Staying Safe on Florida Road
Bicycling is a truly enjoyable form of recreation and exercise and a green, cost-effective means of transportation. Yet, motorists often treat cyclists as a nuisance and are careless or aggressive to cyclists on the road, often to a dangerous degree and with tragic consequences.
You should take caution to avoid traffic collisions by obeying the rules of the road, and understand your rights should an auto accident occur.
Obeying Traffic Laws
Bicycles on the roadway are considered vehicles under Florida laws and have the same rights and obligations as motorists. In addition to being a legal duty, obeying traffic signals also increases cyclists’ safety.
Just as in a car, when you ride a bike, you are responsible for:
- Riding with traffic
- Braking at red traffic lights and stop signs
- Yielding right-of-way when appropriate
- Turning left in designated turn lanes
- Signaling turns
Bicyclists are permitted to ride on the sidewalk instead of the road. When riding on the sidewalk, you have the same duties and rights you would as a pedestrian. However, you must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and alert them before passing with an audible device, such as a bell or whistle.
Wearing a Helmet
Florida Statute requires children under the age of 16 to wear a Snell Memorial Foundation certified helmet while riding a bike. However, you should consider wearing a helmet, regardless of your age, to protect your head from injury should a traffic accident occur.
In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that bicycle helmet use reduces brain injury risk by 85 percent. Considering that two percent of auto accident fatalities are to bicyclists and that most deaths result from head injuries, the IIHS makes a compelling case for wearing a helmet at any age.
Riding at Night
When riding at night, Florida law requires you to use a front white light that is visible at a distance of at least 500 feet and a red taillight that is visible at a distance of at least 600 feet. Bright clothing and reflectors on your clothes and bicycle can further increase your visibility to motorists.
Drivers are not permitted to type or read a text message, email, instant message or other wireless communication while operating a motor vehicle in Florida. Unfortunately, this law is often ignored. According to Distraction.gov 660,000 drivers are using electronic devices while driving at any given moment during the day in the United States. This means their eyes are not on the road for the average of five seconds that it takes to text.
You cannot control the distractions of motorists, but you can avoid your own distractions, including:
- Texting while riding
- Talking on the phone
- Listening to music (wearing earphones, a headset or other listening equipment, except a hearing aid, is prohibited under Florida Statute)
Bike Safely in Florida
Jason L. Gunter is an Ironman triathlete and an avid cyclist who advocates for cycling safety. If you sustained injuries in a bicycle accident, call our personal injury law firm at 239-334-7017 or contact us online to for a free claim evaluation.