Bicycle Built for Two

Our Bike for TwoYou could say Lorrie Delk Walker started it, but I think it is a discussion that will never end…

Bikers versus Motorists

Walker has been writing about her bike travels this past week. She’s had a morning bike ride, saved some money with an adventure in bike riding, and gave her input to the Community Development Department regarding biking in Lakeland.

I think her posts might have spurred Trish Samples to make a post over at Polk Voice:

Bicycle paths are wonderful and we need more of them, however all bikers should follow the law and ride single file in these paths. It is hard to drive the required distance from them when they ride side by side.I am referring to Lake Hollingsworth. Ride safely. — Bikers and the Law

I have an interest in biking Lakeland, and also travel Lake Hollingsworth Road as a driver. I thought this might be a good time to point out some applicable laws here in Florida.

Here’s the Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide (pdf).

The guide is aimed at law officials, but gives great advice to all motorists and bike riders. I thought this paragraph was especially important to remember:

In 70 percent of police-reported bicycle-motor vehicle crashes, the cyclists involved had violated traffic rules; in about 45 percent, motorists had violated the rules.

I think five rules are especially applicable in this discussion…

• “As a driver, a cyclist must follow the traffic rules common to all drivers. As the driver of a bicycle, he must also obey rules adopted specially for bicycles.”

• “A bicyclist riding on a sidewalk or crosswalk has the rights and duties of a pedestrian”

• “Upon all two-way roadways of sufficient width, a vehicle must be driven on the right half of the road-way”

• “A cyclist traveling in a bicycle lane, or in a lane wide enough for motor vehicles and bicycles to share (see “Roadway position” above) may pass motor vehicles on the right, but must take care to avoid turning vehicles.”

• “A cyclist riding on a sidewalk or crosswalk must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and must give an audible warning before passing”

That means: if you ride your bike on the road, you stop at stop signs, be careful if you pass on the right, don’t pass multiple cars on the right unless you’re in the bike lane, and generally don’t impede traffic. The last is especially important. Pretend you’re driving a Chevette instead of a bike, and move over to let the real cars pass.

If you ride on the sidewalk: you’re a second class citizen to the pedestrians. You’re allowed there, but it is really their turf.

If you have a bike lane available, use it. If you want to ride two abreast: that’s perfectly legal if you both fit in the lane. If one can’t you’re fine unless you impede traffic. Move in behind your friend and let the cars pass.

Now, I have a couple of points to make to my motor vehicle driving friends:

• “A cyclist intending to make a left turn is entitled to full use of the lane from which a driver may legally make a left turn.”

• “Except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic, or in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer or official traffic control device, no person shall stand or park a vehicle, whether occupied or not, in a bicycle lane, except momentarily to pick up or discharge a passenger or passengers. — Section 316.1945(1)(b)6, Florida Statues”

Yes, I can turn left from that lane, and no, you can’t park on the street if there is a bike lane.

Here’s a guide from the Florida Department of Transportation that offers more questions and answers: Traffic laws for bicyclists and motorists to know.

Previously on Lakeland Local:

Bike Lakeland, Oct. 24, 2006
A Tale of Two Solutions, Mar. 4, 2007
Making the Path, Oct. 24, 2007

Photo Illustration CC by Chuck Welch

Update: Fixed typo.