Safety tips, bicycle law and accident liability for Florida cyclists and drivers

From Tampa Car Accident Attorney George Lorenzo

Florida’s tropical weather and flat roads encourage bicycle riders to venture out to enjoy the warm, sunny days. Biking is an excellent activity for health and fitness, but both riders and drivers must keep a close eye out for each other.

Bicycles aren’t as large or visible as motor vehicles, and cyclists are more vulnerable to falls, impact injury and the elements because they don’t have the protection of a closed vehicle compartment and airbags in the event of a collision. Many drivers fail to yield to bikers. For example, a common cause of bicycle accidents is when drivers turn right and cross a bike lane, forgetting to check if there’s a cyclist there.

Florida is a no-fault state, and the state’s mandatory personal injury protection (PIP) insurance covers most bike accident victims. However, bike accident plaintiffs can seek further damages once they exhaust PIP compensation and can claim severe injuries and losses.

Legal Status of Bikers

Legally speaking, bicycles are considered “vehicles,” and riders are “drivers” for the purposes of Florida traffic rules. They must obey traffic signs and use hand signals for turns and lane changes. While biking, cyclists must yield to other vehicles and to pedestrians at intersections. 

Cyclists must avoid headphones and other distractions. When riding at night, bikers must use visible head and tail lights that drivers can see from 600 feet. They should also use a rearview mirror and learn to look over the shoulder without losing balance.

Safety Tips for Cyclists

Cyclists in Florida are frequent victims of driver negligence and inattention. Cyclists can reduce the chances of a collision by following safety procedures and riding defensively. The items listed below describe helpful safety steps for bicyclists:

  • Never ride against traffic. Florida law requires riding in the direction of traffic.
  • Always wear a helmet and protective pads for knees and elbows.
  • Wear bright colors, use layers, and carry rain gear that is also brightly colored.
  • Use lights and reflectors for night riding to ensure maximum visibility.
  • Keep your bike in good working order. Cyclists should check brakes, gears, chains, and tires regularly.
  • Make eye contact. Never assume that a driver can see you when riding. Cyclists should establish eye contact with car drivers, and don’t proceed until you’re sure the driver can see you.
  • Avoid road hazards. Road hazards can cause damage to a bike and trigger a fall or loss of control while in traffic. Riders should be on the lookout for potholes, railroad tracks, metal grates, and construction arrangements that can trap or block the wheels.
  • Keep both hands on the bike so that you can brake fast and hard if needed. Allow extra distance for stopping on wet surfaces.
  • Move with traffic, ride in the middle of the lane, and use the middle lane when traveling with the flow. Follow traffic rules like left turn only. Don’t pass on the right; drivers cannot see bikers on the right side as clearly as on the left.

Florida Bike Laws & Bicycle Accident Liability

Florida laws require cyclists to behave like other drivers. They must obey the relevant traffic laws and follow the rules for right of way. Florida’s rules regarding right of way can be summarized as follows:

  • The party without a stop sign has the right of way. If two vehicles at an intersection have stop signs, then the first to arrive and stop has the right of way.
  • When two vehicles arrive and stop at the same time, then the car or bike on the right will have the right of way.

Florida bike laws can be confusing, and a clear understanding of your rights is essential. The right of way is an important factor in determining liability. The party that had the right of way based on the type of intersection has the least chance of fault.

Comparative liability can determine the portion of responsibility when there is some fault on each side. When one party acts recklessly, that party will have all—or nearly all—of the liability. Negligence, inadequate attention, intoxication, and distracted driving are among the leading causes of bike accidents in Florida.

Seek Legal Help

The options and choices under Florida law and insurance procedures can be complicated and confusing. If you or someone you know was involved in a bicycle traffic accident, then you should consult with a personal injury attorney experienced in Florida bike laws.

George Lorenzo is a co-founder of Lorenzo & Lorenzo, a Tampa, FL personal injury law, specializing in auto accidents cases and more.

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