Bells on Bikes

Question

Seymour asked: Is a bicyclist required to have a bell or some other warning equipment when riding on a sidewalk in Orlando or Winter Park, Fl?

Answer

Although a motor vehicle is required to have a horn, no vehicle may legally have a bell or whistle. A horn would seem to be acceptable on a bicycle, but not required.

s. 316.271Horns and Warning Devices

(1) Every motor vehicle when operated upon a highway shall be equipped with a horn in good working order and capable of emitting sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of not less than 200 feet.

(4) No vehicle shall be equipped with, nor shall any person use upon a vehicle, any siren, whistle, or bell, …..

Bicyclists must slow or stop as appropriate and yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk, and give an audible signal before passing.

s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations

(10) A person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.

Traditionally, cyclists say, “Passing on your left please” at a reasonable distance before passing.

In Orlando, bicycles are not permitted on sidewalks unless the sidewalk has been designated and signed for joint use as a bike path.

Sec. 10.15. – Riding on Sidewalks; Joint Use as Bicycle Path

(1) No person shall ride a bicycle on a sidewalk within the corporate limits of the City unless the sidewalk has been designated for joint use as a bicycle path and posted with appropriate signs indicating such use.

(2) Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon such a designated and signposted sidewalk, such person shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian on the sidewalk.

(3) Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon such a designated and signposted sidewalk, such person shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian on the sidewalk.

Orlando also has regulations prohibiting pedestrians from bike paths unless it is designated and signed as a joint use sidewalk, and upon which pedestrians must yield to bicyclists.

Sec. 10.16. – Riding on Bicycle Paths; Joint Use as Sidewalks

(2) No person shall walk on a bicycle path within the corporate limits of the City unless the bicycle path has been designated for joint use as a sidewalk and posted with appropriate signs indicating such use.

(4) Whenever a bicycle path has been designated and signposted for joint use as a sidewalk, pedestrians walking thereon shall yield the right-of-way to bicyclists riding on the bicycle path. Bicyclists shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian on the bicycle path.

In Winter Park, bicycles are prohibited from using sidewalks in the central business district.

Sec. 98-6. – Bicycle Riding

(b) It shall be unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk within the central business district of the city.

Posted in Ask Geo, Bicycle Equipment, Sidewalks & Crosswalks
6 comments on “Bells on Bikes
  1. I live in Lely resort and constantly have to move out of the way to people on bikes. It has become dangerous for me to walk with my small dog, I don’t hear them coming from behind me. I think there should be a law that bikes have to have bells and give the right away to the pedestrians.

  2. Geo says:

    Georgia,
    If you are on the sidewalk, bicyclists must give an audible signal before passing and must yield to pedestrians. As you can see from the above, bells on bicycles are not lawful

  3. Keithmj says:

    Sorry Geo. I have had bells on my bikes since 1995, 1996.. I also use an Airzound horn. I use the bell to let the walker or runner know that I am behind them and then usually say “on the left or on your left” This is one of those laws that will probably be thrown out of court or I will never be given a ticket for unless I are abusing it.
    They sell them in my local bike shops, which doesn’t make it legal to use but I have never heard of anyone getting a ticket because of a bell on a bike. I even bought a folding 20″ bike that came with a bell.
    That is like the blue light on a bike, it has been thrown out of court before, as long as people can tell that the bicyclist is not a police officer or acting like a police officer they usually don’t say anything about the lite.
    Now watch me get a ticket tomorrow because of my bell. lol

    • Is Florida’s implied prohibition of bell use on a bicycle unintentional?

      Florida adopted the provision in s. 316.271(4) verbatim from the Uniform Vehicle Code (national model code). In the UVC the provision (set forth in s. 12-401(b)) was applicable to a “vehicle” but didn’t apply to bicycles because the UVC specifically excepted bicycles from the rule. Florida didn’t pick up the exceptions, but in the 1970s this didn’t matter because Florida still defined “bicycle” as “device”, not “vehicle”. Bell use on a bicycle remained legal.

      In 1983 the Florida Legislature redefined “bicycle” as “vehicle”. This made cyclists subject to all regulations for vehicle drivers and bicycles subject to all regulations for “vehicles” except insofar as “special regulations” were applicable or unless the general regulations were inapplicable by their very nature.

      Did legislators notice that use of a bell on a bicycle would henceforth be prohibited? For whatever reason, no exception text was ever developed and adopted. In practice, as Keithmj has noted, the prohibition is not enforced; I have never heard of a cyclist receiving a ticket for bell use.

  4. Florida’s implied prohibition of use of a bell on a bicycle in s. 316.271(4) might be unintentional. This provision, prohibiting use of a bell on a “vehicle”, was adopted verbatim from the Uniform Vehicle Code (model national code), which has included it since at least the 1960s (it appears in the 1968 edition, in s. 12-401(b)). The UVC, however, included separate provisions that specifically excepted bicycles.

    Until 1975, the UVC exception was made in a provision that required a bicycle to be “equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least 100 feet”. For whatever reason, the Legislature did not incorporate the requirement in the Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law. In any case, use of a bell on a bicycle was not prohibited in Florida in the 1970s because (until 1983), Florida Statutes defined “bicycle” as a “device”–not a “vehicle”.

    In 1975 the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Laws deleted the requirement from the UVC, but added a new provision (s. 12-701) that excepted bicycles and bicyclists from any provision regarding equipment that was not made specifically applicable to bicycles or bicyclists. Thus, use of a bell on a bicycle was neither required nor prohibited, under the UVC. The 1975 change was not picked up in chapter 316 of Florida Statutes, but again it made no difference at that time because “bicycle” was still defined as “device”.

    With the redefinition of “bicycle” as “vehicle” in 1983, the prohibition of bell use on a “vehicle” henceforth applied, by implication, to bicycles. The result is that Florida has a prohibition of bell use on a “vehicle” taken verbatim from the UVC that was never intended by the UVC’s authors to apply to bicycles–but which has applied to bicycles in Florida since 1983 because Florida hasn’t (thus far) picked up or developed any text to make an exception. In practice, the prohibition doesn’t seem to be enforced; I have never heard a cyclist receiving a ticket for using a bell.

  5. The implied prohibition of bell use on a bicycle might be unintentional.

    Florida adopted the provision in s. 316.271(4) verbatim from the Uniform Vehicle Code (national model code). In the UVC the provision (set forth in s. 12-401(b)) was applicable to a “vehicle” but didn’t apply to bicycles because the UVC specifically excepted bicycles from the rule. Florida didn’t pick up the exceptions, but in the 1970s this didn’t matter because Florida still defined “bicycle” as “device”, not “vehicle”. Bell use on a bicycle remained legal.

    In 1983 the Florida Legislature redefined “bicycle” as “vehicle”. This made cyclists subject to all regulations for vehicle drivers and bicycles subject to all regulations for “vehicles” except insofar as “special regulations” were applicable or unless the general regulations were inapplicable by their very nature.

    Did legislators notice that use of a bell on a bicycle would henceforth be prohibited? For whatever reason, no exception text was ever developed and adopted. In practice, as Keithmj has noted, the prohibition is not enforced; I have never heard of a cyclist receiving a ticket for bell use.

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