Miami is a city that loves cars but barely knows how to drive legally. So it's no surprise that many of us don't know the laws regarding the safe and legal operation of a bicycle either. In fact, it seems like every time we post a story about a bicyclist who was hit doing something completely legal, someone inevitably rides into the comments to claim the cyclist shouldn't have been doing that perfectly legal thing in the first place. On the flip side, we do see plenty of cyclists pedaling around with a complete disregard for the law.
So in the interest of public service and a friendly reminder, we reached out to bike experts and took at hard look at Florida state cycling laws to put together this refresher course — and hopefully end some of the pointless internet yelling.
Bicyclists are required to stay in the bike lane or as close to the right-hand curb or edge as practical — under most conditions.
That also means bikes should travel in the same direction as traffic. Exceptions are made on roads with larger lanes and bike lanes, and when cyclists pass another bike or prepare to make a left turn (in which case it's advised to do so comfortably before making that turn) or when they avoid obstacles. Cyclists on one-way roads can also use the left-hand side of the road as well.
Bicyclists can take up an entire lane under certain conditions.
When a bike lane is absent and the regular lane is too narrow for a car and bicycle to safely share, a cyclist is allowed to use an entire lane. As to the question of when a lane is "too narrow," the actual wording of the Florida law is a bit vague and only defines a "substandard-width lane” as "a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane."
Update: Collin Worth, the City of Miami's bicycle coordinator, offers some clarity on that question:
As a follow up on the vague when bikes may take the full lane "substandard lane" - is any lane that is 14' or less. Most lanes in the City are less than 14'. While it is ideal to be a courteous to other road users and allow vehicles to pass, do not give up your safety for others convenience.
Motorists must allow three feet of space between their vehicle and the bicyclist when passing a bike.
If you can't leave that much space, slow down and wait to pass the cyclist until you can.
Cyclists are expected to follow all other normal traffic laws.
That means stopping and waiting at a red light and using hand signals to indicate turns.
Cyclists can ride on the sidewalk unless otherwise specified, but must signal before passing a pedestrian.
While operating on a sidewalk, anyone on a bike has the same rights and duties as a pedestrian. Cyclists, however, must yield the right of way to pedestrians and must audibly signal before passing a pedestrian. That's why all DecoBikes are outfitted with bells.
Bikes are not allowed to ride more than two abreast.
Unless they're in specially designated lanes or areas, cyclists cannot ride with more than two bikes side-by-side. If riding two abreast in conditions that would impede other traffic, cyclists are required to ride single-file.
Sorry, cyclists, headphones are illegal.
You're not allowed to wear any headphones or headpieces because they could prevent you from properly detecting traffic.
When riding at night, cyclists must have lights on their bikes.
A white light visible from 500 feet away is required on the front, and both a red lamp and a red reflector visible from 600 feet away are required on the back. Other lighting is permitted and encouraged.
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Drivers and passengers of parked cars must watch out for cyclists before opening their doors.
If you've parked along the street, make sure to look back before opening your door to make sure a cyclist isn't coming up behind you.
Cyclists under 16 must wear a helmet.
And that helmet must meet federal safety guidelines.
You need a permit to take your bike onto a Metrorail train
Technically, anyway. The permits don't cost money, and you're supposed to be able to get one at any Metrorail station or by filling out and sending (via snail mail) the form linked here. Permits are not needed to take a bike onto Metromover or Metrobus. People who take their bikes onto Metrorail trains are required to
board the last car of the train and stay toward the back. Update: As a reader correctly noted, the county has eliminated the last-train-only rule; bikes are now allowed throughout the train. You still need a permit, though.
(Incidentally, in case you're wondering if the City of Miami has any special laws overruling the state guidelines for bikes, it doesn't, says Collin Worth, the city's bicycle coordinator.)