ORLANDO, Fla. - Avid bicyclist Lisa Portelli is excited to see downtown Orlando's new bicycle sharing stations, where people can rent a bike, ride it around downtown, and drop it off at another station. But she worries about the state of bicycle safety in Central Florida as a whole -- especially for new cyclists and kids.
"It doesn't feel like a safe community to ride in and a lot of people won't ride bikes," Portelli said. "We need to make some changes."
Portelli has gathered a group of community members and local officials to attend a workshop at the Winter Park Farmers' Market and discuss ways to make biking safer in Central Florida. Part of her group hits the road, and bikes to local city halls to deliver the safety message in person.
"This group is out here today because they imagine a community where you can get on a bike and ride around with an 8-year-old on some of the roads," Portelli said after a trip where the group cycled around several cities by using Sunrail to meet with officials. "And we have some great examples here of things that have been done."
Some safety examples include this bike trails in Maitland, with signs and street markings that make drivers aware of cyclists. There are also special tunnels and trails keep cyclists off busy roads to stay safe. But what about the safety of more advanced cyclists who prefer to be on the road with cars?
"As far as assessing the situation, it's pretty dismal right now," said Amanda Day, with Bike/Walk Central Florida. She believes current laws governing how bikes share roads with cars are confusing.
"There is a law, it's called the three foot passing law," Day said. "So when a driver comes upon a cyclists, they are required to pass the cyclists, allowing for at least three feet to go around."
Right now there's confusion about whether drivers can cross the double yellow line to pass a cyclist. A new bill by a state Rep. Kathleen Passidomo would change that, by requiring drivers to cross into a no passing zone "in order to provide at least 3 feet between the motor vehicle and [bicycle]."
Passidomo's bill would also outlaw harassing, taunting, or throwing something at a cyclists and toughen penalties for drivers who hit cyclists.
Day and Portelli stress education for both cyclists and motorists to ehance safety. Day points out that cyclists have to follow same rules and have the same rights as motorists.
"So a cyclist is supposed to stop and needs to stop and should stop at a 4 way stop sign," Day said. "They should not be blowing through red lights. And we see that a lot. So there's a lot of education that needs to be had not only for motorist but as well as for the cyclists."
Local 6 is monitoring the bill's progress in Tallahassee. Check back to ClickOrlando.com for updates.
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