roundabouts in the study that we looked at. I've written about this as well.

So while they move traffic efficiently, the number of serious cases for cyclists in this particular study showed that it was an increasing hazard for us. And there are a couple of things to keep in mind about a roundabout. In terms of their danger points, remember, cars are entering, and the big danger points are where the cars enter and where they exit, because that's where you're typically going to cross one or more lanes. It's interesting that, in the study that we looked at in the Netherlands, most of their roundabouts were actually single-lane. And there are so fewer points of conflict in a single-lane roundabout versus a multi-lane roundabout. When you have cars entering in two lanes and going around a roundabout in two lanes, there's multiple places where they're going to cross a lane and exit across a lane as well. All of these just increase the likelihood of something going amiss, particularly where there's a cyclist.

Some roundabouts, particularly in Europe, have flyways or protected bike lanes through the roundabout. But quite frankly, the ones that I have experience with don't have that. They haven't become a part of the design feature in the United States, at least the ones that we've encountered here. And while the Dutch study really talked about the number of single-lane roundabouts, our experience is that, in Florida, we have predominantly two-lane roundabouts, where there's two lanes going around the roundabout, and many times two lanes entering the roundabout from various locations.

So... The other interesting thing that it was pointed out in the study was that so few motorists ever encounter a bicyclist in a roundabout. So at the few times they go through them, they don't typically see a bicyclist, so when they come to a roundabout they're not thinking cyclist. They're not thinking to look for cyclists. They're not raising that level of awareness to maybe even be looking for us. It's true that, in most cycling crashes, the most common thing that the driver says after the crash has been completed is, "I never saw them," and that definitely holds true for the roundabout cases.

We had a case recently where a driver came into the roundabout staring, oddly enough, at the vehicle right next to the driver, which had some advertising. It was a delivery truck for a big company, and this person admitted, after the fact, they were staring at the side of the truck as they entered the roundabout and struck our client. So there's a lot of visual distractions in a roundabout. You have drivers who typically aren't looking for cyclists. They're not really that familiar with expecting a cyclist in a roundabout. And finally, there's a lot of visual clutter for drivers everywhere, but particularly through a roundabout. They've gotta be conscious of cars coming from their left. Sometimes there's a car coming on the inner lane. Sometimes in the outer lane. Driver may be entering from the left lane or they could be entering from the right lane. So they're looking left, they're looking right. There's just a lot of moving parts, and so the opportunity for a cyclist to get lost in that mix, visually, for the driver, it goes up, in my view, exponentially. So that's why, when we, as cyclists, are going through a roundabout, you've got to assume that no car sees you and ride your bike accordingly. You can't assume that they see you, even if they're looking at you. You have to assume that they've never seen you.

So... The other thing that I've observed is that most drivers themselves just don't understand how to operate safely around a roundabout. If there's a two-lane roundabout, there's diagrams that you'll see on the side of the road before they enter the roundabout itself, that if the driver's entering the roundabout from the left lane, they are not permitted to take the first right exit. They've got to go past the first right to the second exit before they can exit from the left lane. Many drivers don't understand that. They're not sure. You'll see drivers stay in the right lane. When they get around to the second exit, they keep going in the right lane, but they should be in the left lane to go around to the third or fourth exit out of the roundabout. So I think a lot of drivers frankly find them confusing, and many of us live in communities, there's, here in Clearwater, there's a huge roundabout out on Clearwater Beach, which is very, very busy and full of visual distraction because of the number of people trying to use the roundabout. It's got pedestrian crossways, crosswalks that are on the roadways on virtually every entrance and exit. Huge, vying with cars, trying to use it. It's a very visually distracting place, particularly to try to ride a bicycle through safely.

So some of the things we've seen, in terms of crashes involving drivers where really it holds true, just as was found in the study, it's the point of exit, typically, and the point of entrance. And whenever we have a case involving a cyclist who was on the inner lane, circling the roundabout on the inner lane, and a driver came in on the left side, never saw the cyclist, and hit the rider as the driver entered that second lane, crossing the first lane. We have had situations where a cyclist is in the right lane, at when they get to the first turnout, first exit, we've had situations where the driver is on the inner lane, cutting across the cyclist. They're not permitted to exit at that place, but doing it anyway, not seeing the cyclist, and taking them out. We've had situations where cyclist is on the outer lane and a driver's coming in from a side entrance, one of the feeding entrances. Driver's looking left. Cyclist is going right past them, and the driver goes when he has an opening, hits the cyclist while he's in the right lane, in the path of the driver. So these roundabout cases can be quite confusing for drivers and it can be quite challenging for us, as cyclists.

I think the takeaway, for me, is that you have to be hyper-vigilant. And we have to be anyway, but particularly when you get into a roundabout. You've gotta be hyper-vigilant about where you are, correct lane position, be in a position to be seen. Many times you need to take the lane to have a better visual, present a visual pattern for the driver to see you, and just be aware that, you have to assume that nobody sees you and your head is on a swivel and you're looking the whole time. I wish I had a better answer for you. I wish I had a magic wand. I could say, "Do this," and never have trouble, but trouble comes out of unexpected places sometimes.

So I want you to remember that we represent cyclists across Florida. I think currently we have cyclists from Flagler county, up on the upper East Coast, to Lee county, down in the Fort Myers area, and up in The Villages in Sumter county and various places in between. So if you're a cyclist and you've been involved in a cycling crash, or quite frankly any type of an injury in a motor vehicle or whatever, call us. We'll be there for you. If we need to come to you, we'll be there. We have a desire and a commitment to help cyclists in whatever injury situation you may find yourself in. I have a commitment to do my best to advocate for your safety. And I want you to enjoy life to the full. We're in a sport we love. We're committed to enjoying it. I want you to enjoy it to the full and I want you to do it in the safest way possible and stay out of trouble.

We're offering you a free resource today. I think Kati’s gonna run a little lead across the bottom of the screen there, our Cycling Essentials. I think you'll find it interesting and we have a lot of references and resources on our website I wanna invite you to look at and request from us. Anything we can do to help you, we're here to do that. If you have a question about a cycling issue, email us or get in touch with us.

I hope you never encounter a problem at a roundabout. If I can ever help you in any way, I'm committed to do that. I'm Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy. We'll see you next time, thank you.

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Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.