Biking Florida

Biking in South Florida: Where the Cars Are

The Florida Bicycle Program, within the Florida Department of Transportation, gets numerous requests for bicycling roads along the southern east coast, and most notably, U.S. Route A-1-A. Bicycling in south Florida can be a pleasant experience, but does require alertness and skill. We generally advise against family and group rides, or novice level riders in this region. Skilled groups or families may find the conditions acceptable. As a general rule, those seeking pleasant, low hassle bicycling are asked to consider Central to North Florida, above an imaginary line drawn from Daytona Beach to Tampa. The panhandle of Florida, and the northern sections in general offer better riding conditions and more variety.

The Bicycle Program also gets more requests for bicycling the Keys than any 10 other locations combined. Bicycling the Keys with the right approach can be rewarding. Bicycling at the wrong time, or using the wrong approach can be unpleasant and dangerous. Consider your riding ability, willingness to put up with traffic, and your safety awareness before riding this section of the state.

Bicycling the lower east coast of Florida along the popular 2-lane U.S. Route A-1-A from Melbourne south to just above Palm Beach County involves many miles of pleasant roads with light to moderate traffic. These should only be ridden during certain time periods. Follow the below tips for best results. There are only about 30-60 miles of this section that have paved shoulders.

The section of roads along the coast from Palm Beach County to Miami still has many miles of pleasant travel, but has much higher traffic counts. Some cyclists use a combination of interior urban roadways through these sections. Avoid using Oakland Park West from U.S. 1 to 441. As a general rule, if you don't like a road, find an alternate. The one you are on is unlikely to get better. Routes along the Gulf Coast have similar 2-lane roadways, and require the same level of precautions as riding along the east coast. Many bridges still do not have paved shoulders.

Traffic speeds in the Everglades are restricted to 45 mph. Early morning rides are best. Do not attempt to cross the Everglades on the Tamiami Trail (US 41). This road poses extreme risk. In south Florida there are no alternative crossings by bike.

Generally, interior roadways in south Florida are few in number, have only 2 lanes with no shoulders, and heavy tourist and commercial traffic. The roads offer very little variety, and are an exceptionally high challenge. Crossing the state in the lower quadrant is prohibited on State Road 84 (Alligator Alley, now part of I-75), leaving only the extreme risk Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41). We generally advise all bicyclists to take the bus across this section.

Dozens of bicyclists each week ride the Florida Keys along U.S. Route 1, from Homestead, Florida to Key West. Although this area is quite scenic, offering views of the Gulf to the West and North, and views of the Atlantic to the South and East, the route is only for the experienced bike rider. With only a few exceptions the entire route is 2-lane.

At least 70% of the route now has 4-6' paved shoulders, and all of the bridges and bridge approaches have paved shoulders. There are also 10-20 miles of separate bike paths. The remaining sections without shoulders should only be considered by highly competent bicyclists.

All bicyclists are asked to follow these tips:

  • When bicycling the Keys, take the Card Sound Road from Homestead (State Road 904) to cut off the first 29 miles of U.S. Route 1 traffic.
  • Consider riding all sections from early morning light to 10:00 a.m. These are the hours with the lightest tourist, camper and commercial traffic. Settle in for snorkeling, boating, fishing or other fun during the remaining hours.
  • In popular tourist areas try to avoid any weekend or holiday riding. And avoid any possibility of riding during traditional drinking hours (e.g. after 4:00 p.m.).
  • Get off the road during rain showers, when motorist visibility is reduced. Most showers pass by quickly.
  • Don't ride at night if you can avoid it. If you must ride at night, wear retroreflective clothing as well as using the required reflectors and lights.
  • Always wear bright, fluorescent upper garments during the day, and a bicycle helmet. Help the motorist by being highly visible.
  • Wear plenty of sun screening agents. The combination of sun, wind and reflected light can do immense harm to skin. Drink plenty of fluids.

Many thanks to the Florida Department of Transportation for information used in this piece.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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