Bicycles! It seems like they are popping up everywhere in Palm Beach County these days. This is not surprising when you consider the glorious Florida sunshine and the ever-increasing concern for living a healthy lifestyle. I know that except for an occasional article about motorcycles, this blog usually references traffic tickets that are issued to drivers of cars and trucks, but something that few people realize is that riding a bicycle can result in getting a traffic ticket, also. Just like with any other vehicle, these traffic tickets carry the same penalties associated with committing the equivalent violation in a vehicle.
In fact, Florida General Statute 316.2065 states the following:
(1) Every person propelling a vehicle by human power has all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle…
Now, I would have to do a bit of research to determine if this applies to say, a wheelbarrow, but it does apply to bicycles as well as to golf carts. With the numerous golf course communities in Palm Beach County, it is not uncommon to see someone driving a golf cart even when not on a golf course. This is especially true within the golf communities, but often those who own or have access to golf carts don’t realize that it is against the law in Florida to operate a golf cart on a road that is not specifically designated for their use, and doing so can also result in a moving violation. Yet few of us would be surprised to see someone tooling around town on a golf cart.
The law in Florida pertaining to bicycles and golf carts mandates that the operators of either of these modes of transportation follow all of the same laws that apply to other vehicles, including yielding to pedestrians. Failing to do so can result in getting a traffic ticket which can be considered a moving violation, and a moving violation doesn’t necessarily always mean that the bike or golf cart needs to be moving. According to Florida general statute 316.194, you can get a traffic ticket for stopping, standing, or parking outside of a municipality on a paved road if it has access to an off-road area to park. This is true even if the vehicle is occupied because all roadways need to remain free of physical or visual impediments. Although this is a non-criminal traffic violation, it is still classified as a moving violation.
To those who ride bicycles, it may sound ridiculous, but one Florida man learned the hard way that sometimes cops take traffic violations by bicyclists very seriously. Last year a 51-year-old man was riding a bicycle for the first time in 25 years down the center of a dead-end street. He approached a stop sign, slowed to make sure that no one else was approaching the intersection and proceeded forward. The next thing he knew, he heard a police siren and he was being pulled over. He was issued two traffic tickets which totaled $328. One of the traffic tickets was for “failure to come to a full and complete stop” and the other one was for driving the wrong way on a one way street.
Tim Bustos, Executive Director of the Florida Bicycle Association (FBA), stated that if the bicyclist doesn’t fight the tickets and just pays the fines, the two citations will likely go on his driving record and could affect his automobile insurance rates. According to the FBA’s understanding of the law, bicyclists should not have points assessed against their licenses for moving violations, but Bustos said that clerical errors can often lead to that occurring. Conversely, the family was told by a court employee that the bicyclist could also face up to 7 points against his driver’s license.
Both of these methods of transportation are particularly concerning even though they are not regulated by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Some of the greatest concerns with these vehicles are that neither of them have the same safety features that a standard vehicle affords, they are much harder to see than standard vehicles, and they cannot travel at the same rates of speed that standard vehicles can and often do. The difficulty in seeing bicyclists is especially true with the recently popular recumbent bicycles. Another hazard that drivers of motor vehicles need to consider is that many times, bicyclists ride in groups which can make them even harder to avoid.
The lack of safety features is particularly concerning for bicyclists, but it is true for golf carts, too. Any accident involving either type of vehicle is always going to cause damage to a bike or golf cart and is nearly always going to result in injury to the person on the bike or golf cart. With hectic lives and maddening traffic, it is very tempting to want to pass bicyclists, but we all need to remember their physical vulnerability. The law states that when passing a bicycle, you must leave a three-foot margin, but this is not always a safe enough distance. In 2006 alone a bicyclist was killed every 2 days, 2 hours, and 30 minutes. Just like with motorcycles, we all need to remember to watch for bicycles and share the road, even if you feel they are riding in an unsafe manner.
If the bicyclist I mentioned were to take his case before a hearing officer or a judge and failed in his attempt to fight these traffic tickets, he could have faced not only the $328 for the ticket fines, but also up to $500 in court costs for each traffic ticket. I sure hope he hired a good traffic ticket attorney. When you think about the possible insurance rate hike combined with those kinds of court costs, you definitely need an experienced traffic ticket attorney. If you are a bicyclist and got a traffic citation for any reason, call the Traffic Ticket Team at 954-967-9888. We will be happy to provide you with a free consultation.