Bicycle Laws in Florida

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bicycles are covered under Florida’s motor vehicle laws and we all need to know what is required, whether we are a cyclists, or drivers who will encounter them, or pedestrians.  We all share the use of the roads and should understand our rights and responsibilities.
 
The most important thing to understand is that bicycles are considered vehicles and are subject to the same duties as cars and other motor vehicles, except where a requirement is plainly not appropriate to a bicycle (such as seatbelts or airbags for example).  This means that a cyclist can be guilty of speeding, careless driving, drunk driving, leaving the scene of an accident and other violations usually thought of as applicable to motor vehicles and the penalties can be substantial.  Generally, if a law refers to vehicles—as opposed to motor vehicles—it will apply to bicycles too, and most Florida traffic laws refer to vehicles in general.
 
In addition, there are a number of regulations that apply to bicycles specifically.  Briefly summarized, these include:

  • The rider must sit on a seat attached to the bicycle—no standing or trick riding

  • A bicycle may not carry more passengers than it is designed for—no one on the handlebars

  • A child under 4 must be in a proper carrier, unless small enough to carry in a proper backpack or sling device

  • A rider or passenger under 16 must wear a proper bicycle helmet

  • A cyclist may not be pulled by a motor vehicle, unless on a proper trailer

  • A bicycle shall keep right on the roadway—traveling with traffic, not facing it as some believe

  • Cyclists may not travel more than two abreast and may not impede traffic

  • Bicycles used after dark must have a light on the front and a light and reflector on the rear

  • When riding on the sidewalk, a bicycle must yield to pedestrians and sound a horn or signal when passing a pedestrian

  • Every bicycle must have brakes

  • Thus, bicyclists have many rules to follow, just like cars and other motor vehicles.  Penalties and fines for violations can be expensive.

So too, a bicyclist may be responsible for causing an accident, whether he or she is the injured party or has injured someone else.  In theory, a bicyclist who violates the law could even cause a collision between cars and be responsible for the damage caused.  In most situations, however, the practical effect of a bicyclist’s negligence will be to reduce or nullify any chance he or she has to sue a motor vehicle driver for injuries.  That is, the bicyclist’s own fault will be held against him or her and could prevent recovery of damages and compensation.
 
The bottom line is that if you are a bicyclist, you need to be careful on the road and be sure to obey all laws and regulations just the same as you would as a driver of a motor vehicle.  It will keep you safer and it will help protect your legal rights.
 
If you have been involved in a bicycle accident and need help or advice, please call us.  We’ll be glad to discuss your rights with you.
Draper Law Office

3/1/2013

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