Allison asked: I live in Florida and I use my bicycle as my only source of transportation, but I ONLY ride on the sidewalk, mainly due to all the crazy drivers out there who seem to care less about the safety of bicyclists. Anyway, my brother, who is a deputy for the sheriff’s department in the same county I live in told me that I’m not legally required to have lights on my bike as long as I ride on the sidewalk. Well, tonight I was stopped by a cop while I was riding my bike ON THE SIDEWALK. His excuse for stopping me was because I didn’t have any lights on my bike. So what is all that about. My brother knows the laws & wouldn’t misinform me…so I’m a bit confused.
Firstly, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security when on the sidewalk. In many circumstances, they are more dangerous than the roadway. There are many different hazards lurking there, particularly at intersections when the cyclist is traveling against traffic. Drivers don’t expect traffic from the sidewalk and don’t look to the right before entering a roadway from another roadway or driveway. See other hazards in the posts on Sidewalks and Crosswalks.
When on the sidewalk, which is allowed if there is no local ordinance to the contrary, bicyclists have the rights and duties of pedestrians.
s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations
(9) A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.
However, that does not actually make the bicyclist a pedestrian, a person afoot. Note the phrase, “under the same circumstances”. The cyclist is still operating a vehicle, and must follow all applicable laws, such as lights, helmets for those under 16, and DUI.
(7) Every bicycle in use between sunset and sunrise shall be equipped with a lamp on the front exhibiting a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and a lamp and reflector on the rear each exhibiting a red light visible from a distance of 600 feet to the rear.
Note that the statute does not specify any location where lights are not required.
Lights are not required during daylight hours except in inclement weather.
s. 316.217 – When Lighted Lamps are Required
(1) Every vehicle operated upon a highway within this state shall display lighted lamps and illuminating devices as herein respectively required for different classes of vehicles, subject to exceptions with respect to parked vehicles, under the following conditions;
(a) At any time from sunset to sunrise including the twilight hours. Twilight hours shall mean the time between sunset and full night or between full night and sunrise.
(b) During any rain, smoke, or fog.
The statute does not say “roadway”. It says “highway”, which includes the sidewalk and the right of way.
s. 316.003 – Definitions
(53) Street or Highway
(a) The entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place of whatever nature when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular traffic ….