"I am a 60 year old bicycle commuter and regularly ride from my home to my place of business 10..7 miles one way. Approximately two-thirds of this commute is on Orlando city streets within bike lanes and one third is on public sidewalks or bike trails. Two miles of this commute is in a bike lane of Alafaya Trail, a heavy traffic arterial route between Highway 50 and University Blvd. in the vicinity of the University of Central Florida. I try to commute only in daylight but sometimes must travel in darkness.
I have had a number of instances in which automobiles fail to yield at intersections either failing to acknowledge the pedestrian crossing light while making a right had turn on red, or, when making a left turn on unprotected (right turn arrow) green light intersections failing to yield to oncoming bicycle traffic. These are common to most cyclists as are the "right hook" turns commonly encountered. I recognize my responsibility as a cyclist to be vigilant and avoid these road hazards.
To avoid these and other vehicular interactions of a debilitating kind I have taken the initiative to upgrade lights which I use during the daylight hours as well as night riding. At night I operate in accordance with Section 316.2065, F.S. with a constant burn illumination. During the day I have been using a flashing pattern to enhance the ability to get a driver's attention. These are high quality, bright, generation 3 LED lights similar to those used on emergency vehicles as secondary lights and not the small low intensity common bicycle lights. The response from vehicles has been good. I notice that many now see me coming at intersections where I had previously had issues. I view it as a positive benefit.
Yesterday, while riding home in daylight on a wide sidewalk portion of my route, a county sheriff's deputy hailed me from the roadway and told me to remove the taillight from my bicycle. He did not stop me or make any other comments. I believe he was reacting to the flashing light in regards to his perceived interpretation of the motor vehicle statutes regarding lighting. I do not fault his comments, however I would like an opinion. My thought is that Section 316.2065, F.S. encourages additional lights and visibility enhancements for cyclists. I should say that I have ridden past and been passed by many other officers with no issues. Still I try to set a good example for other bikers and aid motorists in any way possible and would appreciate a clarification."
Well, allow me to first cynically comment about the deputy's arrival: "Where are you when we need you? And why didn't you ticket that driver who just shaved the hair off my left forearm just now?" (Okay, that's out of my system. I would never actually say that to an officer/deputy guys.)
First, Florida law, specifically prohibits "vehicles" from having flashing lights unless they are making a turn or using the warning flasher (for a reason) or are law enforcement or Emergency vehicles (316.2397(7)). This means those nice flashing Blackburn, solar powered Fleas you have? They're illegal. Yep, so's any other flashing light. But Allen is on a sidewalk. Is he still a vehicle? This is the area known in the law as the infamous, well-know "gray area." It's in this area where the officer/deputy gets to draw the lines for citations depending on what kind of day she/he is having and what degree of jerk he thinks you are being.
Technically, legally we and our bicycles are vehicles. (316.2065(1)). Allen, has a right to be on the sidewalk, by implication from 316.2065(10), and he has all the rights and duties of a pedestrian. So...vehicle? pedestrian? What does officer friendly have the right to declare? No flashing lights and give you a pedestrian ticket most likely under 316.130? He could. Allen did the right thing obeying the nice deputy. Those folks do a job that can be very tough at times. Allen behaved in the manner that we need to convey to the non-riding public: a member of the reasonable, intelligent cycling community. So, likely he won't be getting that ticket ever. Write me, call me and get a legal opinion before you go against your local deputy.
Having said that, HOWEVER, if in another circumstance there's a question of safety, your safety, say for example in a very well-lit light congested area with lots of visual distractions where the sight of your bike is lost, be polite but firm about your lights with an officer. Tell him you are concerned about the very real possibility of getting hit. He certainly will agree with that and may caution you to not ride the road with the "big flashy thingy." I think Allen's lights, (though I haven't seen them) are probably a good idea and perhaps the deputy was "officious." Anything you can do to make yourself more visible and reduce the likelihood of not being seen is a good thing. The deputy may have an argument if Allen's light approximate an Apparent Magnitude of 1. Other than that, we may just have an officer with too much time on his hands.
Thanks for your questions Allen!