Thursday, November 19, 2015

Naples Pathways: Points of politeness in public places: Sidewalk etiquette for bicyclists and pedest

 Thanks to Beth Brainard, Executive Director of the Naples Pathways Coalition, for this excellent piece on sidewalk etiquette, which appeared in Naples Daily News.

Naples Daily News "Blue Zone" section, Nov. 17, 2015

By Beth Brainard, Naples Pathways Coalition

A few years ago I wrote a children's etiquette book, "Soup Should Be Seen, Not Heard," for kids 4 to 10 years old. After receiving an excellent note from a reader of this column, I am compelled to quote from the book's lesson plan for the benefit of grown-up bicyclists and pedestrians who are vying for space on Naples' sidewalks.

"A public place is one that is shared by a lot of people. You can do your part to make the space you share with others pleasant by behaving politely. Remember the Golden Rule and what it means to be considerate (kind, thoughtful of other people and their feelings), gracious (pleasant, generous), honorable (honest, trustworthy, fair, upstanding) and courteous (respectful and civil)."

Frequently, frustration overcomes politeness because visitors and residents alike are unaware of Florida's laws. Let's begin with pedestrians.

• Sidewalk laws for pedestrians

If there is a sidewalk, pedestrians must use it, and if they choose to walk in the street they are breaking the law.

In the state of Florida pedestrians must obey traffic signs and signals, which means if you cross at an intersection, say at Fifth Avenue South and Eighth Street, when the pedestrian signal is red — you are breaking the law.

Upon legally entering a crosswalk, pedestrians have the right-of-way over vehicles including bicycles. However, it is illegal for a pedestrian to suddenly move into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.

Pedestrians crossing the street at any point other than a marked crosswalk or intersection must yield to vehicles including bicycles. It is illegal to cross a street diagonally, except where indicated by signals. In other words, jaywalk at your own peril.

• Sidewalk laws for bicyclists

In Florida it is legal for bicyclists to ride both on the street and on the sidewalk, and they have the option to choose. The exception is on sidewalks like on Fifth Avenue and Third Street where city ordinances prohibit bicycles.

When riding on a sidewalk or crosswalk, bicyclists are obligated to follow the same laws as pedestrians, which includes obeying the traffic signals and signs.

In addition, bicyclists on a sidewalk or crosswalk must yield to pedestrians.

Bicyclists must give an audible signal before overtaking and passing pedestrians. In other words, ring a bell or say "Passing on your left," to warn the pedestrian of your approach.

It is illegal for bicyclists to wear headsets or earplugs (other than a hearing aid) while riding. Frankly, I feel this should extend to the use of mobile phones and be applicable to pedestrians as well.

• Confusion about direction

Bicyclists riding in the street must ride with traffic, but pedestrians walking in the street must walk against traffic; they can only walk in the street if there is not a sidewalk.

Please remember that contrary to cultural tradition or what your mother taught you, bicyclists ride with traffic, pedestrians walk against traffic. It is safer. In fact, the number one cause of bicycle crashes and fatalities is bicyclists riding against traffic.

Some tips for grown-ups on manners
Sidewalks are public spaces legally shared by bicyclists and pedestrians, so please share.

Be gracious. If your group, whether on foot or bicycle, extends across the sidewalk, shrink it to let oncoming traffic pass.

Be honorable. Whether you live here, visit briefly on vacation, or float in paradise for a few months while your neighbors freeze up north, obey traffic laws and signals. They pertain to you.

Be considerate. Don't sneak up on people or whiz by them at the speed of light without sounding your bell or giving an audible warning. Allow them time to move over before you pass.

Be courteous. Now that you know the laws, pedestrians please refrain from shouting at passing bicyclists to "get off the sidewalk" and bicyclists refrain from flashing a rude finger salute instead of yielding to pedestrians.

Let's all get along.

Note to readers: If you want to learn more about bicycle and pedestrian laws, you can find the Complete Florida Statutes text at Look for Title XXlll, Chapter 316.

Beth Brainard is the executive director of Naples Pathways Coalition, a nonprofit organization that works to make the greater Naples area a safe, bikeable, walkable community. Email or see

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