By Matt Walthour
It’s that time of year when the roads will start to get a bit busier with drivers from all over the world. It is important as a bicyclist that we know the rules of the road as much as the automobile drivers. With all the new bike paths and multi-use sidewalks that have been installed on Marco Island over the past few years, it has become a lot safer to cycle but we still have rules and laws that must be followed. Below are some Florida laws regarding bicycling.
First and most important, according to Florida law, bicycles are considered motor vehicles under (Sections 316.003(2), (10) and 316.2065(1), F.S.)
1) A bicycle is classified as a vehicle. A person in control of a vehicle on a street or highway is a driver. As a driver, a cyclist must follow the traffic rules common to all drivers. As the driver of a bicycle, he must also obey regulations adopted specially for bicycles. A person riding a bicycle has all the rights applicable to any driver, except as to special regulations for bicycles. This means obeying all traffic signals, stop signs, lights, yields, etc.
2) A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.
3) Riding on sidewalks: Since a cyclist riding on a sidewalk does not have the duties (or rights) of a driver, he may ride in either direction. (However, it is safer to ride in the direction of traffic, since drivers do not expect cyclists to come from the other direction at driveways and crosswalks. Crash risk is three to four times as great for sidewalk riders who ride facing roadway traffic as for sidewalk riders who ride in the direction of traffic.) BUT, a person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.
4) Driving on right side of roadway (Section 316.081, F.S.) Upon all roadways of sufficient width, a vehicle (bicycle) shall be driven on the right half of the roadway. It is illegal to drive opposite vehicular traffic.
5) A bicycle operated between sunset and sunrise must be equipped with a lamp on the front exhibiting a white light visible from 500 feet to the front and both a red reflector and a lamp on the rear exhibiting a red light visible from 600 feet to the rear.
6) A bicycle rider or passenger under 16 years of age must wear a bicycle helmet that is properly fitted, fastened securely, and meets a nationally recognized standard. I suggest everyone wear a helmet, nowadays they are very lightweight and have many vents for cooling. The average, careful bike rider may still crash about every 4,500 miles. Head injuries cause 75% of our 700 annual bicycle deaths. Medical research shows that bike helmets can prevent 85% of cyclists’ head injuries.
• Replace any helmet if you crash. It compromises the foam.
• Most manufacturers recommend replacement after five years.
7) HEADSET NOT TO BE WORN [§316.304] A cyclist may not wear a headset, headphone or listening device, other than a hearing aid, while riding.
8) Another law and also a nice gesture for motorists and fellow bicyclists, is using hand signals for making turns or stopping or even slowing down.
Before every ride you should check your bike for the following to be sure it is in safe riding condition.
• Tire pressure- the amount is listed on the side of your tires.
• Check tires for wear, cuts or debris. Worn tires may blow the tubes while riding.
• Check all brakes in proper working condition.
• Saddle at proper height and secure.
• Handlebar and stem secure.
• Spin wheels to be sure they are straight and tightened properly to frame of bicycle.
We highly suggest a bicycle tune up at least once a year depending on how much you ride, sometimes even more frequently.
To review and also add a few other safety features that may help in your safe riding experience:
• Mirrors- a handlebar, eyeglass or helmet-mounted mirror is helpful to see traffic or other drivers who may be approaching from behind.
• Some sort of bell or horn to alert other riders and/or pedestrians you are approaching.
• Always lock your bike.
• LIGHTS are required when riding at night.
• Helmets are required for those 16 and under, but SMART for all!
• Ride with traffic NOT against it.
• Check your bicycle prior to each ride.
• Use hand signals for making turns or stopping or even slowing down.
• DO NOT wear headphones.
A note to motorists: Please keep in mind the “three foot rule.” The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than three feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle.
Be safe, be smart and pedal on!!!
Matt Walthour, a Marco Island resident since 1985 is a graduate from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, and is the owner of Island Bike Shop and Scootertown on Marco Island and Naples. He is also a member of the Marco Island bike path ad-hoc committee.