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Posted by on Jun 2, 2015 in FBA | 4 comments

Games People Play

A bicycle is defined as a vehicle [FL Statute 316.003(2)] for purposes of the Uniform Traffic Control Law.  A person in control of a vehicle on a street or highway is a driver [FL Statute 316.003(1)].  As a driver, a cyclist must follow the traffic rules common to all drivers.  As the driver of a bicycle, he/she must also obey rules adopted specially for bicycles.  A cyclist has all the rights to the roadway applicable to any driver, except as to the special regulations for bicycles [FL Statute 316.2065(1)]. – Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide, page 6.

Same rules, same rights.  That’s the deal.  So why does it feel like “Let’s Make a Deal” when it comes to bicycle education?

I can ride about 8 miles in my neighborhood and encounter all kinds of things from a horse farm to an eagle nest, a city park to a city beach and a water treatment facility to Tampa Bay.  It’s a great ride and enjoyed by numerous residents and visitors, a few of which decide to ride against traffic.  You are reading that correctly, there are a few people on bicycles who choose to ride against traffic.

I have let this go for years because quite honestly, these are small neighborhood roads with no lane markings.  However, there is this one road, Lafayette Boulevard, which is a wide, divided roadway with a shoulder.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 1.23.27 PM

Lafayette Blvd in Oldsmar, looking west

I’ll say it again, Lafayette Boulevard is a wide, divided roadway with a shoulder.  Well, this morning, on this very road, I see someone riding their bicycle the wrong way and heading right towards me.  Today, I decided it was time to stop letting it go and flag the person down. Today I decided it was time to ask the question.  The person stopped and after they removed their headset, I asked why were they riding the wrong way.  The answer:  I’m comfortable riding into traffic and have been doing so for 22 years.

Well, even I know, that’s not the deal!  But I also know that it’s hard to make a deal when there are 22 years of “proven success” in doing something wrong.  Sure, I shared some statistics and general insights, but for this person, bicycle education and traffic law have no place in 22 years of bad behavior.

I saw the person again, as I was ending my ride, when I made a right turn onto State Street from Lafayette and there they were, on the wrong side of the road, darting to the right to get out of my path.  Thankfully, there was no additional traffic on the road, especially from behind them, or that dart may have been death.

To play “Let’s Make a Deal” with traffic law, to play the odds that ‘curtain one, two or three’ of bad behavior will have favorable outcomes is a risk no one should be taking on public roads.  I know that and I’m sure you do as well.  So how do we reach and educate those with bad cycling habits to trade up to ride right?

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  1. I think it is time to reconsider the laws.

    I have been riding bicycles almost all my life. (I’ll turn 70 years old in a couple of months.) I switched to a recumbent 2-wheel bicycle about 20 years ago and then to a recumbent (3-wheel) trike about two months ago. I have had several minor encounters with automobiles although luckily was never injured. I have been knocked off my bicycle several times by automobiles. Those who did stop said they never saw me, despite the flashing strobe light on my bike’s back fender. I also now have a flag on the trike and, so far, have not had a problem with a motorist. Still, after thousands of miles of travel on bike and trikes, I think I qualify as “experienced” and think I am also qualified to make suggestions.

    The big issue here is visibility. Motorists need to be aware of bicycles, even if the driver is distracted by cell phones, texting, adjusting the stereo or the air conditioning, of just plain daydreaming. The earlier the bicycle becomes visible to the motorist and the earlier the motorist becomes visible to the bicyclist, the more lives will be saved.

    Most of my unpleasant experiences with automobiles and most of the incidents and accidents I have read about were when automobiles approached the bicyclist from behind on the same side of the road. We rarely read of a motorist crossing the roadway and hitting a bicyclist on the opposite side of the roadway.

    In most cases, the automobile driver says “I didn’t see the bicyclist” and in almost all cases the bicyclist could not see the automobile approaching from the rear. I believe this contributes significantly to accidents and deaths of bicyclists.

    Yet automobile drivers are more likely to avoid us when on the opposite side of the road, leaving more space between the automobile and the oncoming bicyclists. In addition, if bicyclists ride on the same side of the road as ONCOMING traffic, the bike rider can see the automobile earlier, decide if it is coming too close, and then has more time to take evasive action. This would not eliminate all accidents but I believe it would dramatically reduce accidents and deaths.

    If we were to emulate pedestrians by facing oncoming traffic when we ride, two things would happen immediately. Drivers who approach us from behind would be further away and less likely to hit us while drivers on our side of the road would be visible to the cyclists earlier, making it possible for the cyclist to take evasive action.

    Let’s get this stupid law changed.

    • You are incorrect. If you read more, you will find the opposite.
      I have heard more of people getting hit riding the wrong way then with traffic. A car HAS to move over when you come towards him! The car can wait when he drives with you.
      Also if there is no way to move over, where do you go when a car comes at you and another car also comes his way. Do you both stop? What are you going to do?
      Let’s get rid of the rumor rule of riding against traffic being safe. It never was true.
      FYI I am 65 been riding since 6!

  2. I imagine that riding against traffic and attempting to turn left or right would be thrilling. Especially thrilling on a four lane busy road. I will continue to ride with traffic and not pester my elected representatives to undo decades of traffic law.

  3. If you take Frans example and add even more traffic that’s exactly what happened to me driving my car. Everyone had to stop. Now imagine me riding 20 mph on my bike on a narrow road with no shoulder into traffic moving even faster. When the first car moves over the second has no time to react. Also turning onto a one-way street the diver may not see a bike when looking for cars in the opposite direction. There are endless scenarios without happy endings.

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