On the surface, a bicycle may not seem complicated, but it holds an interesting legal status as a vehicle propelled by human power. This means a bicyclist is subject to both vehicular and pedestrian laws. 

State and local laws also vary when it comes to bicycles. First, cyclists should be aware of the laws so that they can comply with relevant rules as they ride. Second, cyclists should choose the safest legal option in any specific situation. Usually, this means choosing to ride in the street.

Read on for more detailed information about bicycle safety and requirements.

Do Bicycles Count as Vehicles?

In the state of Florida, bicycles are categorized as vehicles. This means that bicyclists have the right to operate on streets and roadways. When riding in the street, a cyclist is required to obey the rules of the road, like stopping at red lights or stop signs. 

However, unless local laws ban the use of the sidewalk for cyclists, bike riders can also choose to ride on the sidewalk. In these circumstances, cyclists are subject to pedestrian laws, like stopping at crossings when riding on the sidewalk. 

Special Requirements for Cyclists

In addition to the regular laws applying to vehicles and pedestrians, there are often specific state or local guidelines that dictate how cyclists can ride safely. 

Street Guidelines

In Florida, cyclists riding on roads must utilize the bike lane if one is present. If there is no bike lane, cyclists riding below the speed limit are required to stay as far to the right and as close to the curb as safely possible. This makes it easier for faster-moving vehicles to pass a bicycle. 

Cyclists should only move away from the curb if it’s necessary for safety. For example, a rider might move over to avoid parked cars, pedestrians, or animals. 

Bike riders are also allowed to leave the bike lane if it’s necessary for navigation.

Sidewalk Guidelines

If a cyclist is riding on the sidewalk, they are required to cruise at a safe speed and stop at all crossings. They are also required to give right-of-way to pedestrians on foot. 

Sidewalk bikers are also required to give an audible warning when approaching pedestrians from behind to make them aware of the approaching rider. Giving a warning reduces the chance of a pedestrian accident.

Bicyclists Should Prioritize Safety First

If a bike lane is present, it should always be the first choice. If there is no bike lane, bike riders should use the road if it’s safely possible. 

Other vehicles are required to share the road with bicyclists. This means that, in theory, streets are safer and better suited to bicycle use. 

Sometimes, a bike rider may not feel safe navigating the street. This might be true if there is heavy or fast-moving traffic or if many cars are parked along the side of the road. 

If a cyclist is in an area in which sidewalk-riding is permitted and feels this is the safer option, they should ride with utmost care. Riding on the sidewalk poses greater safety issues, especially in residential areas. 

When riding on a sidewalk, cyclists must watch out for the following:

  • Pedestrians
  • Children
  • Pets
  • Driveways 
  • Skateboarders and roller skaters

Bicyclists are required to watch for and yield to all these groups and more when using a sidewalk. 

Bike riders on the sidewalk must ride at a speed slow enough to safely stop if a person or animal enters the sidewalk unexpectedly, as well. 

Know the Risks

Bicycle accidents resulting in death or injury, medical bills, and lawsuits can be avoided if cyclists stay mindful of bicycle safety best practices

While bike riders may feel safer on the sidewalk, where they can ride at a distance from larger and faster vehicles, riding on a sidewalk comes with more safety issues. 

Bicyclists on the sidewalk are far more likely to be found at fault for pedestrian accidents and injuries. 

With all of this information in mind, cyclists should understand the law and choose the safest possible legal option at any given moment. 

Contact the Tampa Bicycle Accident Law Firm of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers for Help Today

For more information, please contact the legal team of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers for a free initial consultation with a bicycle accident lawyer in Tampa. We have four convenient locations in Florida: Clearwater, New Port Richey, and Tampa.

We serve throughout Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, Pasco County, and its surrounding areas:

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – Clearwater Office
1811 N. Belcher Road, Suite I-1
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 787-2500

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – Congress Ave Office
2360 Congress Avenue
Clearwater, FL 33763
(727) 591-5610

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – Tampa Office
6601 Memorial Hwy Suite 202
Tampa, FL 33615
(813) 686-7588

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – New Port Richey Office
2515 Seven Springs Blvd.
New Port Richey, FL, 34655
(727) 815-8442