May 17, 2010
The Honorable Charlie Crist
Governor of Florida
The Capitol, Suite PL05
Tallahassee FL 32399
Dear Governor Crist:
The Florida Bicycle Association (FBA) has serious concerns about House Bill 971, and respectfully requests your veto of the bill. Our members are not merely bicyclists, but also bicycle and pedestrian planners, traffic engineers, and bicycle safety educators, and we have identified a number of problems with the mandatory bicycle lane use amendment, as well as with allowing local governments to permit certain types of motorized vehicles on sidewalks and trails. FBA was unfortunately not included in discussions about these amendments.
The mandatory use of bicycle lanes poses a number of significant safety and legal problems for cyclists. Many members of the general public, as well as some law enforcement officers, already have a poor understanding of the existing law and of the real safety needs of cyclists. Current law requires bicyclists to drive as far right as practicable, but includes a number of exceptions that are in-practice very common on our streets and highways. Such misunderstandings already lead to unwarranted citations, as well as to harassment by motorists that will only be aggravated by the new law; any cyclist to the left of the bicycle lane stripe will be deemed a law-breaker by those with an incomplete understanding of the law.
There are also many roadways with striped (but undesignated) areas that do not meet bicycle lane standards, but that many motorists and law enforcement officers (as well as many bicyclists) believe to be bike lanes. Bicyclists driving outside of such areas will not likely be cited for violations, but will likely suffer harassment by uninformed motorists. Such harassment is the primary deterrent to cycling for many people.
There are numerous bike lanes around the state that do not meet Florida Green Book standards, and these facilities pose significant risks to cyclists. Bicyclists who avoid such lanes will be put in the position of defending themselves against unwarranted citations to officers and judges who do not understand the standards. One should not have to defend oneself for driving a vehicle in a safe and defensive manner.
Pairs and groups of bicyclists will be required to travel single-file on roadways with designated bike lanes, even when traffic volumes are low and passing is easy. They will not be so restricted on roadways without bike lanes.
The law permitting local governments to enact ordinances to allow motorized vehicles on sidewalks may not in practice pose problems for many pedestrians, but we feel it sets a bad precedent. Vehicles belong on roadways, not on sidewalks. We should be focusing on making our roadways safer for lower-speed vehicles instead of moving them into pedestrian areas.
Florida’s bicyclists wish to be part of the solution for many of our states challenges. Florida Bicycle Association is working hard to ensure cyclists understand the safest ways of using our roadways. HB 971 will make the law and its enforcement more complicated, not less, and will make cycling less safe and enjoyable.
cc: Chuck Drago, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor