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Florida residents seem clueless about the 3-foot rule for cyclists. The JSO is no exception, receiving an “F” for “Enforcement”.

September 20, 2011

According to the League of American Bicyclists, Florida ranks as #7 on the list of Most Bike Friendly States.

YET, the top four most dangerous cities in the country for cyclists and pedestrians are all located in Florida. According to Transportation for America’s “Dangerous By Design” 2011 study, these cities include – 1) the areas of Orlando / Kissimmee, 2) the areas of Tampa / St. Petersburg / Clearwater, 3) Jacksonville, and 4) the areas of Miami / Fort Lauderdale / Pompano Beach.

Here is a breakdown of each state and each category grade, according to the League of American Bicyclists. Florida receives an “F” for “Enforcement”.

The following is an article that further highlights the issue of lack of enforcement:

This article can be found here: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-05-28/news/fl-bicycles-three-feet-law-20110528_1_law-enforcement-cyclists-celia-conti

Rule passed five years ago to give bikers space

May 28, 2011|By Angel Streeter, Sun Sentinel

“A state law that’s supposed to give bicyclists some breathing room on the road has gotten little attention from law enforcement.

Five years after the state first required motorists to give cyclists at least 3 feet of clearance when passing them on the road, only a few hundred drivers have been cited for the offense.

Between 2006 and 2010, 337 tickets were issued statewide for failing to give a cyclist 3 feet of clearance, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Four tickets were issued in Palm Beach County in those four years, 55 in Broward County and 15 in Miami-Dade County.

It’s made cyclists wonder about the law’s effectiveness. Many complain about lack of enforcement and awareness among the driving public. Others consider the law pointless, noting that it’s difficult to enforce and that a 3-foot gap may not be enough in many cases.

“I don’t know if it’s accomplished anything,” said George Martin, who runs a blog on Florida bike laws. “Three feet is the absolute minimum. In most circumstances, the absolute minimum is not enough. Plus, I have heard that there is no way to enforce it.”

More than a law, the phrase “3 feet” has become a rallying cry for many cyclists. They consider it at least the minimum distance necessary to prevent vehicles from buzzing them, coming so close that they cause cyclists to swerve and crash.

But the law delivers another message for cyclists: They have a right to be on the road.

“There’s still a tremendous amount of people who don’t think we should be on the road,” said Celia Conti, a Plantation cyclist. “Anything that helps” counter that is a good thing.

Florida was among the early adopters of the 3-foot-clearance law. When the state law went into effect in 2006, only five other states had the law on the books. Now, 17 states have it, and cycling advocates have launched campaigns in other states to get it passed.

But after the law passed in Florida, it fell flat, said Joseph Mizereck, a Tallahassee lawyer and cyclist who began raising awareness about the law three years ago with bright yellow jerseys that say, “3 Feet Please. It’s the Law.”

“They’ve done nothing to educate motorists about the law,” he said. “They’ve done nothing to educate law enforcement about the law. Ask police around the state, ‘What is the 3-foot law?’ They can’t tell you what it is.”

Sgt. Richard Jacobson, a traffic officer with the Delray Beach Police Department, knows about the law. But he says it’s difficult to enforce. How can you visually tell if a motorist is 3 feet away from a cyclist?

“You can’t do that with a moving vehicle,” he said. “How in court do I show a car was less than 3 feet away? What’s my response to a defendant who says, ‘I was 3.1 feet away’?”

Still, cyclists, while understanding that the law is hard to enforce, counter that giving out more tickets could ensure safer roads and, thus, fewer injuries and deaths.

One of the major fears cyclists have is getting hit from behind. The 3-foot law helps address that, since motorists have to adjust early on to overtake a cyclist.

Cyclists also worry about getting clipped by car mirrors when drivers pass too closely.

“It happens more than you realize,” said Conti, who wears a rearview mirror on her glasses while riding so she can see cars coming from behind. “A lot of time these incidents aren’t reported.”

About 5 percent to 10 percent of bike crashes with vehicles occur when motorists are passing cyclists, said Dwight Kingsbury, Florida Department of Transportation assistant state bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.

Brandon Perez of Coral Springs knows firsthand the importance of the 3-foot law. His riding partner, Elizabeth Stewart of Tamarac, was killed in 2009 when they were riding on Palmetto Park Road west of Boca Raton. Preparing for an upcoming race, Stewart, 27, was hit from behind as the pair rode on the shoulder of the road.

The driver, Greg Robinson of Boca Raton, said he never saw the cyclists. But Perez said that moments before the crash, another car had passed them, moving to another lane to give the cyclists a huge berth.

“Had he been paying attention, had he been following the 3-feet law, she would still be alive,” he said.

Perez, who was a triathlete along with Stewart, couldn’t get back on his bike for months after the accident. To this day, he has a hard time riding his bike.

Many cyclists believe education is the key to giving the 3-foot law some teeth. There have been few safety campaigns to raise awareness. Most have been limited, local efforts.

“I can’t say [the law] has been effective,” said Jim Smith, chairman of a bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group in Delray Beach. “The basic problem is motorists are unaware of the law. The effective way they can know about it is if there are more road signs.”

Signs reminding motorists to give a 3-foot gap are in place on State Road A1A in Palm Beach County. But they are the only ones in the state.”

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. JohnnyK permalink
    September 21, 2011 7:18 PM

    There is a company here in Florida that sales cycling jerseys that procliam this law http://www.3feetplease.com/
    I am not affiliated with the company in any kind of way and I have to purchased a jersey yet so I cannot comment on how they are made.

    • September 21, 2011 7:25 PM

      I’ve seen those jerseys and while one would think they would be somewhat effective in educating drivers, in many cases, the drivers (Jacksonville drivers in particular) would only be more alienated with the cyclist. It seems the message actually encourages the more mentally unstable drivers to drive that much closer to the cyclist, if not hit them completely. Ya know, for sport. *sigh

      • JohnnyK permalink
        September 25, 2011 4:33 AM

        yeah I have thought about that too and you are prob. right unfortunately. They could end up being a target instead of a life preserver.

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