Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Rules of the road and pathway

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, March 13, 2019

On a recent weekday morning cycling commute, I was pleased to see so many folks out with me on foot and bike. My route took me through various parts of town and on a variety of facilities, including bike lanes, shared use paths, local and major roads with no bike accommodation, and even a short stretch of sidewalk along Cleveland Avenue. Sidewalks and Cleveland Avenue are two places I do my best to avoid but it’s sometimes impossible.

In most cases my fellow commuters and those out for recreation and exercise were behaving appropriately but there were some examples of bad conduct, including one young man who blew by me on North Colonial Linear Trail at well over a reasonable speed. Worse yet, he was on a loud, gas-powered bike, making it illegal as well as obnoxious and dangerous. Here are safety points I consider most important.

¦ Pedestrians — The definition also includes anyone using assistive wheeled devices (wheelchairs, motorized or not), in-line skater, skateboarder and stand-up scooters. I consider pedestrian safety and access as the highest priority. There are still many laws that pertain to them. When sidewalks are available and accessible pedestrians must use them; when sidewalks are not available pedestrians must walk facing/against traffic off the road if conditions allow; and when crossing the street outside of a marked or unmarked crosswalk, pedestrians must not obstruct traffic.

¦ Road cyclists — Both human-powered and electric bike users (but not gas-powered as those require the operator to have a valid driver’s license) are legally defined as vehicle operators and are subject to the majority of the rights and responsibilities as other vehicle operators, even though a driver’s license is not required. Florida law requires riding as far right as practicable (not in a gutter or on the edge) but any lane less than 14 feet in width is considered too narrow for a motor vehicle to safely share with a bicycle so in those cases (99 percent of our roads have lanes much narrower that 14 feet) the cyclist may use any portion of the lane and not be guilty of illegally obstructing traffic. Clearly, riding with the flow of other traffic and obeying regulatory signs and traffic signals are required.

¦ Cyclists as pedestrians — Cyclists operating on a pathway or sidewalk where not prohibited by local ordinance (we have very few that are off limits) have the same access and duties as pedestrians but must provide audible warning when passing. Navigating safely around other pathway users includes operating at appropriate speeds for conditions and always yielding to true pedestrians. While it may seem counter-intuitive, operating legally and properly on the road is safer than on a sidewalk and even on many shared use paths, primarily because of motorists’ propensity to overshoot stop signs, creating potential conflicts at every driveway and side street.

¦ Motorists — The operator of any vehicle that requires a driver’s license is considered a motorist, even vehicles that aren’t a typical car or truck. There are many traffic laws but in my opinion one that says it all states: “Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian or any person propelling a human-powered vehicle and give warning when necessary and exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused or incapacitated person.”

To learn more about this and similar matters visit ¦

- Dan Moser is a long-time bicycle/pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at and 334-6417. 

For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (; Florida Mudcutters (; and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group ( The Florida Bicycle Association ( is your source for statewide happenings. BikeWalkLee’s blog site has all the information you’ll need to stay abreast of advocacy efforts in Southwest Florida as well as statewide and nationally.

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