by Beth Brainard,
Executive Director Naples Pathways Coalition
Motorists, before you blow a gasket; pedestrians, before you shout out directions; and bicyclists, before you exhibit a rude finger salute, PLEASE learn the traffic laws!
Knowledge of what is legal and what is not should do a great deal toward diffusing the considerable anger and frustration on the roadways and sidewalks.
LAWS FOR PEDESTRIANS
If there is a sidewalk, pedestrians must use it, and if they choose to walk in the street they are breaking the law.
In the state of Florida pedestrians must obey traffic signs and signals, which means if you cross at an intersection, say at 5th Avenue S and 8th Street, when the pedestrian signal is red – you are breaking the law.
Upon legally entering a crosswalk, pedestrians have the right of way over vehicles including bicycles. However, it is illegal for a pedestrian to suddenly move into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.
Pedestrians crossing the street at any point other than a marked crosswalk or intersection must yield to vehicles including
bicycles. It is illegal to cross a street diagonally, except where indicated by signals. In other words, jaywalk at your own peril.
LAWS FOR BICYCLISTS
In Florida it is legal for bicyclists to ride both on the street and on the sidewalk, and they have the option to choose. The exception is on sidewalks on 5th Avenue and 3rd Street S where City ordinances prohibit bicycles.
When riding on the street, bicyclists are obligated to follow the same laws as motorists, which includes obeying ALL traffic signals and signs.
A person riding a bike is entitled to the full use of the left turn lane.
Bicyclists may not ride more than two abreast, and may do so only within a single lane. If the bike is traveling at less than normal traffic speed, the riders may not impede traffic.
Lights on both the front and back of the bicycle are required and must be turned on between sunset and sunrise.
When riding on a sidewalk or crosswalk, bicyclists are obligated to follow the same laws as pedestrians, which includes obeying the traffic signals and signs. In addition, bicyclists on a sidewalk or crosswalk must yield to pedestrians.
Bicyclists must give an audible signal before overtaking and passing pedestrians. In other words, ring a bell or say “Passing on your left,” to warn the pedestrian of your approach.
It is illegal for bicyclists to wear headsets or earplugs (other than a hearing aid) while riding. Frankly, I feel this should extend to the use of mobile phones and be applicable to motorists and pedestrians as well.
CONFUSION ABOUT DIRECTION
Bicyclists riding in the street must ride with traffic, but pedestrians walking in the street must walk against traffic. Again, they can only walk in the street if there is not sidewalk.
Please remember that contrary to cultural tradition or what your mother taught you – bicyclists ride with traffic, pedestrians walk against traffic. It is safer. In fact, the number one cause of bicycle crashes and fatalities is bicyclists riding against traffic.
LAWS FOR MOTORISTS
When passing a bicycle, motorists must allow at least 3’ in between the car and the bicycle.
When exiting a driveway, cars must stop prior to driving onto a sidewalk, building entrance, or road and must yield to vehicles (that includes bicycles) or pedestrians crossing close enough to constitute a hazard.
At a red light, cars must make an initial stop before a crosswalk in an intersection, and yield to pedestrians (that includes bicycles if they are using the crosswalk). A signal of intent to turn is required for cars to be given continuously during the last 100 feet. (Bicyclists do not need to give a continuous signal.)
Please, let’s all get along.
Note to readers: If you want to learn more about bicycle and pedestrian laws you can find the Complete Florida Statutes text at: www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes. Look for Title XXlll, Chapter 316.