Bicyclist Facilities and How to Ride Them
Most of Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) bicycle facilities are on-road, so you'll be riding with traffic in many cases. Statistically, cyclists who ride with traffic and follow the rules of the road are the safest cyclists and least-likely to be involved in a crash. Take a few hours to learn how to ride safely in traffic - there are links to great sites from this web page, or better yet, find a Cycling Savvy - http://cyclingsavvy.org/ or League of American Bicyclists class in your area.
Florida DOT builds, operates, and maintains a wide variety of streets and roads. There is no "one size fits all" bikeway that can operate safely in all these conditions. This page covers the various types of bikeways used on FDOT roads, the types of roads where you might expect to find them, and how to ride safely on them.
Before taking your bicycle on our state's roads, please be sure your bike is ready for the trip - whether you are going across the state or just across the neighborhood. Bicycles operated on the road in Florida must:
1. have brakes that will stop the bicycle within 25' from a speed of 10 mph on dry ground (if you have any brakes at all, they probably meet this requirement)
2. have a front white light and a red rear light if operated between sunset and sunrise (if you ride much at all, you'll be out after dark sooner or later. Go ahead and get some lights!)
3. And bicyclists (passengers or drivers) under the age of 16 MUST wear a bike helmet. Even if you're over 16, a bike helmet is strongly recommended!
4. For a complete list of Florida's bicycle laws, go the Florida Bicycle Association - www.floridabicycle.org for plain-language descriptions.
The bikeways you'll find on FDOT roads include the following:
|Travel Lanes||With the exception of a few types of high-speed, limited-access roadways (for example an Interstate Highway or the Turnpike), every FDOT travel lane is also a bikeway - no special signs or markings needed. In the state of Florida, the bicycle is considered a legal vehicle and may be operated on the street, unless there is some guidance otherwise, such as marked bicycle lane (more on that below.) Standard travel lanes are 12' wide and too narrow to share, so you will need to control the lane.|
|Wide Outside Lanes||Some lanes on FDOT roads are are 14' wide or a little wider. These wide lanes are actually wide enough for a cyclists and motorist to share, as opposed to a standard travel lane, which is 12' wide and too narrow to share.|
|Shared Lane Markings||Also called a "sharrow", is a bike symbol with
two chevrons over it. This pavement marking is used on lower-speed
streets and roads (speeds 35 mph or less) where bike lanes either
can't be used or are not encouraged (such as in a "door zone"
adjacent to a parking lane.) Sometimes they are accompanied by a
sign that says "Bicycles May Use Full Lane".
You don't need a sharrow to ride in the travel lane! But in high-traffic areas, sharrows are sometimes used as reinforcement for motorists and cyclists that cyclists are likely to be seen in the travel lane. Sharrows also make it clear that you are bicycling in traffic, with traffic - bike lanes may obscure this fact for some cyclists.
|Bike Lanes||Bike lanes have a powerful influence on
people's willingness to try bicycling in traffic. Unfortunately,
it's easy to forget that riding in a bike lane is still riding in
traffic! A bike lane is an on-road facility, meaning the cyclist is
traveling on the same roadway surface as the motor vehicle traffic.
Riding safely in the bike lane is still riding in traffic - as a
cyclist, you must never lose sight of this. Visit [Florida Bicycle
www.floridabicycle.org] for detailed tips on safe use of bike
The Mandatory Bike Lane Law: Since 2010, Florida law specifies that if there is a lane marked for bicycle use, then cyclists must ride in that lane except for a number of different reasons.
Two key issues here: first, the law applies to a lane "marked for bicycle use" - marked as a bike lane. Second, the list of exceptions is fairly broad and should provide broad discretion for cyclists to determine when a bike lane is or is not safe for their use.
Paved shoulders or other areas striped outside the travel lane are not "marked for bicycle use" unless there is a bike lane marking. Without this marking, you are not required to treat the area as a legal bike lane.
Occasionally, cyclists do get cited by police for failure to observe this law, perhaps even when the cyclist is exercising one of the listed exceptions. If this happens to you - don't argue with the police! You won't win! If you feel you were wrongly cited, please get all the pertinent information and forward it to your local Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator, or the [Florida Bicycle Association www.floridabicycle.org].
|Paved Shoulders||In areas where there is no curb and gutter on
the road, such as rural road or some suburban roads, FDOT paves the
shoulder of the road to provide space for bicyclists. Paved
shoulders provide a good way to tour many of Florida's scenic rural
areas. They are on higher-speed facilities, so be alert for stronger
wind blast effects. When riding a shoulder, pay attention to
locations where motorists seem to routinely cross the edge line,
such as on a curve or near an intersection where the shoulder may be
used as an informal acceleration/deceleration lane. Ride alertly in
these areas when there is motor vehicle traffic.
Remember that in Florida, it's legal for bicyclists to take the travel lane, even where there is a shoulder. Sometimes being in the travel lane, where you will be seen, may be preferable to being on the shoulder, where you might be overlooked. Riding the shoulder is still riding in traffic - don't let the paint think for you!
Similarly, think about whether you are between the sun and an approaching motorist - many roads point directly into the sun at certain times of the year. Try not to get lost in the glare at sunrise or sunset.
|Shared Use Path||FDOT's shared use paths are off-road facilities specifically designed to
accommodate cyclists. This means the sight distances, curve radii, pavement
width and slopes - all the design elements -- are optimized for relatively fast
bicycle travel - about 18 mph. Of course they are also SHARED use paths, so you
may be sharing the path with roller bladers, skateboarders, people pushing
babies, babies themselves on trikes or scooters - in short, all manner of
recreationally-transported humanity (and sometimes pets).
This may limit the ability of cyclists to travel at the design speed of the path. Most cyclists love paths anyway, because they are so carefree - no motorist traffic! Except at the intersections... Which is why we can't put paths everywhere. Generally speaking, a safe path needs very few intersections, so they tend to be placed along waterfronts, forest edges, long suburban or rural stretches of highway -- places with limited crossing requirements.
|Sidewalks (really?)||Sidewalks are NOT a bike facility!
Statistically, sidewalks are one of most crash-prone places to ride. Motorists aren't looking for fast-moving cyclists on the sidewalks at intersections, and the sidewalks themselves aren't designed to be shared with cyclists.
Sooner or later, though, every cyclist finds a situation where the sidewalk is just the most practical route - usually because it provides a short cut, or maybe to ride up to a bus stop. So, if you should ever find yourself in that situation, just remember that your bicycle is no longer a vehicle - you have become a pedestrian with wheels. You must move at pedestrian speed, looking for traffic conflicts just as you would on foot. Some cyclists even dismount and walk their bikes. Go slow - go safe.
If there is any good thing about riding on the sidewalk, it may be that sidewalk riding gives you a whole new appreciation for riding on the road!