From Jimmy John’s employees to elementary school students, cycling is a way of life for many locals.

But is it safe?

Florida came second only to California in the most bicycle deaths in the U.S. with 329 accidents, just nine shy of the top spot, according to a Governors Highway Safety Association report this week. 

With seven traffic cops on the road at any given time, Gainesville Police spokesman Officer Ben Tobias said GPD follows state bicycle laws and constantly takes cyclists into account.

Florida also ranked highest for most motor vehicle-related cyclist deaths at 5 percent nationally.

“We try to take as much enforcement to bicycle law as much as we can,” Tobias said.

One reason Floridians bike more often is the state’s weather, said Dakova Batey, Gainesville’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, adding that people travel here to cycle too. He credited distracted driving, visibility and lack of bicycle safety education as the main causes of accidents.

“During peak traffic times, certain street signal signs indicate ‘no right turn on red’ to lessen collision with cyclists,” Batey said, as drivers not checking for cyclists during right turns is also a leading cause of collisions.

UF cycling team member Holly Beard, 23, said preventing accidents can only do so much.

“If you don’t know proper bike safety, you can get into a sticky situation,” said Beard.

More than two thirds of fatally injured cyclists were not wearing helmets, the report said. Also more than a quarter of bicycle-related deaths involved cyclists who were under the influence of alcohol.

As a result of increasing bicycle-related accidents, Gainesville began establishing bike boulevards.

One of these is located on West 12th Street, which starts across from Gainesville High School; cyclists can utilize this painted path to avoid heavy vehicle traffic on Northwest 13th Street.

Batey said Alachua County’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Board also launched a campaign called Share the Road encouraging everyone to be aware of each other.

“The road is not for one type of user,” Batey said.

[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 10/29/2014]

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