With hundreds of miles of roads that traverse neighborhoods and rural area, Polk County is a mecca for bicycle enthusiasts. Children ride on streets near their homes while more experienced riders can be seen pedaling great distances.
Most area residents are familiar with the site of a procession of riders -- usually in bright-colored jerseys and riding lightweight bicycles -- enjoying our roadways. There is sometimes the momentary inconvenience of a motor vehicle driver stuck behind the bicyclists until reaching a safe place to pass.
Many of the long-distance riders come from other areas to enjoy a scenic ride in our county. They spend money here for hotel rooms, meals and snacks. Courtesy says we should treat our guests with patience and goodwill. Florida Statute, Chapter 316, says it’s the law.
“Share the road” is the theme for Bicycle Safety Month and a few timely reminders might be in order.
The law says bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as any other drivers on public roads. Specifically, state law mandates that every vehicle driver must exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian or bicycle. Additionally, the driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle must pass “at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle.”
While bicyclists have every right to ride on the roadway, they must also obey laws designed to help keep them safe. Those operating a bicycle on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic must ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practical to the roadway’s right-hand curb. Exceptions to that law are: when passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction; when preparing for a left turn an intersection or into a private road or driveway; when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions; example a fixed or moving object or hazard; and when a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side.
There are a few other guidelines that can make for enjoyable bicycle rides while sharing the roads with motor vehicles. Bicycles operated between sunset and sunrise must be equipped with lamps in accordance with statue; cyclists under 16 years of age must wear a bicycle helmet that is properly fitted and fastened securely; and one hand must be kept on the handlebars while riding.
We encourage motor vehicle drivers to exercise patience when they encounter bicyclists; if not out of courtesy then out of respect for the law. Remember, “Share the road.”