Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

GETTING fit

Don't be afraid to bike on the road, but know the rules

iStockphoto.com

iStockphoto.com

Newcomers to bike riding usually have some questions, none more important than this:

Should I have my head examined if I decide to ride on roads, right alongside cars and trucks?

My answer: No, you shouldn't, because you can do it safely.

Throughout the United States, bike riders have the right to be on the road. Motorists are legally obligated to respect that. Cyclists, in turn, have responsibilities to obey the law, act predictably and be courteous. But first, you need to know the law and ride in a way that mitigates risk. And sometimes that means doing things that might seem counterintuitive.

If there is not a bike lane, Florida law requires you to stay as far to the right as is "practicable" — unless "reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict." That gives you wide latitude and you should use it. If a lane is less than 14 feet wide, it's considered insufficient for both a bike and a car to ride alongside each other. In that case, you are better off moving toward the middle of the lane, according to Keri Caffrey, co-founder of Cycling Savvy, a program of the American Bicycling Education Association.

She says if you try to stay as far right as possible on a narrow lane, drivers might try to squeeze by you when there isn't sufficient room.

"Riding on the far right on a narrow lane can expose you to other people's mistakes," Caffrey said.

If there is a bike lane, you are legally required to use it — except when the lane is unsafe because of debris or a poor surface, or when you're turning left. Use hand signals to indicate if you're moving out of the bike lane, turning or slowing down. Glance behind you to ensure it's safe, or use a rearview mirror.

Often, there is a white line at the outer edge of the lane, but that doesn't mean the space from the line to the curb is a bike lane. A bike lane must be at least 4 feet wide and marked on the surface as a bike lane, according to George Martin, who writes about bike laws for the Florida Bicycle Association. He says if it doesn't meet both of these requirements, you needn't stay in it.

A bike lane adjacent to parked cars can be dangerous, exposing you to the thoughtless driver who opens a door into the bike lane. Just because you have a bike lane doesn't mean you can let your guard down. "Don't let the white line think for you,'' Caffrey says.

Many drivers don't know that when making a right turn, they should check first to make sure the bike lane is clear. Conversely, a cyclist stopped at an intersection is better off in the driving lane, not the bike lane, to be more visible to motorists. Use hand signals if turning. If not, proceed straight ahead and move to the bike lane once through the intersection.

Here's a basic: At stop signs and red lights, stop!

If you arrive first at the intersection with a four-way stop sign, you have the right of way, but proceed cautiously and make eye contact with drivers. As a gesture of good will, a large group of cyclists might let a motorist go first since a car can clear the intersection more quickly.

Keep your eyes and ears open at all times. Never wear headphones or earbuds on the road, and always wear a helmet.

And consider riding with a group. Almost all my rides are with other cyclists. Motorists can better see a large group, and they might be less tempted to try and speed around a group than a lone cyclist.

Stay off the sidewalk; you'd be a menace to pedestrians, and cars won't be looking for you at intersections.

And always ride in the same direction as traffic. Riding against it is dangerous and unlawful.

Yes, there are some incorrigible drivers who think that losing a few seconds while waiting to pass a bicycle is more than they can bear. But I've had several accidents, and all of them were my fault. If we want more courteous drivers, we need to be more courteous bicyclists.

Bob Griendling is vice president of the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club and a member of the Mayor's Bicycling and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. He blogs at bobgriendling.com.

Don't be afraid to bike on the road, but know the rules 10/02/14 [Last modified: Thursday, October 2, 2014 5:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pasco considers new tax districts for parks, libraries, public safety

    Local Government

    DADE CITY — Faced with growing costs amid an expected voter-endorsed tax cut, Pasco County is considering changing the way it pays for parks, libraries and public safety.

    
Pasco County is considering a new taxing district to finance an expansion and ongoing operations of the county's Department of Parks,Recreaton and Natural Resources. Shown is the Dick's Tournament of Champions at the the  Wesley Chapel District Park, the last district park developed by the county. It opened in 2007.
  2. Ruskin man sought in fatal stabbing of roommate

    Crime

    RUSKIN — The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has issued an arrest warrant for the suspect who fatally stabbed his roommate in a Ruskin home on Monday afternoon.

  3. Romano: Why flood insurance might not be enough to save your home

    Local Government

    Irma is gone, and Maria never came.

    And yet this is as good a time as any to worry.

  4. Tampa's streetcar system looks to expand north through downtown

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The TECO Line Streetcar system that runs from Ybor City to the Channel District could be extended north through downtown all the way to Tampa Heights, according to the latest update of a $1.7 million study aimed at expanding the streetcar system.

    Riders take in the last few stops of the streetcar route in Ybor City during the tenth anniversary celebration of the TECO line streetcar system in Tampa in 2012. Now officials are looking for ways to expand the service north through downtown to Tampa Heights. [EVE EDELHEIT  |  Times]
  5. Interview: Steve Martin, Martin Short bringing 'best version' of their show back to St. Petersburg

    Stage

    Hot celebrity-spotting tip: Stop by the Salvador Dalí Museum on Jan. 19. You might catch a glimpse of Steve Martin.

    Steve Martin, left, and Martin Short will bring “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life” to the Mahaffey Theater on Jan. 19.