Information on safe cycling in Florida

Don't ride without a helmet.
Don't ride against the traffic.
Always have a light front and rear at night
Courteousness to pedestrians on sidewalks.
Always carry your cell phone and ID with you on rides.
Ride with a buddy.
Wear cycling gloves.
Hydrate on those hot Florida days
Sunscreen on your arms and the back of your neck!!
Sunglasses to protect your sclera from nasty sun scarring.
Put air in your tires before your ride- saves your energy.
On long rides: drink before you're thirsty, snack before your hungry.
Don't trust that the driver sees you- s/he doesn't. Eye contact does not mean s/he won't run you over.
Don't ride drunk unless you are the back of tandem-You will get a ticket.
If the traffic is rush hour, stay on the sidewalk- cell phones can kill.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Lights, camera- and a stop from officer friendly

I received the following post to me on the Florida Bicycle website from Allen W. in Orlando:

"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!

J. Steele

Monday, November 8, 2010

4th Annual Bicyle Bash- just sublime.

Well, a good time was had by all.  Thanks to all the bicyclist that came out and signed up for the Newlsetter.  The initial issue is being compiled right now.   I listened to several of the local bike shops tell me about customers who come in at least once a week detailing some indignity, battery (that's a crime folks) or assault.  Many, many stories of law enforcement failing to do its job by just enforcing the laws on the books.  We may need new laws to get enforcers to enforce (?!?!)  Man, I hope not.  I also listened to a lot of cyclist telling "road warrior" stories about cars and intersections.
     Curiously, while listened to all the stories from the cyclists, shop owners, moms and dads, I heard no strories from any of the cyclist doing of any law violations.  I don't think they are hiding anything (we are all friends on the road) and I was listening and ask questions of the folks (don't bulls#*t an attorney).  I think, by and large, we cyclists obey the laws because we don't want to end up as hood ornaments.   Why do I keep hearing complaints about cyclists?   Well for one thing, we have tight clothes, flashy jerseys, cool sunglasses, cool looking bikes; we are saving gas, getting fit, enjoying the out doors, going to a fun place in a fun manner.   Who would not be jealous of a cyclist on a week day or weekend when the jealous person is going off to work or some other obligation?  I bet you've thought that: "Man, I wish I was on my wheels" when going past some solo rider who's passing you repeatedly on the bike lane, while you sit in traffic from light to light.    Too bad they don't realize we may be going to Home Depot, or the post office of FedEx Office or the grocery store or Target.. we just "aren't pollutin' while we're commutin."  Hence, the green eyed monster.   Now there are those screamers on bicycles.  I am not one of them, yet.   However, I have the luxury (?) of  staying away from the CO2 belchers myself, but I certainly can see the justification for the anger at cars when we get run off the road on our carbon fiber 700c tires or get whacked by a mirror (my last case).
     But let me just pause right here and say....
I just want to remind everyone, we are all ambassadors of cycling.  Pedestrians have the right of way on sidewalks. The overly polite woman who stops in the middle of the road and waves you through while you are obviously waiting  next to the crosswalk for her to go by is a road hazard.   Wave vigorously for her to go and make the people behind her like you in  your tight shorts/fancy sunglasses.  The more we are polite to the gas guzzlers, the more we have advocates when we need them.  Whether in a county Commission meeting or whether we are laying on the side of the road watching stars go around our head while 911 is being called.
     Law enforcement is also an ally who we can bring closer to our cause.   How many of you have hit another car and caused $7,000 damage with your bicycle?  How many have gone 55 in a 30 mph  or school zone?  How many of you have driven drunk up an  interstate ramp and gone backwards in a 70 mph lane hitting a mother and her kids killing them all?  No takers?  Right.  That's my point.  We are a very safe, low impact., easy to maintain community of vehicles.  That's right - vehicles. We are vehicles fully entitled to use of the roads here in the state of Florida.  However, we have also to obey ALL the traffic laws.  If you do, no ticket, less work for law enforcement officers.  They love you.   Law enforcement makes the same amount of money if they write or don't write ticket.  You cause work, you are not liked.  So, if you make a semi-stop at a stop sign and use your left hand to signal- law enforcement hasn't got a beef, neither does the driver behind you  or the one making the turn.  You're acting like a vehicle and legitimizing a bicycle on the road.   If you obey the laws, you will go a long way to getting the cycling community accepted as a segment of the folks who pay taxes for roads and have full rights to the use thereof.
  So, be kind.  Be an ambassador for your fellow cyclists, obey the laws, use your arm and signal.  Wear a helmet, encourage moms and dads to wear helmets, obey the traffic signals (except for those damn red lights that don't trip- but that's another post.)
J. Steele

"Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride." - President John F. Kennedy

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No safe place for the cyclist; we're always at fault.

I read today in the St. Petersburg Times about the young wife and mother who went to place a memorial on her cyclist husbands crash site only to have it run over by a truck while she was there.  The point?  The truck had run it over in a chevron.  That's a no-no.  No driving in the Chevrons.  Those are supposed to be safe havens for us.  Hmmm.   Was the reporter sympathetic, outraged, incensed even?  No.  He mentioned the deceased had been going against the traffic when he'd been killed.  Like that was an excuse to kill a cyclist.   I don't think so.