Basic Rules of the Road for Bicycle Safety
Every privilege comes with a set of responsibilities, and owning a vehicle is no different. When you have the privilege of owning a vehicle, there are certain responsibilities you need to assume. Because of these rules, many bicycle owners find themselves wondering whether their bike legally qualifies as a vehicle in Florida, and the answer is yes. When both of these quite different modes of transportation share the road together, it is important that they treat each other with respect. Being mindful of each other’s safety can help prevent an unfortunate personal injury case from being born. Some ways that drivers of traditional vehicles can respect bicyclists’ rights and safety include:
- Being mindful of the susceptibility of bicyclists
Even though bicyclists in Florida have the same rights to the road, it is no secret that their vehicles do not offer the same levels of protection. The average car weights two tons, while the average bike is only twenty pounds. This lack of extra protection is reflected in the safety of the average bike. In fact, nationwide, you are more than twice as likely to die while riding a bike than while riding in a car per trip, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist Laurie Beck. Furthermore, bike riding is about 500 times more fatal than riding a bus. Both bus and traditional vehicle drivers alike should remember that bicyclists are not offered the same protections they are, and be careful around them.
- Being aware of twists, blind spots, and turns, especially left turns
Another consequence of bikes being substantially smaller than traditional vehicles is that they are more difficult for traditional vehicles to see. Drivers would do well to look carefully for bicycles before turning, especially when turning left. This is because when a driver trying to make a turn notices an oncoming bicyclist, it is easy to assume that the driver has enough time to complete the turn. However, it is often difficult to accurately predict how fast a bike might be going. It is common for bikes to get up to 15 or 20 mph speeds, and this can lead to collisions if the driver on the road is not aware of their speed.
- Watching out for bicyclist’s hand positions
Not only are bicycles smaller than cars, but they are also lacking the technologies that allow for communication between vehicles, like turn signals. For this reason, bicyclists have certain forms of communication that allow them to let motorists know where they plan to turn. This protects both the bicyclists and the motors on the road. For example, when bicyclists would like to communicate that they plan to turn left, they will fully extend their left arm out to the side. If they would like to communicate that they plan to turn right, they will fully extend their right arm out to the side or bend the arm up at a right angle. To show that they are slowing or stopping, a bicyclist might extend their left arm out at a right angle with their hand open.
- Giving cyclists three feet of space
This recommendation is not only polite, but it is actually Florida law. Florida law requires that motorists give cyclists a minimum of three feet of clearance in order to reduce their speed. In the same way, when passing a bicyclist, motorists should do so as if the bicyclist was a slow moving vehicle because that is essentially what it is.
Bicycles have the same rights to the roadways as other drivers, but this also means they have to obey the same traffic laws. Whether you are driving a small bicycle or a huge truck, there are some basic rules every driver needs to know. Some basic traffic laws in Florida include:
- Train crossing rules
In Florida, when you stop at a train, you should stop at least 15 feet from the track, which gives you a safe distance from the overhang of any of the freight cars that hit your car and drag it after the train.
- School bus stops
If the school bus has stopped on the road, it is necessary to stop when traveling in the same direction as the school bus. If you are traveling in the opposite direction on the other side of a divided highway and there is an unpaved space of at least five feet, a raised median, or a physical barrier, then there is no need to stop. In all other situations, it is necessary to stop.
- Stops for emergency vehicles
This is one of the most important courtesy rules of the road. When an emergency vehicle sounds near you, it is essential for those on the road to yield the right of way. This means that drivers must immediately position themselves as close as possible to the closest edge or curb of the highway free from the intersections, and they must stay there until the emergency vehicle has passed.
- Road work awareness
As a driver on the road in Florida, it is essential to be aware of existing road work and to be alert to the changes and interferences that occur during construction. Construction in Florida should be marked by pavement that does not extend past the paved area. It is also necessary for drivers to be aware of where the pavement is not in good shape.
- Children at play awareness
When navigating through a school zone, playground, a park, or any area where the speed limit is reduced to enhance the safety of children, it is essential to abide by those rules and to be aware of the children they aim to protect. This is true for all drivers on the road, no matter what type of vehicle they are in.
- Making sure to keep distance between vehicles
When riding your bicycle, it is important to leave a safe distance between the vehicles around you, just like you should with any other vehicle. This becomes especially important when riding a bicycle due to the lack of protection the vehicle offers and lack of visibility that other vehicles have for you. There is no official rule regarding this, but those riding bicycles would do well to stay at least five feet away from other vehicles. Remembering these basic rules will help prevent accidents and injuries from occurring.
No matter how safe you are on the road or what kind of vehicle you drive, all drivers are prone to accidents and the personal injury cases that arise from them. If you find yourself in this situation, call The Wiseman Law Firm at (407) 708-9127 or contact us online to find out how we can help fight for fair and full compensation.