INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - Indian River County has become the first jurisdiction in Florida to install new bike safety signs recently approved last year by the state.

The signs read “Florida Law: Motorists Must Give Bicycles 3 FT Clearance”.

The first signs have been installed at three Vero Beach locations: Old Dixie Highway between 12th and 16th St.; Highland Drive west of Old Dixie; and 6th Ave. near the Miracle Mile.

The purpose of the signs is to remind motorists that Florida law requires them to give bicycle riders three feet when passing.

According to the 2020 Florida Statutes section 316.083, “The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle, or an electric bicycle, must pass the bicycle, other nonmotorized vehicle, or electric bicycle at a safe distance of not less than three feet between the vehicle and the bicycle, other nonmotorized vehicle, or electric bicycle. A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation.”

The Florida Department of Transportation Traffic Engineering Manual 2021, section 2.11.4, says that the signs are intended to remind motorists of the three feet minimum clearance required when passing a bicycle.

According to the DOT manual, the signs should not be installed where bicycle lanes are present. They are intended for use where there is a documented history of crashes or near misses, as indicated by citizen complaints, field observations or crash records.

The push for the signs was led by the non-profit Bike Walk Indian River County, Inc.

“Several years ago we identified a handful of busy, lower speed roads with no bike facilities that we felt were important components of our bike network,” said BWIRC Director of Safety and Education Hugh Aaron. “Those roads connected places that people commonly wanted to go. In a perfect world our solution would be to request that shared use paths, paved off-road paths, be constructed to allow people to avoid riding on busy roads with no bike facilities. Or, if shared use paths were not realistic, we would typically request that bike lanes be installed. However, at least in the short run, neither shared use paths nor bike lanes are feasible for the roads we identified due to right of way constraints.”

“We decided to pursue having the county install educational signs. The problem we ran into initially is that the first sign we proposed, “Bikes May Use Full Lane”, is controversial, and the county pushed back. We then began working with Ed Barsotti, a bike advocacy expert with the Florida Bicycle Association.”

Mr. Barsotti worked with the Florida Dept. of Transportation to get approval of a new sign.

“Once the Florida sign was approved, the county Public Works Dept. immediately constructed and installed the signs.”

Mr. Aaron credited County Administrator Jason Brown for making the decision that the county would support the signs. County Engineer James Ennis had the signs made and installed once FDOT approval came through. Mr. Aaron also credited Indian River County Metropolitan Planning Organization staff Brian Freeman and Jim Mann for actively supporting the project, which Mr. Aaron called “one of BWIRC's long running safety improvement projects.”

The BWIRC plans to monitor how the new signs work and then consider identifying other roads where such signs would be helpful. At that point they will solicit community input.

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