Most Florida cyclists realize that when riding between sunset and sunrise, the law requires cyclists to have a red rear light and white front light visible from a certain distance. What kind of light should the cyclist use? Probably the most common rear light is called the “blinkie” light. It is a flashing red rear light. Blinkie lights are inexpensive and the batteries seem to last a long, long time. Most Florida bike shops sell “blinkie” rear lights for safety and to help cyclists follow this law. Many cyclists feel that “blinkie” lights catch the approaching motorists’ attention better than steady lights. But are flashing lights legal?
Recently, I was speaking to a bicycle club about cycling and current legal issues. I was asked an excellent question. I thought I would share the answer to this question, which may not be obvious. Consider this scenario: During a bicycle club sponsored training ride, the group of club cyclists approach a traffic light at an intersection. They want to go straight through the intersection or make a left turn. The traffic light is red. The traffic light won’t change to green. The cyclists and their bicycles don’t “trigger” the light to change to green. (Many traffic signals use sensors to detect vehicles before the signal turns green for cross-streets or left-turn-only lanes.
These “demand-actuated” signals cause problems when they fail to detect a waiting motorist, bicyclist, or motorcyclist. Drivers of small vehicles, such as bicycles, often have difficulty being detected by the sensors because the sensors are improperly designed or adjusted.) Are the cyclists allowed to stop, yield, and then move through the intersection, even though the traffic light is still red? What advice should the club ride leader give?
On June 4, Governor Crist signed House Bill 971. The law becomes effective September 1, 2010. The law has been described as a “mandatory bike lane” law, which means that bicyclists must ride in the bike lane, when one is provided. Fortunately, the law does not MANDATE that cyclists always have to ride in a bike lane. The law gives allows exceptions for when the cyclist is passing another bicycle, when preparing to turn left, when attempting to avoid any dangerous condition present in the bike lane, etc. However, some times the bike lane is not the safest spot. Some bike lanes are right next to parked cars so that driver's doors could be opened into the cyclists' path.
Both Georgia and Maryland have proposed 3 Foot Laws currently in front of their legislatures. I strongly urge these States to pass the 3 Foot Laws. The law provide an important protection to cyclists. Motorists who “buzz” cyclists are far too common.