With over a dozen cyclist deaths in Hillsborough County so far this year, and being an amateur cyclist myself, I believe in taking personal responsibility for my own safety by being a defensive cyclist. Just as we drive cars defensively, lets ride our bike defensively. Here’s a refresher on the top ten list of Florida Bicycle Laws, most of which can be found in Section 316.2065, Florida Statutes at www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes.
1. When operated on a roadway, a bike is considered a “vehicle” and the cyclist is the “operator” of a vehicle. The cyclist must follow the same traffic rules as the operator of a vehicle as well as those rules applicable to a cyclist. However, when on a sidewalk, a cyclist is considered a “pedestrian”, and must follow the same rules as that of a pedestrian as well as those rules applicable to a cyclist.
2. Cyclists under the 16 years of age must wear a helmet. Fastened. Yes, it is a battle, but make your teens and ‘tweens wear them. In fact, should a child be injured in a cycling accident, Section 316.2065(19) provides that the failure of a parent to allow a child to ride without a helmet may be considered evidence of the negligence or contributory negligence of that parent.
3. When a roadway has a marked bike lane, cyclists must use it. If there is no marked bike lane, then the cyclist must ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb. Or if on a one-way street with two or more traffic lanes, ride as close to the left-hand edge as possible.
4. If riding between sunset and sunrise: cyclists must use a front light showing a white light which can be seen from at least 500 feet; and on the rear, a reflector showing a red light visible from at least 600 feet.
5. On a roadway, a cyclist must ride with traffic. Statistics show that riding the wrong way into oncoming traffic accounts for 15% of bike-vehicle collisions. It has to do with a vehicle driver not expecting traffic, whether bike or vehicle, to be approaching from the wrong direction.
6. However, when on a sidewalk, since a cyclist is considered a “pedestrian,” the cyclist can ride in either direction.
7. As when riding on a roadway, cyclists must follow traffic control signals, so when riding on a sidewalk, cyclists must obey pedestrian intersection crossing signals.
8. Cyclists cannot use earbuds, headphones or other listening devices, other than a hearing aid. Although not specified in the statutes, it could be argued that this includes a prohibition against the use of cell phones.
9. Cyclists cannot ride while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, just as the operator of a vehicle cannot do so. Further, open containers of alcoholic beverages are prohibited while riding.
10. Violations of Section 316.2065, Florida Statutes, are considered noncriminal traffic infractions, subject to a fine of up to $500.00.
Whether riding a bike, driving a vehicle, or walking on a sidewalk, we each have a duty to use reasonable care to prevent injury to others. Use the same reasonable care to prevent injury to ourselves by practicing defensive cycling.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011