Sidewalk Maddness

Beth Brainard
Ex Director of NPC

Early one morning I was riding my bike and slowed down to enter a multi-use pathway. A pedestrian pointed his cell phone at me as if to take my picture and yelled, “You’re supposed to WALK your bike on the sidewalk.”

He was mistaken, but it was a good indicator that season is upon us and that a reminder for both pedestrians and bicyclists about laws pertaining to sidewalks might be helpful.

First and foremost, it is legal in Florida for bicyclists to ride on either the street or the sidewalk. When they ride on the sidewalk, they must give pedestrians the right of way.

Bicyclists are also obligated to give an audible signal if they pass a pedestrian. This usually takes the form of, “Good morning,”“Passing on your left,” or ringing a bike bell. Pedestrians who walk with earbuds grooving to the tunes relinquish the right to be surprised if they can’t hear a bicyclist’s audible.

Here’s a quick refresher on some other Florida laws that pertain to pedestrians and bicyclists on the sidewalk.


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.


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 like on 5th Avenue and 3rd Street S where City ordinances prohibit bicycles.

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 the right of way 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 earbuds (other than a hearing aid) while riding. Frankly, I feel this should extend to the use of mobile phones and be applicable to pedestrians as well.


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.


A little courtesy goes a long way. Here area few suggestions for making this season more pleasant.

If your group, whether on foot or bicycle, extends across the sidewalk, shrink it to let oncoming traffic pass. Whether you live here, visit briefly on vacation, or float in paradise for a few months while your neighbors freeze up north, obey traffic laws and signals. They pertain to YOU.

Cyclists, don’t sneak up on people or whiz by them at thecspeed of light without sounding your bell or giving an audible warning. Curb your speed around pedestrians and allow them time to move over before you pass.

Refrain from yelling (especially early in the morning) and rude gestures.

Let’s all get along.

Beth Brainard is the Executive Director of Naples Pathways Coalition (NPC), a non-profit organization that works to create safe, bikeable, walkable communities in Collier County.

For more information or to join, visit the NPC web site or contact Beth directly at

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