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Rules of the Road

A guide to bicycle, pedestrian, scooter, and motorist safety on Florida roads

Story by UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences September 28th, 2017

Welcome to UF! We love our students and want you to be safe and happy here. To wit, we are offering the below guide to help you navigate one of college's biggest challenges: getting around campus. Scroll down to learn how to travel safely and legally to, from, and around campus, whether you're on a bike, scooter, foot, or in a car.



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cyclists

The UF campus, as well as the City of Gainesville, aims to be bike-friendly. For the best experience on your bike, familiarize yourself with the laws and best practices.

You are a vehicle (Section 316.003[2], [10] and 316.2065[1], Florida Statutes), however you also have pedestrian rights and duties when on a sidewalk (316.2065[10] and [11], F.S.). Because you'll often cross these domains, a good rule of thumb is to think about what role you're currently taking.

Cyclists should ride as far as practicable to the right on roadways with no bike lanes. On wide lanes, motorists may easily pass.
On narrower roads and/or roads with no bike lane, cyclists may "take the middle." Some roads may be marked as "bike boulevards" for this.

Riding in the road?

The law says that you should ride as close to the right as "practicable." Not "practical" or "possible." Ride to the right if you are not going to be additionally encumbered or endangered by doing so.


If no bike lane, you can "take the middle." It may seem counterintuitive, but it's much safer to do this if you’re:

- in a narrow lane and cars pass you too closely

- riding alongside parallel parking (doors may open)

- on a road with lots of side streets, parking lots, driveways

- about to make a left turn

- passing another vehicle or a pedestrian


Best practices

Use bike lanes where available.

Find routes that are marked "bike boulevards" and navigate through neighborhoods or other areas with speed limits less than 30 mph.

Riding on the sidewalk?

You are permitted to ride on the sidewalk, but you must treat it as though you are a pedestrian. This means obeying crosswalk signals and going slowly and carefully enough that you don't crash into another pedestrian — or worse, a car exiting a driveway or side street.

In fact, sidewalk riding is especially dangerous because motorists are not expecting a fast-moving object in the sidewalk and are often looking beyond their immediate flanks for oncoming vehicles in the road.

BEST PRACTICES

Signal pedestrians you are about to pass with your voice or a bike bell.

Dismount at crosswalks and walk your bike across the street.


Don't forget: You can get a ticket on your bike! Obey the laws as though you were driving a motor vehicle.



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let there be light!

According to the law, you are required to use lights and reflectors on your bike any time after sunset (316.20165(8) F.S.). Makes sense; you wouldn't drive a car at night with no lights. You legally must have:

To blink or not to blink?

Most bike lights come with multiple settings that allow you to have them blink or emit a steady beam. There is no legal requirement either way, so it is your preference, but you may also find it depends upon riding conditions.

That said, blinking mode makes the light more noticeable to motorists, while static mode allows motorists a better judgment of distance. It might be good to have one of each.

sharing the road

Motorists and cyclists must respect each other. Part of "taking the middle" is actually about maintaining safe distance and promoting visibility. Motorists must understand that cyclists are not only permitted to take the middle of the road, but that doing so is not impeding traffic. In the case of double solid lines that would normally prohibit passing, motorists are given exception to pass a cyclist.

Cyclists may also travel up to two abreast and take the full road in groups. A pair may take the full road even if there is a bike lane (there is not room in a bike lane for two to travel together).

Motorists are encouraged to maintain a distance of three feet from a cyclist they are passing; any less greatly increases the risk of "clipping" the bicycle.

More information for motorists on how to share the road.

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Cyclists are permitted to ride two abreast and take the middle of the road.

If you’re in an accident, call police right away, even if you feel "fine." If the motorist refuses to stay, write down or photograph their license plate and take note of the description of their vehicle.

UPD: 352.392.1111

Online report


More information:

Street Smarts

Bicycle Traffic Law

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pedestrians

Walking is the most common form of transportation on campus; even if you travel to campus by another means, you will often have to navigate complicated and busy intersections. A few things to keep in mind.


jaywalking 101

Jaywalking is not simply crossing a road where there isn't a crosswalk. That's permitted as long as the nearest intersection is unsignaled. Crossing mid-block between two signaled intersections is jaywalking. Jaywalking is also when a pedestrian goes into a crosswalk when a vehicle has no time or space to react. If there is a car about to drive through an empty crosswalk, be reasonable and wait a second before entering the crosswalk.

crosswalks are not for cars

Motorists must respect the crosswalk space and obey the stop lines at intersections. Motorists waiting at a red light must not block the walk. Motorists waiting to turn must also allow pedestrians to use the crosswalk when they have a "walk" signal and not cut them off or wait in the crosswalk.

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motorists

scooters

Scooters, aka mopeds, are a fixture of the UF campus and Gainesville at large. Scooters have benefits of both bicycles and cars, but legally and safety-wise, they are much more like cars.

Scooters are not permitted in the bike lanes or on sidewalks. You must ride on the road; that means all applicable traffic laws apply. (And campus-wide speed limit is 20mph, FYI).

helmets

Are you 20 years old or younger? A helmet is required by law, and you can be ticketed for riding without one.

Are you 21 years or older? A helmet is not required, but if you ride without, you must carry $10,000 of personal injury insurance.

Either way, a stylish helmet protects your head and saves you from ticket woes.




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smooth and savvy driving

No matter what vehicle you're drive, use your signals! Always indicate which way you’re going. More than two million accidents are caused every year by drivers not using turn signals — that's more than twice the number caused by distracted driving (still, don't text and drive).

Bike signals have been greatly simplified; in general, you can point the direction you're turning (a previous version of the right turn signal is shown above), and point to the ground if you're slowing down or stopping.

Pedestrians in crosswalks with a walk signal have right-of-way and don't need to signal their intended direction. Just be alert and obey "walk" signals, and remember to look both ways before crossing.


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who's on first?

First come, first served. This applies to the road too. If there is no traffic light but rather a 4-way stop, the first car to arrive at the intersection receives the right of way.

Yield to right. When two or three vehicles arrive at a 4-way stop at the same time, and are located side-by-side, the vehicle furthest to the right has right of way.

Straight over turning. When arriving to an intersection head-to-head with another vehicle, it is important to use signals. When two vehicles arrive at a 4-way stop at the same time, and they are located head-to-head and one of the vehicles intends to turn and the other intends to go straight, the vehicle going straight has right of way. Keep in mind that if both vehicles are going straight or turning in the same direction, they can both proceed at the same time as they will not cross each other’s path.

Right over left. When two vehicles arrive at a 4-way stop at the same time, and they are located head-to-head and one of the vehicles intends to turn right and the other intends to turn left, the vehicle turning right has right of way.

Footnote: Campus photos by UF Photography. Infographics by Rachel Wayne.