Florida’s endless rays of sunshine and beautiful climate allow cyclists to hop on their bikes year-round, but sadly, riding your bicycle in Florida can be dangerous. Last year, U.S. News & World Report named Florida the third most dangerous state for cyclists. This state is ranked first per capita for bicycle accident fatalities.
To help prevent these fatalities and injuries, drivers, bicyclists, and communities must work together to decrease accident rates and severity. This starts with a basic understanding of Florida’s bicycle laws aimed both at drivers and bike riders. If you have been injured in a bicycle accident reach out to a Tampa bicycle accident attorney to get your consultation.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reports that in 2021 alone, there were6,403 bicycle accidents in Florida, leading to 198 fatalities across 3,465 accidents. In comparison, there were 5,948 bicycle accidents in the prior year, causing 169 fatalities.
Bicycle accidents and fatalities by county for last year were:
According to FLHSMV, bicycle accidents were under investigation as follows:
Considering these crucial numbers, it’s safe to reasonably assume that most bicycle accidents occurred on city streets and roads—not the highway, since local police departments and county sheriffs investigated most of Florida’s bicycle accidents.
Further, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), most bicycle accidents occur in urban areas (78 percent) as compared to rural areas (22 percent), and they happen between the evening hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Florida’s bicycle laws aim to keep motorists, passengers, and bicyclists safe. Florida law categorizes a bicycle as a vehicle and the bicyclist as a driver. They have the same rights to the road and must obey the same traffic laws as the motorists in other vehicles otherwise they can be sued for hitting a person on a bike.
These laws include:
With only one road, it’s up to bicyclists and motorists to treat each other with respect and care while out and about. Obeying the law is the foundation for this respect. The law encompasses the rules of movement that make all road users predictable to one another. This predictability is necessary for safety.
Under Florida Statutes, a bicyclist must:
Additionally, every bike must have brakes that permit the rider to stop on the dry, level, clean pavement within 25 feet of speed.
If riding on sidewalks or crosswalks, bicyclists have the same rights and duties as pedestrians. However, they must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and provide an audible signal before passing them.
Bicycles on the road between sunset and sunrise must have a lamp on the front giving off a white light visible from at least 500 feet to the front. They must also have both a red reflector and a lamp on the rear showing a red light visible from at least 600 feet to the rear. However, additional lighting is permitted and recommended by law to help increase bicyclists’ safety.
A bicyclist who isn’t traveling at the same speed as other traffic must ride in a designated bike lane or as close as possible to the right side curb or edge of the roadway.
They must also ride on the right-most portion of the road in the following situations:
A bicyclist riding on a one-way street with two or more traffic lanes can ride as close to the left edge of the road as feasible.
Those riding bikes on a roadway cannot ride more than two beside each other except on areas of the road set aside only for bicycles. Cyclists riding side by side aren’t allowed to impede traffic when traveling at less than the regular traffic speed at the time and place and under existing conditions and shall ride within a single lane.
A cyclist who wants to make a left turn should be allowed full use of the lane they are turning from. After looking, signaling, and moving to the center of their lane, the cyclist should check the traffic signal, pulling onto the road when the light is green and the traffic conditions are safe.
In addition, Florida bicyclists may go through the portion of the intersection on the far right and turn as close to the curb or edge as they can on the far side. The bicyclist can travel in a new direction after complying with applicable traffic control devices.
The bicyclists must signal that they are turning at least 100 feet before doing so. If a bicyclist needs both hands to control their bike, the signal doesn’t need to happen at the same time. By law, they can signal a turn right by either extending the left hand and arm upward or by extending the right hand and arm horizontally to the right side of the bicycle.
A bicyclist cannot wear a headset, headphones, or other listening devices other than a hearing aid when riding a bicycle on public roads. Wearing a headset of any kind can block out essential audio clues necessary to determine the presence of other traffic.
No one can ride a bicycle on an interstate highway or a limited access facility.
Local governments of Florida counties, towns, cities, and other municipalities can adopt ordinances regulating bicycle riding. Some places might have ordinances requiring registration and licensing. Others might prohibit sidewalk riding entirely or in areas such as business districts. You can obtain copies of local ordinances from local law enforcement.
When breaking the law, bicycle riders can commit either:
Since Florida law considers a bicycle a vehicle, it has all of the rights, responsibilities, and privileges to utilize the roadway as a motor vehicle does. This means that bicyclists on public roads (not including expressways) have nearly identical rights and responsibilities as drivers of motorized vehicles.
Therefore, everyone should respect cyclists’ right-of-way because they can share the road with other drivers. Unlike motorists, bicyclists may also operate on sidewalks (except if prohibited by local ordinances), but they are required to yield to pedestrians on sidewalks and crosswalks.
It’s not illegal to ride against traffic flow in the adjacent traffic lane on a sidewalk. However, it’s not ideal as it puts bicyclists where motorists enter or leave the roadway at driveways and intersections. It’s here that they don’t expect wheeled traffic. Additionally, since cyclists generally travel faster than pedestrians, struggles between motorists and sidewalk riders at driveways and intersection crosswalks can quickly develop.
Keeping Florida’s roadways safe for both motorists and bicyclists is a two-way street; it’s everyone’s responsibility. Motorists should expect to find a bicyclist on all types of roads (except interstate highways where they are illegal), including all roundabouts and intersections, in all weather conditions, and at any time of the day or night.
Bicyclists may ride out of the bike lane in the travel lane for safety’s sake on narrow roads, to avoid hitting obstacles or pavement hazards, or because they are preparing to turn left. On streets that don’t have shoulders, or if vehicles are parked along the right side, sometimes the safest place for a cyclist is in the center of the lane.
They can use the entire lane even while riding much below the traffic speed if the lane is too narrow for a vehicle to pass a bicycle within the same lane safely. Florida’s travel lanes typically range from 10 feet to 12 feet wide.
However, a 14-foot lane is safe for sharing with most motor vehicles.
If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a bicycle accident, don’t hesitate to call an experienced attorney who can help. While Florida’s bicycle laws can sometimes be complex or confusing, all motorists owe cyclists courtesy and respect.
These laws are in place to keep everyone safely sharing the roadways. Causing an accident is unacceptable and almost always makes the driver liable for the bicyclist’s injuries and damages. Learn more about your rights after a bicycle accident by seeking professional legal help today.
A bicycle accident lawyer near you can review what happened, who might be responsible for your losses, and more. Then, they can handle every step of your claim, from investigation to compensation. Contact us at Boohoff Law to get started on your consultation.