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Rules of the Road

I wrote this some time back for a possible upstart app and online magazine; however, it seems things never really got moving with that and I forgot about this article until I became active in running and cycling again and became annoyed with the many near misses I have been in and seen due to negligence of the laws. It is likely these rules and laws are applicable, at least to some extent, where you live, but this was written specifically for Flagler County, Florida as I live in Palm Coast:

miyagi squish like grape

Rules of the Road

There I was, running along the road in my quiet neighborhood, watching the teenager on his bike swerving towards me from a distance. The problem was he wasn’t watching me; he was texting while riding. As a result, I had to take a leap onto someone’s well-manicured lawn, dogs barking at me for trespassing, as the cyclist flew past me, never even knowing I had been there.

Then more recently, I was driving down Belle Terre Parkway when I spotted a young woman jogging while pushing her sporty baby stroller. There are sidewalks; however, she had decided to run with traffic just next to the median. Immediately, I was reminded of the mostly sage advice given by Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi in the original The Karate Kid: “Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later [makes squish gesture] get squish just like grape.”

I remember learning road safety for bicycles and pedestrians back in elementary school. Do they not teach this anymore? In today’s society maybe we just need an app for that.

Cyclists

A cyclist (or anyone on wheels that are propelled by human power) must obey the same rules as a motorist, except they are actually allowed to drive on sidewalks as long as local ordinances allow. We’ll get to that later though. According to the Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide I located from 2005, “Riding as a driver makes a cyclist visible and predictable.”

As found in chapter 316 of the 2014 Florida Statutes of the Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law, the following are some of the basics in bicycle regulations to help keep you and others out of harm’s way:

How should a cyclist accessorize? Fashion is all up to you, but your bicycle needs a front lamp of white light which can be seen 500 feet away and a red reflector and a red lamp visible up to 600 feet from your bike’s tail end [316.2065(7)]. “About 60 percent of fatal bicycle crashes in Florida occur during non-daylight hours,” says the Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide. A helmet may not look chic, but it is the law for anyone under 16 [316.2065(3)(d)]. Leave any sort of headset at home. Your ears should be clear from distractions [316.304].

Where should you ride? Just as in driving a motor vehicle, we are not in England and should always ride on the right side of the road [316.081].  This is what most motorists expect and are looking for, so the predictability is best for the rider, whom otherwise might not be seen. Cyclists must follow all traffic signals and devices, as well as follow the same patterns of yielding and passing as when driving a car. If there is no bike lane, ride as far to the right as safely possible, especially if unable to obtain and maintain the same speed as the flow of motor traffic [316.2065(5)].

Since bicycles do not come equipped with turn signals, a cyclist must use the proper hand gestures during the last 100 feet before the turn [316.155(2)(3) & 316.157(1)] as follows: left turn, extend the left arm horizontally; right turn, extend the right hand horizontally or upward; to stop, extend the left arm down.

And finally, cyclists may ride on sidewalks, as long as there is no local ordinance prohibiting such use. In my research, I could find no such ordinances for Flagler County. However, a cyclist has the “rights and duties of a pedestrian” while on a sidewalk [316.2065(9)] and must also yield right-of-way to all pedestrians, as well as give audible warnings to pedestrians if planning to pass them (I have had many a bell jingled at me while I was out running) [316.2064(10)].

All of this information can be found online, but I was also able to request a couple pamphlets from PC Bikes. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0300-0399/0316/Sections/0316.2065.html

Pedestrians

Of course, walking, running, skipping, or hopping should not be done in the middle of the road, but Mr. Miyagi was incorrect that either side is safe. Only if there is no pedestrian sidewalk, a pedestrian must be facing oncoming traffic and remain on the left shoulder [316.130(3)(4)]. Pedestrians and motorists can then have better visibility of one another.

Pedestrians should follow appropriate signals at intersections, but what about when there are no signals to follow? A basic rule is that pedestrians always have the right-of-way over motorists as long as they are within a crosswalk and made sure not to enter the roadway without allowing a vehicle time to safely stop [316.130 (7)(a)(b)(c)]. This does not mean all motorists are aware of this law, so be wary. Also, if you intend to cross a road in an area without crosswalks, you must yield to motorists [316.130(10)]. Don’t get cocky out there. The chicken may have crossed the road to get to the other side, but do not play chicken with oncoming vehicles. Another small note about crosswalks: travel on the right side within one to keep a regular flow of movement [316.130(13)].

What about safety accessories for pedestrians? I have run in overnight races when I was required to wear a reflective vest, a headlamp, and a blinking red light on my rear, but I was unable to find anything in the Florida Statutes requiring any of these for pedestrians. The definition of pedestrians is not broken down between early morning runners on a rural road or those taking leisurely strolls along a sidewalk in the middle of a city, thus, regulations of this sort are not as clear. In this case, I suggest considering your environment, the safety in numbers factor, and good, old-fashioned common sense to make a decision on your precautions.

Riding or running along a road is always a bit more risky since we must factor in motor vehicles. Fortunately, Flagler County offers bike and pedestrian paths galore. It is important to remember though, that many of these rules should still apply to give consideration to others recreating along said paths. Always keep to the right, as you would if you were in a car on the road, and always give audible signals when passing, which should be done on the left.

While cyclists should not wear any sort of headsets, headphones, or listening devices, other than a hearing aid, while riding [316.304], there does not yet appear to be any rule on texting while riding (or jogging, for that matter), though I would personally classify it as an equally, or more distracting activity and safety violation. Perhaps a petition will be created to add this to a campaign against texting and driving.

Also, remember to continue to use caution and care. You may now know the laws set for your safety, but unfortunately, not all motorists or other pedestrians or cyclists do. Always use common sense above all else.

The following are some other resources to check out:

Bike Florida www.bikeflorida.org

Florida Bicycle Association http://floridabicycle.org/

State Safety Office Florida Department of Transportation www.dot.state.fl.us/safety

Terri Klaes Harper, October 2014

 

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About caverns of my mind

Author of MEMOIRS OF AN ORDINARY GIRL series http://bit.ly/tlklaes

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