Bells on Bikes
James asked: I just read that bicyclists can not use bells or whistles. I use a bell to alert pedestrians I am behind them. It is more cordial than blowing my 115 db air horn which I reserve for cars. Why has Florida outlawed bells?
Apparently, our legislators did not consider the common use of bells on bicycles when the legislation was enacted for other purposes and was likely intended to prevent vehicle operators from using sound devices that are similar to those used by emergency personnel.
As indicated by these previous posts and the comments, others share your concerns. As indicated in the linked post, we recommend contacting your legislators.
You would have a better chance of winning the Lottery than getting a ticket for a bell. This is one law that they never enforce and never will, for safety it is better to have one.
Was 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 by implication? For whatever reason, no exception text for bicycles was developed and adopted. As far as motorcycles, cars and trucks were concerned, the prohibition was essentially moot; motor vehicles come equipped with much more audible horns (as required).
In practice, the prohibition seems to be well off the radar screen of enforcement officers; I have never heard of a cyclist receiving a ticket for bell use.
Sorry about the delay in posting your comment. It managed to get into the spam folder and I only caught it now.