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A bicyclist’s recent death in Stuart is now placing the spotlight on biking safety at the Roosevelt Bridge-US 1 area.

On Monday morning (July 13), 19-year-old Austin Robert Gilliam, a resident of Port St. Lucie, was bicycling near Roosevelt Bridge and US 1 when a semi-truck hit and killed him. While Stuart police are still determining the cause of the collision, witnesses and other cyclists have voiced their concerns about the traffic risks in the vicinity of the accident.

Ryan St. Martin, a witness who works near the accident scene, said that he had seen several crashes in the area over the past year, but that Gilliam’s accident was “the worst.”

The accident risks at the location seem higher for bikers and cyclists. According to Kirk Wilstermann, vice president of the Treasure Coast Cycling Association, the area “is one of the more dangerous” for bike riders and that he personally avoids riding there.

Wilstermann pointed out that while the bridge has a bike lane, this lane ends at the foot of the bridge. This forces bicyclists to either go onto the sidewalk or merge into traffic when they re-enter US 1.

Even Stuart police have confirmed that the site is not very safe for those who are not in cars. Law enforcement says that speeding has been an issue among drivers crossing the bridge, and that the place has become increasingly risky for crossing pedestrians.

The police maintain, however, that they have improved their enforcement in the vicinity of the accident.

Meanwhile, Gilliam’s mother, Sandra Harrop, is still trying to come to terms with her son’s death. For her, it was highly unexpected for Gilliam to die in such an accident because he was “always careful.” Harrop also expressed her distress for other people on the roadway.

“There should be protection for the bikers and the walkers,” she said.

Unfortunately, tragic accidents like this are quite common in Florida. In fact, the state had the second most pedalcyclist fatalities in the US in 2012, according to the NHTSA’s latest data. That year, 5 percent of all deaths in Florida were of pedalcyclists, and it was the highest rate in the country.

Cyclists and bikers are naturally more at risk of getting seriously injured or killed when they get involved in an accident with another vehicle. Bikes do not offer protective measures such as metal cages, crumple zones, and seatbelts. Moreover, being smaller vehicles, bikes are harder to see on the road and are more likely to get into collisions. These reasons are why bike riders must take extra care when sharing the road with other vehicles.

We at DeBerard Injury Attorney convey our deepest sympathies to all those involved.