Understanding Florida’s Bicycle Laws
Important Highlights & Guidelines on Lawful Cycling in The Sunshine State
Given the sunny skies and level ground, it is no surprise that bicycling is not only a favorite pastime in Florida but also an important mode of transportation for people all across our state.
When you hit the road on a bike in Florida, it’s important that you understand your legal rights and responsibilities. Likewise, drivers have a duty to safely share the roadways with the bikers around them.
The information below cannot take the place of legal advice from an attorney, nor does it intend to offer a comprehensive overview of Florida’s bicycle law. Rather, these bullets are but highlights and guidelines that should prove helpful the next time you take your pedal to the pavement.
Remember to always check for updates to state and local law — and to seek the advice of an attorney before making any decisions that could affect your rights under the law.
Bicycles Are Considered Vehicles Under Florida Law
One of the most commonly asked questions pertaining to Florida’s bicycle law is whether bikes are considered vehicles under Florida law. The answer is an absolute yes.
As a bicyclist, you have precisely the same right to use the roadway as any motorist, and that includes the right to expect safety and care from others as you bike in traffic lanes.
Of course, this also means that you have a duty to obey all of the same traffic rules and regulations too. These laws include stopping for stop signs and red lights, riding with the flow of traffic, using lights at night, and yielding the right-of-way when entering any road.
There is only one road, and it is up to bicyclists and motorists to treat each other with care and respect while sharing it. Strict adherence to the law is the foundation for this respect.
Bicycle Regulations: The Basic Rules
The following will outline some of the basic rules and regulations for operating a bike on a roadway under Florida’s bicycle law. For more, see Section 316.2065 in the Florida Statutes.
• Bicyclists must obey all traffic controls and signals.
• Bicyclists must use a fixed, regular seat for riding.
• The number of riders/passengers on any bicycle is limited to the maximum number for which the bike was designed.
• At least one hand must be kept on the handlebars at all times while riding.
• Generally speaking, parents and guardians have a responsibility to ensure that their children obey all the provisions of Florida’s bicycle law.
• Every bicycle must be equipped with a brake that is capable of stopping the bike within 25 feet (assuming a traveling speed of 10 miles per hour on dry, level, and clean pavement).
How to Lawfully Share the Roadway with Cars and Other Vehicles
While bicycles are generally considered vehicles just like cars, some special rules do apply for everyone’s mutual safety. Consider the following provisions:
• Bikers must ride as closely as possible to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. Exceptions exist in a few circumstances: when passing, when making a left turn, when necessary to avoid road hazards, when travelling the same speed as all the other traffic, or when a lane is too narrow to safely share with a car.
• A further caveat to the rule stated above applies when you’re on a one-way street that has at least two lanes. In that case, the bicycle may ride as close to the left-hand edge of the roadway as possible instead.
• If riding two abreast, riders must stay within a single lane. They must also avoid impeding traffic.
• Riding more than two abreast is never allowed except for on paths or parts of roadways that are exclusively designated for bicycle use.
Making Left Turns on a Bicycle in Florida
Making left turns in heavy traffic can be tricky for vehicles of any kind, including bicycles. In Florida, a bicyclist making a left turn is entitled to full use of the lane from which that turn is made. The biker may also proceed through the right-most portion of the intersection and turn as closely to the curb or edge as possible at the far side, then proceed in the new direction.
When making left turns on a bicycle in Florida, always remember to:
• Scan for traffic
• Signal your turn
• Move to the center of the lane
• Check traffic control devices / signage (including stop signs or red lights)
• Once you have a green light and it is safe to proceed, you may move ahead in the new direction.
For more, see Sections 316.151(1)(b),(c) in the Florida Statutes.
How to Signal a Right or Left Turn While Biking
Bicyclists are required to give a hand signal to other drivers within 100 feet before making a turn. This applies for both right and left turns. Remember, though: safety first. If you need both hands for control, the signal need not be given continuously.
The appropriate protocol for signaling a turn is as follows:
• Left Turn: Extend the left hand and arm horizontally to the left side of the bike.
• Right Turn: Extend the left hand and arm upward or Extend the right hand horizontally to the right side of the bike.
Lighting Requirements for Bicycles in Florida
Florida’s bicycle law requires the following lighting on any bicycle operated between sunset and sunrise:
• A lamp on the front of the bicycle. The lamp must project white light that can be seen from at least 500 feet away.
• A lamp on the rear of the bicycle. This lamp must project red light that can be seen from at least 600 feet away.
• A red reflector on the rear of the bicycle. The reflector must also exhibit red light that is visible from at least 600 feet away.
Additional lighting is permitted and highly recommended. For more, see Section 316.2065(7) in the Florida Statutes.
Is It Legal to Ride a Bike on a Sidewalk in Florida?
Even though bicycles are considered vehicles under Florida law and are allowed to ride on the road, some cyclists prefer to use sidewalks. Where sidewalks are available, they may provide greater safety or accessibility for bikers who are uncomfortable with roadways.
As a general matter, it is legal to ride a bike on a sidewalk in Florida. However, cyclists should note that as long as they are biking on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk, they have all the same responsibilities as pedestrians.
Additionally, the bicyclists must always yield the right-of-way to any other pedestrians while in a sidewalk or crosswalk. Bikers must also provide an audible signal before passing foot pedestrians.
Keep in mind that some city, county, or local governments within Florida may limit or altogether prohibit sidewalk riding in their perimeters. See the “Local Rules” section at the bottom of this page.
Is It Legal to Listen to Music or Wear a Headset While Biking in Florida?
Auditory distractions inhibit safe driving. When you can’t hear what’s going on around you, you might miss out on important clues of impending danger. Accordingly, Florida’s bicycle law prohibits the use of headphones, earbuds, headsets, and other listening devices while riding. An exception is made for hearing aids. For more, see Section 316.304 of the Florida Statutes.
Understanding the Legal Penalties for Bicycle Riders in Florida
Bicyclists who fail to comply with Florida’s bicycle law may face a number of consequences, most often in the form of civil penalties. These may include a fine of $60 for certain moving violations or $30 for certain non-moving violations.
Keep in mind that Florida’s bicycle laws are constantly updated and the penalties are subject to change. There are many potential penalties under Florida law. You can find a few of them outlined in State Statute Sections 318.18(1),(2),(3).
Additionally, operators of any vehicle (whether a bike, car, etc.) who violate the rules of the road may be deemed negligent and liable for civil damages in a personal injury lawsuit.
The Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act: Bicycle Hit and Runs
In July 2014, the Florida government enacted The Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act, which provides very severe penalties for any driver who leaves the scene of an accident that causes severe injury or death to another person. Unfortunately, bicyclists are often critically injured or killed in collisions with motor vehicles. This law encourages drivers to behave responsibly and to stay put after an accident until authorities can arrive.
What About Local Rules?
So far, we’ve only talked about statewide rules. But local governments (including cities, counties, towns, and municipalities) are allowed to adopt their own ordinances regulating bicycle riding. Some towns, for example, may have specific license and registration requirements for bicycles. Others may limit or prohibit sidewalk riding.
It’s always a good idea to contact your local governments and/or law enforcement agency to learn all of the applicable local ordinances in your area. Remember: you will be held accountable for these rules even if you aren’t aware of them.
Content Update: 3/12/2015
Updates provided by Kaire & Heffernan, LLC