Laws

Have you ever been pulled over on a bicycle?

Last night, I thought it would happen to me.

I was on an urban ride with the Meetup group, and we were riding through one of the neighborhoods we always hit. It was toward the end of our ride. I counted about 15 of us at the time. We had already pedaled some 24 miles, and we had another five or six to get back. We went tearing through the streets, cutting corners and blasting down sidewalks like we always do. We turned left at an intersection; I was midpack when I heard this loud, angry voice over the intercom: “You guys know you’re supposed to stop at stop signs.” It took a second for it to register – until I saw the cop car hiding in the dark less than a block away. Everyone remained calm and kept pedaling, but I was nervous. There was another stop sign coming up, and we were still within eyesight. Sure enough, the rebels up front blew through the next intersection, and they sprinted away. I slowed, yielded to the left and the right, but the coast was clear, and I felt guilty the whole time, but I didn’t stop either, and neither did the guys behind me, which doesn’t make it right, I know, but doesn’t he have anything better to do than to harrass a bunch of bicyclists?

We charged down the next street when I heard the intercome from behind me this time: “If you don’t start stopping at the stop signs, I’m going to have to issue citations. I don’t want to be picking you guys up off the ground.” He trailed the leaders for a second, and I thought for sure I was about to see the cherries and berries come on, but he just turned down a side street and drove away. Wow! I could have sworn he was talking to me, and I just knew I wouldn’t have been able to get away because my legs were blowing up.

Anyway, I rode home confused. I thought street signs were for cars? So, to clear my conscience, I decided to look up the laws for bicyclists, and…drum roll please…Mr. Officer could have issued every one of us a ticket for not coming to a complete stop at the stop sign! There it is, in black ink: “In Florida, the bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle. Bicyclists have the same rights to the roadway, and must obey the same traffic laws as the operators of other vehicles. These laws include stopping for stop signs and red lights, riding with the flow of traffic, using lights at night and yielding the right-of-way when entering a roadway.”

I also learned another interested law – one that does not pertain to me, but a few of those guys who wear iPods when they’re riding – apparently: “A bicyclist must not wear a headset, headphone or any listening device other than a hearing aid while riding. Wearing a headset blocks out important audio cues needed to detect the presence of other traffic.”

I guess I shoud start carrying my driver’s license.

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