Below is a press release from a new statewide advocacy organization, Florida Walks and Bikes, that summarizes the actions taken in the Florida Legislature this session re: bike/ped issues.
Florida Walks and BikesMarch 20, 2012
Bicycle/Pedestrian Legislation in the 2012 Florida Legislature
2012 was a very good year for bicycle/pedestrian legislation in Florida. Three groups of significant legislation were passed.
1) Fix of Mandatory Bike Lane Law, Install Bike Lights instead of Paying Fine, Flashing Lights, CFR Standards for Helmets, Mobility-Impaired Pedestrians, Repeal of One Hand on Handlebars
Florida Walks and Bikes, along with Bicycle/Pedestrian Advocates, has been working with Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale/West Palm Beach, and Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, on three issues, fixing Florida’s mandatory bike lane requirement, allowing cyclists to install lights instead of paying a fine for not having them, and allowing cyclists to use flashing lights, since 2010.
These issues and other bike/ped concerns were addressed in House Bill 1223, sponsored by Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Bartow, and its companion bill, Senate Bill 1122, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg. H1223 passed the Florida Legislature on March 9. Assuming no veto by the Governor, H1223 changes Florida statutes in the following ways, effective January 1, 2013:
1) Modifies Florida’s mandatory bike lane law, passed in 2010 as part of the infamous H971. H971 required bicyclists to stay in bike lanes, with just a few exceptions, even when staying in the bike lane was dangerous. The new legislation allows the cyclist to leave the bike lane for any “potential conflict”.
2) Allows cyclists, who are cited for not using lights at night, to install lights instead of paying an $82.50 fine. This not only gives cyclists the same privilege as motorists cited for improper equipment but it is expected that it will encourage more cyclists to use lights at night. As nighttime crashes have proportionally more fatalities, it is hoped that this legislation will reduce bicycle fatalities.
3) Allows cyclists to use flashing lights on their bicycles. Even though many bike lights flash, only non-flashing bike lights have previously been allowed by Florida law.
4) Requires all bicycle helmets in use, after January 1, 2016, to be approved by the Code of Federal Regulations, rules promulgated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
5) Requires vehicle drivers to come to a complete stop when a mobility-impaired pedestrian attempts to cross a crosswalk. Mobility-impaired pedestrians are defined as those pedestrians using a crutch, cane, walker, wheelchair, or a service animal. These pedestrians, if using a motorized wheelchair, will also gain the right to leave the sidewalk and use the roadway for any “potential conflict” if no alternative route exists.
A related bill, House Bill 7043, sponsored by Rep. Kenneth Roberson, R-Port Charlotte, passed the Legislature on March 8. Assuming no veto by the Governor, that bill achieves the following:
6) Removes the requirement that bicyclists keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times. The old requirement was deemed to have been an unnecessary statute due to its lack of enforcement. This is slated to take effect July 1, 2012.
2) Bicycles on Limited Access Facilities
House Bill 599, sponsored by Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, included a 2 year pilot program in which the Florida Department of Transportation would allow three bridges on limited access highways to carry bicycle traffic. FDOT is directed to select the bridges by October 1, 2012 and to begin allowing bicycles on them by March 1, 2013. Thereafter, the bill requires FDOT to make a report on the pilot program to the Legislature and Governor, due September 1, 2015. Currently, Florida law does not allow bicycles to be used on limited access facilities such as interstate highways or turnpikes. However, 20 state jurisdictions have allowed bicycles on limited access facilities with great success.
H599 passed, after 11 p.m., on the last official day of the Legislature. Assuming no veto, it takes effect July 1, 2012.
3) Trail Sponsorhip/Naming Rights
Senate Bill 268 and House Bill 181 proposed more revenue for Florida’s Trails program by allowing private entities to purchase sponsorship and naming of trails. S268 was sponsored by Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville and its companion bill, H181, was sponsored by Rep. Irving Slosberg, D-Boca Raton. 85% of the funds raised will go to state trails programs. 15% will go to the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program and the Florida Safe Paths to Schools program.
S268 passed the Legislature on March 7. Assuming no veto by the Governor, it will become Florida law on July 1, 2012.
Neither H1223, H7043, H599, or S268 is expected to be vetoed by the Governor.
Florida Walks and Bikes is a new organization which recognizes Florida’s abysmal safety record yet its great potential as a wonderful state for walking and biking. Thus, Florida Walks and Bikes has adopted the goal of “Taking Florida from Worst to First.”