The state of Florida considers bicycles as vehicles, so all Florida bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles. Understanding Florida’s bicycle laws is an important way to reduce the chances of an accident and limit liability for bicycle accidents. Consider the following rules to reduce the chances of serious injuries from bicycle accidents.
- Bicyclists must move with the flow of traffic and keep to the right at all times wherever possible. If a bike lane is available, a cyclist should keep to the bike lane. A bicyclist should never ride in a bike lane or shoulder against the flow of traffic.
- Four-way intersections with stop signs follow a “first come, first served” rule, and this applies to bicyclists as well. If a driver stops at the intersection, then a bicyclist stops from a different direction, and a second driver stops at the intersection from another direction, the first vehicle passes through the intersection first, followed by the cyclist, then the second driver.
- Bicyclists must yield to traffic when entering a road from a cross street.
- When changing lanes, bicyclists must yield to overtaking traffic.
- Bicyclists must follow lane designations. This means turning in left or right turn only lanes instead of traveling straight. Failure to follow lane designations for turns can lead to severe accidents.
- Bicyclists traveling in bike lanes should merge left into the main flow of traffic to cross intersections. Crossing on or near the crosswalk is extremely dangerous and may cause accidents with pedestrians, or passing vehicles in the main flow of traffic may strike the cyclist.
- Bicyclists may use the full width of a lane even though bikes are much smaller than vehicles. It is never safe for a bicycle to ride abreast of another vehicle in the same lane. Cyclists that share lanes should only do so with the utmost care.
- Bicyclists in bike lanes should take care and stay alert for drivers in the main flow of traffic turning right. Once the light turns green, a turning driver may not notice a bicyclist in the adjacent bike lane and turn into the bike’s path.
- Some drivers find bicyclists in the road frustrating, and some may assume that cyclists do not have the right to travel in the main flow of traffic. It is vital for cyclists to stay defensive and refrain from escalating aggression on the road. If another driver honks or yells at a passing cyclist, it is best for the cyclist to ignore it and remain focused on safe riding.
- Helmets save lives. An appropriately fitted bicycle helmet can reduce the chance of a fatal brain injury in the event of a bicycle accident. Florida law only requires bicyclists under the age of 16 to wear helmets, but it is wise for riders of all ages to wear bicycle helmets.
- Florida allows bicyclists to ride on sidewalks, but they must do so carefully. A cyclist must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and give an audible warning to pedestrians when overtaking and passing, and a cyclist on the sidewalk has all the rights and responsibilities applicable to typical pedestrians.
- Bicyclists should always signal for turns and slowing down.
When bicycle accidents involving motor vehicles happen, the bicyclist usually suffers much worse injuries and damages than the driver. This does not mean the driver is automatically at fault for the accident, however. Florida follows a comparative negligence law, so the plaintiff in a bicycle accident case may bear some liability for the claimed accident if the jury finds that he or she was partially responsible for causing the accident. Anyone injured in a Florida bicycle accident should reach out to a personal injury attorney for legal counsel.