FSU to Enforce Bicycle Traffic Laws, Improve Safety

Black Dog in Bicycle Basket

With several college campuses and extensive urban design, Tallahassee provides a landscape that encourages the surrounding population to use bicycling as a primary form of transportation.

Using a bicycle to ride to campus is a popular choice among students. Coupled with beautiful weather and the idea of saving energy, the benefits are clear. Unfortunately, statistics indicate that bicyclists absorb a hefty amount of risk.

According to NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the state of Florida consistently has the most bicycle deaths each year, with an average annual death toll of 110.

In 2005, FSUPD conducted research in an attempt to discover the problem areas of injury crashes. The initiative was spearheaded by Deputy Chief of Police, Major Jim Russel.

"You have to pay attention to your environment and focus on where people are getting injured," said Major Jim Russel.

The research yielded interesting results; of all traffic crashes involving injuries in the fiscal year 2004-2005, 54% involved bicyclists or pedestrians. In response, FSUPD proposed the Bicycle Education, Enforcement and Pedestrian (BEEP) program as a permanent solution.

The BEEP program objectively seeks to end all bicycle and pedestrian injuries through education and enforcement. The program launched in 2006, but continues to have a lasting presence on campus today.

"We're still primarily education-oriented," Russel said. "A lot of people really don't know the bicycle laws."

Periodically, FSUPD will set up areas of campus to educate and enforce bicycle and pedestrian safety. One particular program involves an undercover police officer travelling on a bicycle and checking to make sure every car gives at least 3 feet of distance as they pass. Most motorists do this naturally, and it's usually lack of education if they do not.

As an avid bicyclist and a victim of two bicycle-motorist injuries, Major Jim Russel hopes to see routine policing of bicyclists to ensure a consistently safe environment.

"It's about responsibility and respect on the road for all road users," Russel said.

Florida State offers a friendly environment for bicyclists. There are bicycle repair stations located outside of the Leach Center and the Oglesby Union along with bike racks located outside of almost every building. If students are looking to begin biking to campus, Sustainable Campus offers bicycles for rent at a low cost during the beginning of each semester as a part of the reCycle initiative.

Below are some helpful tips for bicyclists to avoid penalties:

  • When riding in the street you must ride with the flow of traffic (even in the bicycle lane).
  • You have the right to ride in the roads but you must move to the right or left to allow traffic to pass.
  • Riding with no hands is illegal.
  • Riding with headphones in your ears is illegal.
  • When riding at night, you are required to have a front white light, a rear red light and a rear red reflector.
  • If you ride in the streets you must adhere to all traffic laws.
  • If you ride on the sidewalk you must adhere to all pedestrian laws AND yield to pedestrians.