In the Florida Keys, many people ride bicycles for exercise, recreation and to get from place to place instead of driving a car. Unlike a car, however, there is no driving test required to ride a bicycle. Many of us learned to ride when we were children, but many people remain unaware of the requirements attached to riding a bike. And the consequences of making a mistake when riding a bike can be severe – many bicyclists are hit and seriously injured or killed. A bicycle offers virtually no protection during an accident, and bicyclists are often overlooked by motorized vehicle drivers who fail to see them. When you are riding a bike, it is wise to be a defensive driver. Keep a close eye on all other vehicles around you; be smart and be aware.
We have many bike paths throughout the Keys and bicyclists should use them whenever possible. This doesn’t mean you are entirely safe, however. There are many intersections where motor vehicles cross the bike path. Never assume a motor vehicle will stop for you. A motor vehicle driver may not see you coming. Keep a close eye out and be prepared for anything.
It is first and foremost important to know most of the same traffic laws that apply to cars traveling on a roadway also apply to bicycles traveling on a roadway. For instance:
- Under Florida law, directional signs on streets must be complied with by both motorized and by pedal powered vehicles. This means it is against the law, for instance, for a bicyclist to ride the wrong way on a one way street.
- Bicyclists must also obey other traffic signs and lights. A bicycle must come to a full stop at stop signs, and must stop at red lights until the light turns green. When a bicyclist is stopped at a stop sign or traffic light, he or she must wait in line with all the other vehicles that are stopped. Passing cars on the right hand side and riding to the front of the line is against the law.
- Bicycles, like cars, must yield the right of way to pedestrians in cross walks. If a bicyclist rides on the side walk, he or she must yield to pedestrians, and must give an audible warning signal when approaching from behind.
- Two people may not ride on a bicycle, unless the bike is made to carry two people. An adult may carry a small child in a backpack or sling or in a child seat properly fixed to the frame of the bicycle.
- After sunset, a bicyclist is required to have a white headlight on the front, visible from a distance of 500 feet. The bicycle must also have a red taillight or reflector visible from 600 feet away. Hand held flashlights do not count as headlights under the law.
Wear that Bike Helmet!
The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone that bicyclists under the age of 16 must wear a properly fitted and secured bicycle helmet which meets nationally recognized standards. A person found to be in violation of this law will receive a nonmoving traffic citation. This includes children riding in a trailer or semi-trailer attached to a bicycle. Adult riders are wise to also wear a helmet. They can protect your head in case you fall off your bike or are hit by a car.
The law also prohibits a bicycle from carrying more people than it was designed to carry. Passengers under four years old, weighing 40 pounds or less, must be secured in a carrier designed to hold a child that age and size to protect the child from moving.
Some other points to remember while riding a bike:
- Under Florida law, a bicyclist may not hang on to another moving vehicle while on a roadway.
- A bicyclist traveling at less than the normal speed of traffic should ride as close as possible to the right hand edge of the road.
- A bicyclist should keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times.
- Under Florida law, bicyclists may not ride more than two abreast on roadways.
- Bicycles are often hard to see, and riders must be extra careful to watch over their own safety. By the time someone else sees a bike, it is often too late.
- A bicyclist must not wear a headset, head phones or other listening devices (other than a hearing aid) when riding. Wearing such devices is against the law, and blocks out important sounds needed to detect the presence of other traffic.
If you are caught violating Florida law, the fines for moving traffic violations will apply and can be substantial.