Being Safer At Home has put more walkers, bicyclists, and e-scooter users on our streets and sidewalks. In this brief guide, we share what we consider to be “key” information that all of us need to know to boost multi-modal transportation safety. Read on.
Talk about “rules of the road” with your children. Get everyone up to speed . . . a safe speed!
Tallahassee is a wonderful community for multi-modal transportation.
We have the fundamental multi-modal infrastructure (bike lanes, multi-use trails, etc.) and are developing more to make it even better:
- One, the recently updated the Tallahassee-Leon County Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan is available (http://crtpa.org/tallahassee-leon-county-bicycle-and-pedestrian-master-plan/).
- Two, we have several planning entities that are developing and approving more multi-modal infrastructure.
- Three, the City of Tallahassee approved a pilot program for renting e-scooters until permanent vendors are available.
- Four, there are several websites that promote bicycling and e-scootering in Tallahassee and the surrounding region. They also present practical safety information.
We all need to be informed about multi-modal transportation safety.
Safety is, and will continue to be, the number one priority. Whether using a car, bike, scooter, or feet, we all need to know and apply basic safety rules to protect walkers, bicyclists and e-scooter users. Safety practices, including following the rules of the road, need to be adopted by all: drivers, walkers, bicyclists, and e-scooter users!
The safety laws are a combination of federal, state and local laws.
Laws regarding cycling can be confusing. Bicycles, for instance, now include the traditional bicycles as well as the newer e-assist (electric-assist) bikes. Florida legislation passed in 2020 has several new provisions that refer to electric bicycles (see definition in section 316.003, F.S. and electric bicycle regulations in section 316.20655, F.S.). Basically, electric bicycles may go where traditional bicycles go. E-scooters are also relatively new multi-modal options. There is a state law that addresses e-scooters, but the law refers primarily to rental programs similar to Tallahassee’s pilot program. For the most part, e-scooters (or micro-mobility devices, see https://www.talgov.com/place/pln-scoot.aspx ) must follow the same rules as bicyclists.
On most roads, bicyclists and e-scooter users are allowed to ride on the roads. Exceptions are interstates or other limited access roads. Walkers are also permitted to walk on roads that don’t have sidewalks. They should walk on the side facing on-coming traffic (Florida Statutes 316.130).
Bike lanes are becoming more common on roads. They are on the far right side, next to the curb. They should be at least 4 feet wide. Bike lanes can be used by bicyclists and e-scooter users. Walkers should not use bike lanes. Sometimes bike lanes are clearly marked by painted lines. If there are no bike lanes, then bicyclists and e-scooter users may ride with the direction of the traffic, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway (Florida Statutes 316.2065). Cars passing bicyclists or e-scooters should allow at least 3 feet between the car and the bicycle or e-scooter.
Some roads have a symbol of a bicycle with arrows painted on the pavement. These symbols are called sharrows. Sharrows mean that bicyclists can use the full lane. A section of Miccosukee Road (Kate Sullivan School down to Leon High School) is an example. Roads with sharrows allow special accommodations for bicyclists, e.g., bicyclists may ride near the center of the lane to maintain sufficient distance away from parked cars. Sharrows alert car drivers to exercise special caution to protect bicyclists.
Anytime you are walking, bicycling, or e-scootering on a road, wear brightly colored clothing and have lights that are visible from the front and back. Helmets for bicyclists and e-scooter users are highly recommended. They are required for those under 16. Florida Statutes 316.2065(d) states: A bicycle rider or passenger who is under 16 years of age must wear a bicycle helmet that is properly fitted and is fastened securely upon the passenger’s head by a strap and that meets the federal safety standard for bicycle helmets. As used in this subsection, the term “passenger” includes a child who is riding in a trailer or semitrailer attached to a bicycle.
On Sidewalks and Crosswalks
On sidewalks and crosswalks, walkers are VIPs! They have rights that users of other modes of transportation must recognize. Walkers have to respect the law, also. They must cross streets at crosswalks. They should not jaywalk (cross streets in locations other than crosswalks).
Under certain conditions, bicyclists and e-scooter users may use sidewalks. If a road has a bike lane, then bicyclists should be riding in it. However, bike lanes are often on roads that authorize high travel speeds for vehicles (> 30 mph) and some bicyclists and e-scooter users view those lanes as unsafe. (I’m one of those!). If bicyclists and e-scooter users are on sidewalks, they must always yield to walkers. This can be done by stopping and waiting for walkers to pass or walking the bike or e-scooter around them. If coming up behind walkers, bicyclists and e-scooter users should make an audible signal to alert the walker of their approach. Remember, though, the law requires yielding to the walkers.
As a final point, please remember that to change traffic lights at intersections, it is often necessary for bicyclists and e-scooter users to get on the sidewalk to push the traffic-signal buttons.
On Multi-use Paths
We have several multi-use paths in our multi-modal transportation infrastructure. Some of these are located through parks (Cascades) and some are along streets (Franklin Blvd.). They are sometimes bi-directional, indicated by a line down the middle. Signs are usually posted to guide users. They are considered safer than sidewalks and are often the preferred multi-modal infrastructure option.
There are several websites that offer helpful information about a multi-modal approach. Links to several websites that post relevant information for the Tallahassee region are:
- State Bike Laws
- Florida Statute 316.2065 (Bicycle)
- Florida Statute 316.130 (Pedestrian)
- Tallahassee E-Scooter Information with slow zones (Cascades Park) and no ride zones (college campuses)
- City of Tallahassee “Bike Tallahassee” website
- City of Tallahassee e-Scooter program information
- Capital Region Transportation Planning Agency (This website is a good resource on all of the transportation planning efforts that are underway in our community.)
- Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency (Leon County Commission and Tallahassee Commission)
Contributors to this Guide
Mary Kay Falconer represents multi-modal transportation issues on the BHNA board and is Chair of the Citizens Multi-modal Advisory Committee (affiliated with the CRTPA).
As part of their responsibilities to help educate the public, Julie Christesen and Katherine Wegrzyn in the transportation planning for the Tallahassee-Leon County Planning Office, offered valuable input for the guide.
Contact Julie Christesen if you are interested in learning more about multi-modal initiatives in Tallahassee and Leon County.