Regular readers know that the never-ending feuding between motorists and bicyclists generates a lot of mail for the Doc every week. The messages include expressions of indignation ("Who do they think they are?!") and even malice. The rants and huffy declarations about who the biggest road hogs are, who is ruder and more obtuse about it, and who has more right to the road (we all do, by the way) never cease to startle and entertain us.
A new voice has joined the discussion, and this one asks the question: Who has the right to the sidewalks — bikes or dogs?
Reader Diane Anderson wrote the Doc recently on behalf of her canine friends, whom she describes as "very well-behaved" (wish that were true of the rest of us). Here's what she said:
"Dear Dr. Delay,
I walk my two dogs on Third Street S from 17th Avenue S to the USF campus and back home about three times a week. On every walk there are bicyclists who ride on the sidewalk and seem to expect me to get off of it for their convenience. I try to take only my portion of the walkway, but have been hit three times, once by a woman who was pedaling and holding an open umbrella! Luckily, I have only received bruises and no serious injuries. My question: Is it legal to ride a bike on the sidewalk and, if so, what is my responsibility as a pedestrian when I encounter a bicyclist? Since I raise guide dog puppies for Southeastern Guide Dogs, I am very concerned about how a blind or disabled person would be affected by bicyclists on the sidewalk. Thanks for any help you can give me regarding this issue."
This is a great question. Bikes reside in a surreal realm in some ways because Florida state law considers them to be vehicles and therefore subject to the same rights and responsibilities as any other conveyance on our roads. But unlike other vehicles, bikes may also be ridden on Florida's sidewalks, and bicyclists must observe and obey pedestrian laws as well.
Here is what the statute says: "A person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian. A bicyclist riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and must give an audible signal before passing."
The statue also reads: "Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway may not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Persons riding two abreast may not impede traffic when traveling at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing and shall ride within a single lane."
But that's a whole 'nother column, isn't it?
So Fido doesn't actually win this one paws down. But while bikes are legally permitted on Florida sidewalks, they are required to yield to folks on foot, and this includes their four-legged companions. As for the lady riding her bike on a sidewalk while brandishing an open umbrella like some sort of jousting pole? That deserves a rap on the bike helmet, I think.
To read the state's bicycle regulations in full online, visit the official Web site of the Florida State Legislature at www.leg.state.fl.us/ STATUTES/, select Title XXIII, which lists all the motor vehicle statutes, then click on 316.2065 for bicycle regulations.
Memorial Day weekend
Law officers will look for the impaired, unbuckled
Law enforcement officers will be out in force statewide looking for impaired and aggressive drivers during the long holiday weekend.
They'll also make sure motorists and their passengers are wearing seat belts.
The Click it or Ticket mobilization, a cooperative effort of the Florida Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and law enforcement agencies across the state, will be under way through midnight Monday.
During the crackdown, drivers and passengers will be ticketed if they are not buckled up. If children under age 18 are observed riding in a vehicle without being properly restrained, the driver will be ticketed. The Doc's advice: Buckle up or pay the pricey consequence.
Please e-mail Dr. Delay at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions.