OKEECHOBEE — As local motorists come to grip with a new four-way stop at the intersection of S.E. 18th Terrace and Charles Harvey Highway, they are also dealing another problem — bicyclists who don’t think stop signs apply to them.
With the recent change at the intersection, Deputy Lieutenant Rob Coleman, of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), said deputies have issued several warnings to motorists who weren’t aware of the change.
“We’re telling them, ‘Hey, this is a four-way now’,” he said.
Because of this recent change, it has become more important for motorists and bicyclists alike to adhere to state traffic laws.
While a bicycle is not classified as a motor vehicle, it is still classified as a vehicle under Florida state law. And, as such, bicyclists must abide by the same laws as motorists.
“If they think because they’re on a bicycle they’re immune to traffic laws, they’re not,” said Captain Gary Bell, who heads up the road patrol division at the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO). “Bicycles are not a motor vehicle, but they are still considered a vehicle.”
The veteran law enforcement officer then alluded to Florida state statute 316.2065 which reads, in part: “Every person propelling a vehicle by human power has all the rights, and all of the duties, applicable to the driver of any other vehicle under this chapter.”
Capt. Bell said ticketing bicyclists is “not an issue we get everyday.”
Still, pointed out OCSO Deputy Lieutenant Shannon Peterson, deputies don’t ignore violations.
“If we see something, they (the laws) get enforced,” he said.
The captain, along with Lt. Peterson and Lt. Coleman, then began pointing out other traffic laws that bicyclists must abide by.
• Bicyclists must ride no more than two abreast;
• Bicyclists shall ride in a single lane;
• Bicyclists cannot impede traffic;
• Bicyclists must ride with traffic;
• A bicyclist or passenger under the age of 16 must wear an approved helmet;
• Bicyclists riding on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic shall ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for such use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway; and,
• Bicycles cannot be ridden after dark unless they are equipped with a working white light that is visible at a distance of at least 500 feet. Bikes must also have a lamp and reflector on the rear, with “… each exhibiting a red light that’s visible from a distance of 600 feet to the rear.”
According to the statute, a bicycle or its rider may be equipped with other lights or reflectors, in addition to the required lights.
The statute also says any person propelling a vehicle by human power on and along a sidewalk or across a roadway and along a crosswalk has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian.
Also, anyone propelling a vehicle by human power on a sidewalk or across a roadway and on or along a crosswalk shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian “… and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.”
With the increased amount of traffic at this time of year, motorists and bicyclists alike must be more cautious and aware of their responsibilities so that everyone remains safe.
Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News