Bicycles in left or right turn lanes

Question

Especially on the weekends, there are large groups of bicyclists, sometimes with 50-100 riders.  When they stop for a red light, they bunch up and begin to even fill the left-turn-only lane, thereby obstructing vehicles from using that assigned lane to wait for the light to change.   Once the signal is green, the bicyclists in the left-turn lane proceed straight; thereby, not following a marked turning course.   Isn’t that a violation?

Answer

When stopped at the light, or at any other time when the intent is to proceed straight through the intersection, they shouldn’t use the marked left turn lane or a right-turn-only lane if present.  The statute that applies is:

s. 316.089 – Driving on Roadways Laned for Traffic

Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic….

(3)  Official traffic control devices may be erected directing specified traffic to use a designated lane or designating those lanes to be used by traffic moving in a particular direction regardless of the center of the roadway; and drivers of vehicles shall obey the directions of such device.

Whether the offense is one that warrants a citation by an officer is subject to the discretion of the officer.   The cyclists are probably not thinking about it as a problem, and since they are slower starting, they may be more concerned with not blocking other traffic when the light changes.  If they can all get through one light, other traffic is not disrupted as much.

Is it a really a problem?  Have there been any incidents in which a motorist or cyclist has been injured or otherwise seriously affected?  Would it be a bigger problem if they stopped one behind the other in a long line?  Attempting to single out the actual miscreants and cite them is a difficult task after they resume riding.

Officers are busy and probably have other things that are far more important.  Lacking some indication that it is a real problem, I would put it in the category of 75 mph in a 70 zone on I-95.  Of course I would never do that, but if I ever did, I don’t think the officer would nab me.

If it is a problem, I recommend that an officer talk to the group.  They are probably on that same ride at the same time and place every week, and determining the starting point is not difficult.  If we can get bicycle groups and law enforcement agencies talking to each other to discuss situations like this, we can make giant steps toward communication and cooperation on the roads.

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