Bicycle Crashes Caused by Road Construction

Construction zones can be terrifying for cyclists. The pavement is often rough or broken. Space for cars, bicycles, and foot traffic may be very constrained. How do you make the work zone safe for cyclists?

Traffic safety during road construction cannot be an afterthought! There must be a maintenance or traffic plan prepared in advance. All legal users of the road, including cyclists and pedestrians, must be accommodated during road construction. State and local governments in Florida require that road construction contractors provide temporary traffic control in the construction work zone. Contractors must furnish, install, and maintain traffic control devices during the construction.

Here's FDOT's Maintenance of Traffic PDF manual.

They also must not create a safety hazard to any traffic during the work. Generally, temporary traffic control must comply with the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices and the Florida Department of Transportation Roadway Design Standards.

The road contractor is made responsible for selecting and placing proper temporary traffic signals and signs in the construction zone. The contractor must create a traffic control plan, prepare a proper initial set-up of the construction zone signs and markings, and perform regular inspections of the construction zone for adequate traffic flow, including pedestrian and bicycle movement.

Obstacles are needed to clear cyclists away from hazards.

The contractor must correct all construction deficiencies.

Many cities have their specific standards for maintenance of traffic during road construction. Here is Orlando, Florida's Temporary Traffic Control Guide.  Generally, in all road construction projects: 

  • Traffic and safety devices must be installed and maintained during the work.
  • Residents must have an adequate and safe accident for their homes and businesses.
  • All damage to existing pavement must be corrected.
  • Regular inspections of the worksite are needed for safety deficiencies.
  • Pedestrians and cyclists should be accommodated with safe, accessible travel paths around work sites. 

There are specific parts of a good traffic plan which should apply to cyclists: 

  • Cyclists must be given an advanced warning of the construction zone,
  • Cyclists and pedestrians should be separated for motor vehicles whenever possible,
  • Cyclists should be warned about surface irregularities 
Steel plates covering construction zone holes in road.
Steel plates on road covering holes can be extremely dangerous to cyclists.

In my 35-year career as a cycling law attorney, I have seen numerous examples of road construction sites that caused fellow bicyclists to crash. Here are a few:

  • Road contractor failed to inspect the construction site to determine that warning cones had disappeared,
  • Temporary steel plates were laid down over an excavation hole in the road, but there was a gap large enough between the plates for a bicycle wheel to fall into the gap,
  • The construction site was not illuminated at night and could not be seen by approaching cyclists.
  • Road contractor failed to warn of bumps in the construction zone.
  • Numerous road defects were poorly marked for months after a hurricane, and the signage was inadequately maintained. 

If you come across a dangerous road construction zone, you should report this to authorities. Photos should be provided, illustrating the hazardous condition. When accidents happen because of failure to maintain traffic in the construction zone, those at-fault must be held legally responsible. Please stay safe.