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Florida Bicycle Laws: Top 10 Reasons to be a Defensive Cyclist

bicycle parked against a wall

With over 140 bicycle accidents 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, let’s ride our bike defensively. Here’s a refresher on the top ten list of Florida Bicycle Laws so that you can be a defensive cyclist.

Most of these law can be found in Section 316.2065, Florida Statutes at www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes.

1. The Law Considers Cyclists Vehicle Operators When on Roadways

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, the law considers a cyclist to be a “pedestrian.” As such, they must follow the same rules as that of a pedestrian as well as those rules applicable to a cyclist.

2. Cyclists 16 and Younger Must Wear a Helmet

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. Cyclists Must Use Marked Bike Lanes When Possible

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. Cyclists Must Use a Light in Low Visibility Conditions

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. Cyclists Must Ride With Traffic on Roadways

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. The Law Considers Cyclists Pedestrians When on Sidewalks

However, when on a sidewalk, since a cyclist is considered a “pedestrian,” the cyclist can ride in either direction.

7. Cyclists Must Obey Traffic Signs and Pedestrian Signals

As when riding on a roadway, cyclists must follow traffic control signals. Likewise, when riding on a sidewalk, cyclists must obey pedestrian intersection crossing signals.

8. Cyclists Can’t Use Earbuds While Cycling

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 Can’t Ride Under the Influence

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. Consequences for Violating These Statutes

Violations of Section 316.2065, Florida Statutes, are considered noncriminal traffic infractions, subject to a fine of up to $500.00.

Stay Safe While Cycling

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. If you have any further questions about how to be a defensive cyclist, then call our offices at (813) 915-1110 and we’ll be happy to speak with you.