Rules of the Road: Bike & Pedestrian Safety
New Florida Bike Law in Effect
New bicycle regulations went into effect in the state of Florida on July 1, 2021. The bill addresses issues relating to bicycle and pedestrian safety. These new regulations apply to all bicyclists and include how bicyclists ride on City streets. Visit www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2021/950 to learn more about the new regulations.
- No Passing Zones: Allowing motorists to safely and briefly drive to the left over double yellow lines to pass cyclists with a minimum of 3 feet passing distance.
- Prevent Right-Hook Crashes: When passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction, use your turn signal and make the right turn only if the bicycle is at least 20 feet from the intersection and you can safely make the turn.
- Cyclists Turning Left: A person riding a bicycle and intending to turn left at an intersection is entitled to use the full use of the lane. The cyclist must approach the turn as close as practicable to the right edge of the roadway.
- Single File with No Bike Lane: Bicyclists must ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.
- Riding Single File vs Abreast: If the bicycle lane is too narrow to accommodate two abreast, the cyclists must ride single file. If the lane is wide enough, cyclists may ride two abreast.
- Riding More Than Two Abreast: Cyclists may only ride more than two abreast if riding on a bicycle path.
- Bicycle Overtaking Bicycle in Bike Lane: Bicyclists can pass other bicyclists by safely moving into the roadway, passing and returning to the bike lane.
- Cyclists at Stop Signs: As a reminder, bicyclists on the roadway are expected to comply with traffic control devices. When stopping at a stop sign, people riding in bicycle groups may proceed through the stop sign in a group of up to 10, after coming to a full stop and obeying traffic laws. Motor vehicles must allow one such group to travel through the intersection before moving forward.
Please take the time to watch the video below explaining the new laws.
In Florida, a bicycle is legally defined as vehicle, and a person in control of a vehicle is a driver. Bicyclists have the same rights to the roadway, and must obey the same traffic laws as the operators of motor vehicles, along with special regulations for bicycles.
- Obey all traffic controls and signals.
- On all roadways ride as close as practical to the right-hand curb or edge of roadway. Bicyclists should always ride with the flow of traffic.
Although bicyclists may legally ride on sidewalks in Boca Raton, this may not be the safest place to ride. In fact, the leading cause of bicycle crashes in Boca Raton is riding against traffic on the sidewalk. When riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks, a bicyclist has the same rights and duties as a pedestrian.
A bicyclist riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks must yield the right of way to pedestrians and must give an audible signal before passing.
- Bicyclists and passengers under the age of 16 must wear an approved bicycle helmet. Bicycle helmets manufactured since March 1999 are required to meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standard.
- Bicyclists must use a fixed, regular seat for riding.
- A bicycle may not be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed or equipped.
- An adult bicyclist may carry a child in a backpack or sling, child seat, or trailer designed to carry children; however, the bicyclist may not allow a passenger to remain in a child seat or carrier when not in immediate control of the bicycle.
- At least one hand must be kept on the handlebars while riding.
- Every bicycle must be equipped with a brake or brakes that allow the rider to stop within 25 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement.
Bicyclists are required to signal their intention to turn during the last 100 feet of travel prior to the turn. If both hands are needed for control, the signal need not be given continuously.
LEFT TURN: extend the left arm horizontally.
RIGHT TURN: extend the right arm horizontally OR extend the left hand and arm upward.
STOP OR SUDDENLY REDUCE SPEED: extend the left hand and arm downward.
The second leading cause of bicycle crashes in Boca Raton is riding against traffic. Riding against traffic removes a bicyclist from the normal scanning pattern of other vehicle operators. Also, the reaction times of both the motorist and the bicyclist approaching one another are cut dramatically. Ride on the right, as required by law, and prevent this crash from happening.
A person operating a bicycle on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic must ride as close as is safely practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except under any of the following situations:
- when passing another bicycle or other vehicle proceeding in the same direction;
- when preparing to make a left turn;
- when necessary to avoid any hazardous condition, including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked, or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or surface hazard; and
- where a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
A bicyclist operating on a one-way street with two or more traffic lanes may ride as close to the left hand edge of the roadway as practicable.
Comment: A white edge line is often marked to indicate the right edge of a roadway. On a roadway with curbs, the gutter area is not considered part of the roadway. A cyclist should avoid the gutter area; pavement joints or debris may be hazardous. On a road with flush paved shoulders, the right-hand edge of the roadway is the white line between the roadway and the shoulder. Since the roadway is “that portion of a highway...used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the berm or shoulder” (Section 316.003(42), F.S.), a bicycle driver is not required to ride on a paved shoulder, although he may prefer to do so. A cyclist who rides on a paved shoulder must still travel on the right (not against traffic) because this is the only practical way to comply with the requirement for a bicycle driver to obey all applicable traffic control devices. Traffic signs and signals are installed to face traffic traveling on the right.
Width and Road Position
- On roads with very narrow lanes, ride far enough from the edge to discourage dangerously close passing.
- On roads with wide lanes, riding just to the right of the stream of traffic will allow easy passing while reducing risks from turning or crossing traffic.
- Ride on the smooth pavement just to the left of any gravel, debris, or potholes.
- Always ride at least a door’s width from parked cars
Right turns: Approach for the right turn and turn are to be made as closely as practicable to the right-hand curb or the edge of the roadway.
Left turn - method A: A bicyclist intending to make a left turn is entitled to full use of the lane from which a driver may legally make a left turn. After scanning, signaling, and moving to the center of that lane, the bicyclist must check the traffic signal, if any, and proceed when it is green and safe to proceed.
Left turn - method B: Instead of making a left turn as a motorist does, a cyclist may proceed through the right-most portion of the intersection and turn as close to the curb or edge as practicable at the far side. Before proceeding in the new direction of travel, the bicyclist must comply with any official traffic control device.
Comment: When using this method to make a left turn, a cyclist should never swerve left from the far right corner. There are risks of conflict from several directions. The cyclist should stop at the far corner and walk to a point where traffic can be reentered safely.
Left turn - using crosswalks: At very busy intersections, cyclists may prefer to use crosswalks. However, cyclists must obey all signals, yield to pedestrians, and give an audible signal before passing (See Riding on Sidewalks).
Bicycles are prohibited on limited access roadways and interstate highways in Florida.
Bicyclists must not wear headsets, headphones, or other listening devices while riding. Hearing aids are the only exception. Wearing a headset blocks out important audible cues needed to detect the presence of other traffic.
Every driver of a vehicle (bicycle) has the responsibility to exercise care to avoid collisions with other vehicles and pedestrians and to operate that vehicle in a careful and prudent manner so as not to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person.
Bicycling at night is especially risky. Nearly 60% of all adult fatal bicycle crashes in Florida occur during twilight and night hours although less than 3% of bicycle use takes place at this time. Before riding at night every bicyclist should consider the extra risk.
Many factors compound the danger of riding at night, including:
- Motorists driving under the influence of alcohol;
- Motorists’ ability to see what is ahead is limited to the area illuminated by headlights. Visibility is further reduced by the glare from lights of oncoming cars;
- Roadways with motor vehicle speeds above 40 mph pose an extreme risk at night; and
- Red reflectors on the rear of a bicycle may be mistaken for reflectors on roadside mailboxes.
If you must ride at night, Florida law requires special equipment on bicycles ridden between sunset and sunrise:
- A bicycle must be equipped with a lamp on the front emitting a white light visible from 600 feet. Halogen lamps with rechargeable batteries are the best, but a generator light with a halogen bulb is an alternative.
- A bicycle must be equipped with a lamp on the rear emitting a red light visible from 600 feet.
Choosing the right clothing is also important. Light colors help, but retro-reflective vests and accessories make you the most visible. Dark colors are difficult to see.
When a car approaches from the rear at night, watch your shadow as it is cast by the headlights. If it moves to the right as the car nears, the driver has moved to the left to pass. If it is stationary, the driver has not detected you. Get out of the way!
If you don't already have a helmet, get one. Wear it every time you ride. Today's helmets are light, look good, and can save your life.
A helmet is a bargain in injury prevention, and wearing one whenever you ride protects your brain. That’s important if your head hits a hard surface like the road, the curb, or a car. A study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that helmet usage reduces the risk of head injury by 85% and brain injury by 88%. Riders under the age of 16 are required by law to wear a helmet, but all riders are urged to do so.
Wear a helmet that fits snugly but is not tight. Make sure that it has the CPSC sticker that shows it complies with standards established by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Your bicycle shop carries helmets in many colors and styles for both adults and children, and their assistance can be invaluable in the selection of the proper helmet.
You should be able to see the front edge of your helmet when you look up. It should be level, not tipped back, to protect your forehead. The neck strap should be snug, but not tight. Adjust the straps with the plastic slider: it should be just under your ear with no slack in the straps. Make sure your helmet is the right size, and if necessary, add interior pads to fine-tune the fit. Nobody expects to have a crash. It is essential you have head protection in case you are involved in one!