by Beth Brainard
Executive Director of NPC
If you want to ignite a cocktail party conversation, bring up bicyclists.
Everyone has an opinion, but there is a lot of confusion about what is legal and what is not for Florida bicyclists.
Test you knowledge of the laws with this quiz
WHAT’S LEGAL WHAT’S NOT BICYCLE QUIZ
Answer True or False.
- Florida leads the nation in bicycle and pedestrian crashes and fatalities.
- It is illegal for bicycles to ride on the street.
- It is illegal for bicycles to ride on the sidewalk.
- Bicyclists are supposed to ride against traffic.
- Bicyclists have the right of way over pedestrians.
- Motorists must give a minimum of 3 feet of space when passing a cyclist.
- When bicycles are ridden on the street they are subject to the same laws as motor vehicles.
- It is illegal for bicyclists to ride more than two abreast.
- It is illegal for bicyclists to wear headphones or earplugs while riding.
- Bicyclists must give an audible signal before overtaking and passing pedestrians.
- Texting while driving is punishable as a serious, primary traffic offense.
See how well you did.
- True. Florida is #1 in the nation in bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and crashes for a number of reasons, among them: lack of connectivity of sidewalks, lack of multi-use pathways, overabundance of high speed roadways designed with only cars in mind, and lenient penalties for motorists who injure bicyclists.
- False. In Florida it is legal for bicycles to ride on the street. When they do, they must obey the same traffic laws as motorized vehicles.
- False. In Florida it is legal for bicycles to ride on the sidewalk, except where there are specific ordinances prohibiting it. In Naples, bicycles are not permitted to be ridden on the sidewalks on Fifth Avenue S and 3rd Street S. When bicyclists ride on the sidewalks they are subject to the same laws as pedestrians.
- False. It is illegal for bicyclists to ride against traffic. This may seem counterintuitive, and it probably contradicts what your mother taught you, but statistics proved that riding against traffic is the #1 cause of traffic fatalities for bicyclists.
- False. Bicyclists must yield to pedestrians on all crossways. However, this does not hold true when the pedestrian breaks the law and crosses in the middle of a block or crosses when the crosswalk signal is red.
- True. It is the law that motorists must give a minimum of three feet of space when passing a cyclist. The fuzzy part of this law is whether the motorists is allowed to cross a double yellow line to pass the cyclist. There is pending legislation in the Florida House to clearly make it legal. In the meantime, if motorists think of bicycles as slow moving vehicles and treat them accordingly, the streets will be safer.
- True. Bicycles on the street are subject to the same traffic laws as motor vehicles. That means they are legally bound to obey traffic signals, stop at Stop signs, etc. This is an ongoing problem with large groups of sports cyclists who don’t want to stop for any reason and with vacationers who think they are in La-La Land. Naples Pathways Coalition is working on educating both groups.
- True. It is illegal for bicyclists to ride three or more abreast on a roadway. Again, this is an ongoing problem that can only be rectified when bicyclists either educate themselves or agree to respect the laws.
- True. It is illegal for bicyclists to wear headphones or earplugs while riding. This is also true for motorists. The simple reason is that you cannot hear or respond to what’s happening around you with Bob Marley wailing in your ear.
- True. Bicyclists are required by law to warn pedestrians before they overtake and pass them. They must give an audible signal, like ringing a bell or saying “Passing on your left.” Pedestrians wearing headsets or ear plugs who do not hear the bicyclist receive no sympathy. If you are not paying attention to your surroundings, you proceed at your own risk.
- False. Currently in Florida texting while driving is not legally a primary offense, which means that the police cannot stop a driver just for texting. It also means that the punishment is lenient for a texting driver who causes a crash, even though the incidences of both crashes and fatalities are mounting. Naples Pathways Coalition has made it a priority to promote legislation that will make texting while driving a primary offense.
My suggestion is that you take this quiz to the next cocktail party. Note to readers: You can find the Complete Florida Statues pertaining to bicyclists 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.