Sharing the road with bicyclists

John Hohensee, Police Chief, Village of Pinecrest

Recently, I and several other Village officials met with two residents who were concerned about the large “bike packs” that were riding in the Village.

Interestingly, these were folks who also rode regularly and felt that some of their fellow cyclists were riding in a manner that gave them all a bad name. I myself have also observed what they were complaining about. So this meeting prompted me to review our state laws and write this article in the hope that the information provided will prove useful and perhaps help improve this situation.

Florida statutes treat bicycles as vehi-cles, with all the rights and obligations of motorized vehicles. This means they can legitimately occupy a single lane of travel while operating at less than the speed limit. They may also ride two abreast within a single lane, though this often makes it difficult for traffic trapped behind them to safely pass.

However, along with these rights, cyclists must obey all other traffic laws including coming to full stops at red lights and stop signs. These particular requirements are often ignored by cyclists intent on maximizing their physical workout.

I believe the operative word, when addressing bicycle versus vehicle rights and obligations, is understanding. Like many words in our English language, understanding has multiple meanings. In the context of this discussion, it is first necessary to comprehend or understand the way Florida law specifies how a bike many be operated. After that, the application of understanding as it relates to tolerance or consideration from both sides is needed.

To me that means motorists will display patience when encountering cyclists. And cyclists will need to demonstrate consideration for the impact they are having on other users of the highway by making it easier for trapped traffic to safely pass as they proceed at less than the speed limit. Very large “bike packs” should consider breaking off into smaller groups so that cars can pass more easily. And though they may legally ride two abreast, whenever feasible they should move to single file to facilitate vehicles getting around them.

In order to positively address these issues and concerns, I have recently directed that our officers stop any cyclists or motorists they observe who are not complying with the law. While these encounters initially are intended to be educational, chronic violators will ultimately have to be cited.

Like many aspects of American life, consideration and compassion should rule the day, not the absolute application of the law. We all need to cooperate with one another so that we can mutually enjoy the benefits of living in our much envied democratic society. And besides, isn’t this what the “Golden Rule” is all about?

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