28 December 2018

The Sidewalk Was The Path To His Death

One thing I've learned during my trips to Florida is that many sidewalks are de facto bike lanes.  

More precisely, there are ribbons of concrete that wind and wend alongside multilane roads where the speed limit is 45 MPH (70 KPH)--which, in Florida, means 65 MPH.  One rarely sees a pedestrian on those "sidewalks", so there are no prohibitions against cycling on them.  

The good thing about them is that they are usually separated by at least a meter of something--usually grass or other vegetation--from the roadway.  Interestingly, I almost never see motorists pulling into them. I don't know whether there's a law against doing so.  My theory is that the drivers know some of those little "lawns" might actually be mini-swamps, and their vehicles could get stuck in them.

Riding on the "sidewalks" isn't bad:  Most are well-maintained and rather spacious.  But there are two major hazards I've found, both of which might be reasons why Florida has, by far, the highest death rate for cyclists in the US.

One is crossing traffic intersections.  Nearly all of those sidewalks lead cyclists and pedestrians into the path of right-turning vehicles, who are often going fast.  To make things worse, sightlines are often poor, so even the most conscientious of drivers could hit a cyclist who's clad head-to-toe in safety yellow.

Another is that, sometimes, parts of those sidewalks are blocked, without warning.  So, if you are moseying along and suddenly you find a crew from the power or water company drilling into your path, you have nowhere to go--except the roadway which, as often as not, doesn't have a shoulder.

Dr. Robert Dalton Jr.

Dr. Robert Dalton Jr. encountered such a scenario while pedaling from his home to the Maitland Sun Rail station where, on a normal day, he'd catch the train that would take him to Orlando Health, where he practiced his profession as a cardiologist.

His work no doubt saved more than a few lives.  But nobody could save his on 17 December, when he was struck by a driver.

The sidewalk was blocked for construction of an apartment complex.  This has led to some finger-pointing between the local officials--who say that the construction company should have erected scaffolding that would have allowed cyclists and pedestrians to pass underneath--and the construction company, who say that the city or county or whomever should have put out blinking lights or other warnings for drivers to slow down.

Of course, the scaffolding would have been the better alternative.  But even that would not have addressed other problems, like the ones I've mentioned, that are found on Florida sidewalks-cum-bike lanes.  And, of course, nothing will bring back a well-regarded doctor and beloved member of his family and community.


  1. Sometimes it just has to be the sidewalk. There often is no other safe or sensible choice. I have the right to ride in the roadway but sometimes I'm afraid they'll bury me and my rights in the same hole. If you do have to take to the sidewalk watch for cars popping out of driveways. They really aren't looking for you there.

  2. Phillip--You described the problem exactly: I've almost had rides (and a lot more) ended by cars pulling out of driveways and into sidewalks.

    Happy New Year!