Cyclists’ Lane Position When Not Keeping Right

Question

Cecelia asked:  I need further clarification on s. 316.2065(5)(a)(1). I understand that the statute states a bicyclist may leave the right-most portion of the road when passing, as well as in the other given situations. However, my question is exactly where is the bicyclist supposed to ride when exercising this right? The statute does not seem to address this.

Answer

You are correct that the statute does not say where in the lane a cyclist can and should ride when not required to keep right.

s. 316.2065 –Bicycle Regulations

(1) Every person propelling a vehicle by human power has all the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle under this chapter, except as to special regulations in this chapter, and except as to provisions in this chapter which by their nature can have no application.

(5)(a)Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

  1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
  2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
  3. When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict, including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, turn lane, or substandard-width lane, which makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge or within a bicycle lane. For the purposes of this subsection, a “substandard-width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

(b)Any person operating a bicycle upon a one-way highway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of such roadway as practicable.

The issue is normally cyclists impeding other traffic.

Although not specifically stated, the primary purpose of this section seems to be to require the cyclist to allow efficient traffic flow as long as the cyclist can do so in safety.  It appears to give the cyclist the discretion to react to situations that might be hazardous.

Note that the statute uses the term “reasonably necessary”, and not absolutely necessary.

Since the statute does not place any further restrictions on the lane position of the cyclist, the apparent intent is to allow the cyclist to use as much of the lane as is required to assure safety.  It does not address the impact on other traffic, and does not prohibit impeding other traffic.

In fact, other than the provision in the Bicycle Regulations, paragraph (6), that mentions cyclists impeding traffic when riding abreast, there is no statutory limitation on bicyclists impeding traffic when otherwise riding legally.

The only other statute that mentions vehicles impeding traffic applies only to “motor vehicles”, the statutory definition of which specifically excludes bicycles.

s. 316.183 – Unlawful Speed

(5) No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

Note that a slow-moving motor vehicle can legally impede other traffic when necessary for safe operation.  That is the same stipulation that allows cyclists to leave the right side of the roadway, thereby impeding other traffic in some cases, when otherwise operating legally.  Safety clearly is paramount, with traffic flow secondary.

See also this post about narrow lanes:

http://flbikelaw.org/2010/01/substandard-width-lanes-updated/

There is no restriction in the statutes on the lane position of a cyclist when not required to keep right.

There is a good discussion of cyclists legally impeding traffic in a training program for officers published by the National Highway Transportation Administration.  To order a copy of the video on CD-ROM, FAX your request to: 301-386-2194.

Since it is a national program, it does not discuss detailed state law.

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3 comments on “Cyclists’ Lane Position When Not Keeping Right
  1. John Hopkins says:

    The ambiguity in the Florida law serves a useful purpose that’s often overlooked. By leaving it to the cyclist’s discretion how much of the lane to occupy, the Legislature recognizes that a safe lane alignment for a skilled cyclist may not be safe for a rider who is unsteady on wheels. Weather and road condition also could affect when it’s safe to ride to the right or when it’s prudent to take center lane. We cyclists need to protect our latitude in this regard by being aware and courteous to other road users, and not taking more road than we need. Riding three and four abreast feels cool — there’s definitely a rush in it — but it is costing us friends we need.

  2. Sondra says:

    What would be the proper position for a cyclist when she approaches traffic on a busy street? Can she continue on the right edge (and pass the automobiles) until she reaches the intersection and go ahead if the signal permits?

  3. Mighk Wilson says:

    The cyclist’s lane position is going to depend on the potential conflicts and hazards in that given situation. For example, when I’m at the tail end of a long queue of cars and motorists are waiting to turn left from the on-coming direction, I will usually be at the far left side of the lane in order to keep from being hidden behind the cars. The left-turning motorist can then see me well before I get into the intersection.

    The law doesn’t tell cyclists where they should be when they are not required to keep as far right as practicable, because the whole point is to give the cyclist the freedom to handle the situation in such a way as to maximize his/her safety. Lawmakers can’t foresee every possibility.

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