Stuart, FL, is a small town with a big bicycle safety problem. For its size, bicycle accidents in Stuart occur about ten times more often than it should.
There are no easy explanations for their bicycle safety issues, but Stuart and Martin County both have plans in place to try to improve the area’s bicycle infrastructure. By separating some of the bike traffic from vehicles, they hope to reduce the number of bicycle crashes.
Stuart Bicycle Accident Statistics
Florida has several platforms for reporting traffic statistics. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) releases an annual Crash Facts report with statewide statistics. The Crash Facts report also provides some statistics for Florida counties.
Florida additionally has a Crash Dashboard that provides state and county statistics, as well as a Traffic Safety Dashboard that gives traffic crash statistics for many individual police agencies. The Traffic Safety Dashboard also provides a crash map.
According to the Crash Dashboard, Stuart had 55 bicycle crashes in 2021. This was slightly higher than average for Stuart. In the preceding two years, Stuart had 48 and 53 bicycle crashes.
These crashes are extraordinarily high, considering Stuart’s population of about 17,500 residents. This is about 0.08% of Florida’s population, but Stuart has about 0.86% of Florida’s crashes. This means that it has over ten times as many bike crashes as you might expect based on its size.
Stuart should only have five bicycle crashes per year based on its share of Florida’s population, rather than the 55 reported by the Crash Dashboard. In other words, bicyclists in Stuart are ten times more likely to get into a bicycle crash than cyclists throughout the rest of Florida.
According to the Traffic Safety Dashboard, the most likely times for a bike accident to occur are weekday mornings. Only one-quarter of bike accidents happen on the weekend, and less than half happen after 6 p.m.
According to the Traffic Safety Dashboard, the most likely months for bicycle accidents in Stuart are May and September. The least likely months for bicycle accidents are June, July, and August. This makes sense since the summer months are usually too hot for most cyclists.
Bicycle Injuries and Deaths
This pattern holds for injuries and deaths from bicycle accidents. Since 2018, Stuart has had one to three bicyclists die each year in crashes, according to the Crash Facts report.
But based on its size, Stuart should only average about 0.16 fatalities per year — or, one cyclist fatality every five or six years. At its current pace, it has between five and ten times as many bicyclist deaths as it should have based on its population.
The Crash Facts report also lists 53 bike crash injuries for Stuart in 2021. Over 96% of bicycle accidents in Stuart result in an injury.
First of all, this reflects an extraordinarily high injury rate. Secondly, based on its share of Florida’s population, Stuart should average about 4.8 bicyclist injuries per year. With 53 injuries, Stuart has 11 times as many injuries as it should have.
If you ride your bike in Stuart, your odds of getting injured in a bicycle accident are 11 times higher than a cyclist elsewhere in Florida.
How Bicycle Accidents Happen
The Traffic Safety Dashboard gives several causes for bicycle accidents. 40% of bicycle accidents involving injury or death are caused by drivers over 65 years old, and the most common cause of bicycle accidents in Stuart is lane departures.
Putting these two pieces of information together, many bicycle accidents in Stuart happen when an aging driver drifts from their lane into a bicyclist. This could happen for many reasons, including poor directional control or visual problems.
Where Bicycle Accidents Happen in Stuart
Stuart has four hotspots for bicycle accidents. Three of these fall on US-1: the intersection of US-1 and FL-76/Kanner Highway, near Witham Field at the intersection of US-1 and FL-74/Monterey Road, and on US-1 near the shopping centers south of Witham Field. These three hotspots make US-1 the most dangerous road for bicyclists in Stuart.
The regular traffic congestion on US-1 only adds to this problem. Heavy traffic brings cars and bicycles together and reduces the space bicyclists have to ride safely. While US-1 has bike lanes, they are only marked with paint and do not have barriers to prevent cars from drifting into the bike lane.
The fourth hotspot for bicycle accidents is just east of US-1 on Salerno Road. This hotspot sits near a major intersection with gas stations, a shopping center, and offices nearby.
Bicycle Infrastructure in Stuart
Several major roads in Stuart have painted bike lanes, including US-1, Pomeroy Street, Indian Street, and Ocean Boulevard. Florida also allows bicyclists to ride on sidewalks, and several major roads that lack bike lanes have sidewalks for bike use.
Stuart has two major multi-modal trails. These trails do not permit motorized vehicles. Instead, they are designed for pedestrians and bicyclists. These trails run near Seabranch Preserve State Park and Savannas Preserve State Park.
Stuart also has a comprehensive master plan that outlines future projects for pedestrian and bicyclist safety. These plans include new bike lanes and sidewalks. In its most recent plan, Stuart did not have any new multi-modal trails on the drawing board.
Biking Safely in Stuart
Stuart clearly has a bike safety problem, but if you can stay away from US-1, you substantially reduce your chances of getting into a bike accident.
You can also watch for cars drifting into your lane and leave space to maneuver if they do. And, of course, you should always wear a bike helmet.
You can bicycle safely in Stuart. Just ride defensively, and try to avoid congested roads like US-1.