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The West Boca Bullseye

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Car hits group of cyclists: Are cyclists to blame?

Photo of car and broken bike after car accident in South Florida
Juan Carlos Sierra
Photo of car and broken bike after car accident in South Florida

Last Thursday, January 4th, a large group of cyclists were hit going Northbound near the 2800 Block on North Ocean Boulevard in Gulfstream, Florida. Eight bicyclists were rushed and air-lifted to the hospital after a 77-year-old woman hit the group with a 2020 Kia Soul  while going South. One rider  is in a coma, and two are still in critical condition. Video footage from a camera belonging to the cyclist at the front of the group, shows the car entering the opposite lane of the two lane road and hitting the group of cyclists  head on in the early morning. The woman is not yet identified, and it is unsure why she crossed the solid line into the cyclists. 

This accident has shaken many cyclists in South Florida, as it is following the death of Boca Raton cyclist Longuino Amaral Jr. back in late April of 2023. Amaral Jr. was killed from a hit-and-run in Pompano Beach. 

Every year, about 6,400 bike accidents happen in Florida. The majority of these accidents result in fatalities. Florida does have a bike law that specifically allows cyclists to ride on the right side of the road, especially if there is no designated bike lane as stated in Section 316.2065(5) of the Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide. Additionally, all cyclists are required to have a rear red reflector and front white light on their bikes. 

What is Cycling?

Many of the cyclists in Florida who ride for sport typically ride in groups of ten or more cyclists. Some groups have group names with similar outfits, which are called “kits,” and others join together during rides, like Boca Tour. Cyclists might choose to ride in groups in order for better aerodynamic advantage and more motivation to push themselves physically, but others may choose to ride alone or in small groups. This is because if a cyclist falls in a large group, more people are likely to fall down and get hurt, rather than if one goes down by themselves. 

Cycling is a very popular sport in South Florida. There is beautiful weather, scenic views, and A1A, which is a long road along the beach. A1A happens to be a popular ride for many cyclists, and most typically head out for a ride in the early morning for cooler weather and less traffic. 

What Controversy?

For this one group of cyclists however, their ride was cut short due to tragic circumstances. Yet, the accident has raised controversial questions among certain news sites and citizens. BocaNewsNow speaks on the incident of the “herd bicyclists,”the term BocaNewsNow gave to the group, in the article “BAD BOCA BICYCLISTS,” stating they “are being inundated with messages from South Palm Beach County drivers who say bicyclists need to be brought under control.” This comes after the news station asked for South Palm Beach residents to post images of bicyclists behaving badly. One woman, as they mention, says “These spandex-clad herds take over…[and] expect everyone else to yield. Why don’t they ride in safe places?” 

Following the information on the incident, Andrew Colton, the writer of said article, focuses on the Florida law allowing bicyclists to ride on roads without a bike lane, comparing it by saying, “But Florida law also permits people to jump out of an airplane without a parachute.” 

In a separate article by Andrew Colton, including the later released video of a Garmin camera from one of the cyclists, additional questions were asked such as: “Were they traveling at the speed of traffic — a requirement under Florida law — or were they moving at a slower pace which could have confused the driver of the oncoming vehicle?” and “We also don’t know if a vehicle behind the bicycles could have attempted to pass the bicyclists, riding into the oncoming lane — leading the SUV driver to attempt to avoid a head-on collision by moving into the bikes.”

In response to the first question, within Chapter 316 of the Motor Vehicles Title (23) in the The 2023 Florida Statutes, “Persons riding two abreast may not impede traffic when traveling at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing.” Given that at 6:50 AM, only one car was seen passing on the opposing lane, the notion that the cyclists were “moving at a slower pace” than the rest of traffic proves to be insignificant as there was no general traffic, especially as the riding group averages speeds of 19-25 mph, according to a member of said cyclist group.

Garmin Video Footage of Car hitting Cyclist Group head on (Anonymous )

The video, captured on a Garmin camera from the rear of one bike, shows the group of cyclists in rows of two riding at 6:50 AM before the Kia smashes into the group at a fast pace before finally slowing down. Before the crash, the video clearly shows a different car passing by, staying in the correct lane while also demonstrating the adequate space the cyclists left for motor vehicles. There was no footage of a car attempting to enter the opposite lane in order to pass the group of cyclists within the first 33 seconds on the video. The graphic video shows multiple cyclists getting thrown from their bike, flying from the front of the car. 

The absurdity of blame placing has even been commented on by a Los Angeles based Bike newspaper, stating in response to the article by BocaNewsNow, “Although a much better question would be whether elderly drivers who can’t confine themselves to the right side of the roadway should be allowed on them. And maybe someone could assure them that [cyclists] are all quite aware that cars are bigger than we are, and they hurt.”

Jeremey Pritchet, a cyclist and friend of those injured was interviewed by WPTV, saying “When you’re in a car and there’s a bike rider, if the bike hits your car, they are not going to hurt you. But if the car hits a bike rider, the chances are they could kill that person.”

A GoFundMe flyer for the hospital bills of the cyclists that were injured during the accident

The Florida Highway Patrol and the Gulf Stream Police Department have released little information about the driver and whether she will be charged or not. Instead, more focus has been placed on bike safety and creating a wider bike path on AIA. 

While the bike path should be extended for more safety for all bike riders, and drivers should continue to be educated on the importance of remaining safe when sharing the roads, it should not be the main focus of this investigation. And, there certainly should not be any placement of blame or insensitive comments made against injured members of our own community. What happened was a terrible car accident resulting in the horrible injuries of eight people, not a misstep by the cyclists. 

If you find yourself driving near a group of cyclists, remember to yield and go with the flow of traffic. Everyone wants to make it home safe.

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About the Contributor
Sofia Sierra, Reporter
Hii, my name is Sofia Sierra and I am a junior here at West Boca. This is my second year on The Bullseye where I plan on writing entertainment and current event pieces. I am the president of West Boca’s Film Club and am on the soccer team and the track and field team. Outside of school, I volunteer at Sugar Sand Park, paint, play video games, and watch movies. I enjoy spending time with my loved ones, playing with my dogs, and traveling. In the future I hope to make big advances in science as a researcher and psychologist. 
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  • M

    mirsaJan 25, 2024 at 8:41 am

    Thanks for writing on this topic.

    Please also note that the statute you cite 316.2065 (5)(a)
    specifically lists exceptions to occupying the right side of the lane “as far right as practicable”
    one of which are substandard width lanes.
    most lanes here are less than 14′
    1 cyclist traveling on a1a requires that drivers approaching from behind would need to change lanes to pass even one cyclist occupying that full lane. 2 abreast would be no different than 1 single cyclist as a driver needs to change lanes to pass legally and safely.

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  • P

    Phillip GoodwinJan 15, 2024 at 4:39 pm

    As a cyclist who has ridden through Gulf Shores hundreds of times, usually in small groups, but sometimes alone, I agree with the sentiments expressed in this article. The video shows that the 8 cyclists had lights and were cycling consistently and in a safe manner at just a speed of just over 20mph (in a 35mph zone). No vehicles attempted to pass from the rear or were behind the cyclists at the time of the accident. Victim-blaming because some people have encountered other cyclists behaving badly is inappropriate. It is true that the relatively short section of A1A through Gulf Shores must be the narrowest section between Palm Beach Inlet and Ft Lauderdale. All road users need to use more caution there. But the proposed road improvements would have done nothing to prevent a vehicle suddenly veering across the road into oncoming road-users. Hopefully, we will eventually find out whether this was due to a driver medical incident, driver impairment, driver distraction or something else.

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