SO, in essence, are we allowed to take any and all lanes (ride in the center) that are “substandard”, either single or double abreast?
The use of the terms “in essence” and “any and all” can almost always point to a negative answer to that question. When you are taking a test and the question has the word “always” or “never” in it, what does that tell you?
The same applies here.
Please keep in mind that the stated purpose of this provision in the statute is to allow the cyclist to avoid unsafe conditions. Complying with one statute that allows us to avoid one unsafe condition does not mean that we are immune to other conditions that might also be unsafe.
The use of the roadways by any user is a delicate balance between what is permitted and what is best for our safety and that of others. The purpose of the language about “substandard-width lanes” allows cyclists to leave the right-most curb or edge of the roadway to avoid an unsafe condition. It obviously would not be in the best interests of safety to avoid one hazard and subject ourselves or others to another unsafe condition.
The reality of the roadway is that all users are not always going to be in strict compliance with all statutes at all times. We must factor that into our decisions when using one section of one statute that we think might benefit us. We must balance the benefit derived from the act with the possible negative outcomes.
One example is a high speed roadway with a substandard-width lane, many large trucks and a good paved shoulder. Simply because use the shoulder is not required, the cyclist may still want to consider all the options and follow the practices that will give the best chances of remaining safe.
Another factor we must consider is that we are sharing the roadway with others. Just because a statute allows something does not mean it is necessarily the right thing to do.
If we must legally impede other traffic by leaving the right side of the roadway to remind overtaking drivers of their responsibilities and insure our safety, we may want to consider the inconvenience to others. One option we may want to consider is to pull off the roadway when it is safe to do so to allow traffic to proceed. There is no Florida statute that requires that, but there are states that require cyclists to yield to backed up traffic under certain circumstances.
When your legal actions do cause others inconvenience, you may want to give a friendly wave as you move into a position that allows them to proceed, thanking them for their patience.
With reference to the two-abreast issue, please make sure you fully understand the statute. All statutes are not perfect and do not fully address all possible circumstances. That is addressed in the July 13, 2009 and July 15, 2009 posts in the archives.