Feel like taking your bike to the sunshine state? Florida is a popular state to cycle in because there is plenty of sunshine, the roads are level and clear, and it’s a great way to get around, especially for the snowbirds and seniors who flock to the state. But like any other state, there are some bike laws in Florida to bear in mind before setting tires to pavement. What should you know about to stay on the right side of the law?
Bikes in Relation to Cars
Like most of the rest of the country, in Florida, bicycles are vehicles and as such, they have the same duties and obligations as cars and trucks. There is a push in the brochures, literature, and the law to remember that everyone must be careful when sharing the road. As a cyclist, you have the same right to use the road as any motorist, which means you also have the right to expect and give care when interacting with others. Cyclists also must obey the same traffic rules too, such as stopping the appropriate signage, riding with traffic, staying well lit and night and yielding the right-of-way when entering a road. These are the basics across most of the states and these are good practice anyway as adherence to these laws keeps you safe and other drivers safe.
Sharing the road with cars in Florida is mostly a matter of some common sense.
- Ride as close to the right as you can, unless passing, making a left turn, to avoid road hazards, if you happen to be traveling the same speed as everyone else, or if a lane is too narrow for safety. The exception to this is if you are a one-way street with at least two lanes. In this case, you can ride as close to the left edge as possible.
- You can ride two by two, but only if both of you will fit in a single lane and won’t impede traffic.
- You are not allowed to ride more than two by two unless the path or road is exclusive to bikes.
- When turning left, cyclists have the same obligations as drivers. You must keep an eye out for traffic and properly signal your intention to turn, then move to the center of the lane and turn left when prompted to and it’s safe.
- It is legal to ride on sidewalks, but while riding on a sidewalk, cyclists become pedestrians for the purposes of responsibilities. And the right of way must be yielded to other pedestrians. This can be overridden by city, county or local governments; if you are forbidden from riding on sidewalks in a town, that overrides the state law.
Otherwise, treat your bike the same way one would treat a car and you’ll be fine in most day to day situations.
Safety while Riding
Florida law is quite specific and careful when it comes to how one can ride safely. For example, in the 2017 Florida Statues, the very second statute (316.2065(2)), specifies that a person operating a bicycle may not ride on anything other than a permanently and regular seat attachment. A bike can also not be used to carry more people than there are appropriate seats except an adult rider can carry a child as long as the child is securely attached to the adult in a backpack or a sling. And any kid under the age of four or who weighs forty pounds or less has to be carried in a proper carrier or seat that will protect and secure the child.
In Florida, it is against the law to ride without a helmet if the rider is under the age of sixteen. We would still recommend it for anyone over the age of sixteen anyway! It’s also illegal to ride a bike while wearing earbuds, headphones, or any other device that impairs your ability to hear what’s going on around you.
The use of lights actually underwent some changes in 2012 (which is getting on a while ago now, but still bears some attention). Prior to 2012, lights on bikes could not flash, but after that, the regulations allowed for flashing lights. This is a money saver for riders because the old lights required many batteries and expense, whereas the flashing lights were easier to get. Now lamps have to be white in the front and visible to five hundred feet, and red light in the back, visible to six hundred feet. And you can wear even more lights if you like; there’s no limit.
Weirdly enough, in Florida, you don’t have to have a hand on the handlebars while you ride! But Florida did enact an act called The Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act which severely penalizes drivers who leave the scene of an accident which causes serious injury or death to another person. Florida also has vulnerable road user laws which protects people who are considered especially vulnerable when on the road. This includes people operating a bike, motorcycle, scooter, moped, farm tractors, skateboards, horse-drawn carriages, or animal; pedestrians, wheelchairs, or electric personal assistive mobility devices. So, you really can feel safe while riding because the law will heavily penalize those who do not act safely.
Electric Bikes in Florida
Florida does have some laws around electric bikes, but they are quite minimal and mostly overlaps with regular old bike laws. Here’s what to keep in mind, mainly around defining an electric or motorized bike.
- A bike which is propelled by a combination of human power and an electric motor that can propel the vehicle at a speed of twenty miles per hour or less on level ground can be defined as a motorized bike.
- Bikes with a gas helper motor are not legal.
- For now, electric bikes are lumped under regular bikes so far as the law goes, except that you cannot use a gas motor and the electric motor cannot move you more than twenty miles per hour.
The bike laws in Florida are standard when compared to bike laws in the rest of America. There are only a few quirks which make Florida different-things like not having to keep a hand on the handlebars and the fact that the electric bike laws aren’t really found here yet, but otherwise, Florida is standard. So, just be careful about riding with traffic and wearing your safety gear and you’ll be fine! Enjoy your ride.