Under the law Motorists and Siblings have a lot in common

A review of the Florida Statutes governing how motorists interact with pedestrians and bicyclists has an over arching theme – cars and trucks are the biggest vehicles on the road and are responsible for watching out for the smaller vehicles and pedestrians.

If you are a motorist, it’s as if you are the oldest sibling and your parents expect you to watch out for your younger siblings (bicyclists, pedestrians) because you are the biggest. You may not like the arrangement, but it makes a certain amount of sense.

Let’s begin with speed. The law states that motorists must control their speed to avoid colliding with any other vehicle, person, or object in the road. Another statute says, “drivers shall exercise care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian or person on a human powered vehicle.” That means that motorists have a legal obligation to slow down according to the circumstances and make a concerted effort not to crash into bicyclists and pedestrians.

The “3’ to Pass” signs around Naples are not perpetuating a myth. Statute 316.083 states that a driver must pass a bicycle at a distance of not less than three feet.

Traffic signal lights have an interesting and rarely observed set of laws. On a green light vehicles must yield the right-of-way to other vehicles or pedestrians who are lawfully in an intersection or crosswalk. That means that even if you have the green light you have to stop and allow others to go.

A steady yellow light indicates “there is insufficient time for vehicles and pedestrians to cross the roadway before a red indication is shown.” Holy traffic ticket, Batman! I thought a yellow light means go faster!

On a red light vehicles must come to a stop before entering a crosswalk. AFTER stopping, a vehicle with a permitted right turn must yield to pedestrians crossing as directed by the signal. This is a particular problem at the corner of Goodlette-Frank Rd. and Fifth Avenue where tourists try to go back and forth between hotels, Tin City, and downtown.

Cars entering a roadway from a driveway, alley, parking lot and so one must stop before they cross the sidewalk or walking area; they must yield to bicycles, or wheelchairs, or pedestrians who are crossing the sidewalk in front of the car or who are in close enough proximity on the sidewalk to “constitute an immediate hazard.”

Lastly, there is a law for motorists that relates to a traffic jam that affects all vehicles and pedestrians in an intersection – think of the intersections on 5th Avenue South between 10th Street and 8th Street.

A motorist cannot enter an intersection or crosswalk unless there is enough room on the other side of the intersection or crosswalk for the vehicle to stop. In other words, as you inch along 5th Avenue it is against the law to block the crosswalk or the intersection. It creates a horribly dangerous situation for pedestrians trying to weave their way across the street on a legal walk sign.

It’s a new year. We urge all Naples residents –motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians – to obey the traffic laws, to use common sense, and to show mutual respect. Note to readers: You can find the Complete Florida Statues pertaining to motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians on the Naples Pathways Coalition website at www.naplespathways.org/helpful-links.

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 at www.naplespathways.org or contact Beth directly at bethbrainard@naplespathways.org.

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