Here in The Villages unlike most places, bikes must mix with motorized vehicles. Even our recreation trails are commonly called “Golf cart paths”.
And the reality is that traffic of all kinds is increasing as this wonderland for retired folks continuously expands in territory and population.
This is the time of year when our streets and trails are filled with seasonal residents and renters. The trick is knowing how to ride in a way that allows a cyclist to co-exist with traffic on the roadways and along the vast system of recreation trails. No cyclist is a match for a 3,000 pound vehicle on the road or a 1,000 pound golf cart on a recreation trail.
Below are a few tips for increasing your safety when cycling.
Assert your Lawful rights. But do so with caution. Bicycles are defined by Florida law Chpt. 316.003 as vehicles that have full use of the roadway. As a cyclist, you have all of the same rights and responsibilities as a motorized road user. This means you STOP and YIELD for regulatory signs and lights. Always SIGNAL when turning or changing lanes. Motorists are legally required to give not less than 3 feet when passing you regardless of which lane you are in.
Claim your Road Position. First, if there is a bike lane you must use it (a shoulder or end of road line is not a bike lane). When there is no bike lane, the law states that a cyclist must ride as far to the right on the roadway as practicable. “Practicable” means as far right as is safe, not as far right as is possible. There’s a difference. Further, you’re allowed to move to the left of the lane to avoid pedestrians, slower moving vehicles, road hazards, and the debris that inevitably find its way onto the right shoulder.
If the road doesn’t have a shoulder, bike lane or multi-modal lane ride in the right side of the traffic lane. Be cautious here, you need to give yourself room to maneuver. If you’re riding at the road’s edge, drivers may assume you are yielding to them and think they have room to pass without moving into the other lane. Most lanes in our area measure significantly less than the FDOT standard of 14 feet wide (most are about 11 feet wide). Such lanes do not have enough room for a bicycle to operate, the 3 foot passing space and an automobile.
On roads with a wide shoulder. If you choose to ride on the shoulder, ride about 2 feet to the right of the white line. Again, this is assuming the shoulder isn’t littered with broken glass or other dangerous materials.
Knowing the rules of the road and following them make driving our roadways predictable and safer for everyone.
Dave Lawrence is the Director of Safety for the Sumter Landing Bicycle Club and is also a League of American Bicyclists League Cycling Instructor.