KC Asked: It seems clear to me that cyclists are not required to ride in an empty parking lane, but how is that defined in terms of as far right as practicable?
If the lane is not marked as a parking space, it would be part of the roadway and the normal rules about the roadway apply.
There is no statute that says, “Vehicle operators shall not drive in a marked parking space”. However, the statutes do discuss traffic control devices.
The traffic control devices that have been adopted for use by the Department of Transportation are those of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). A parking space marking is a traffic control device.
Section 3B.19 – Parking Space Markings
Marking of parking space boundaries encourages more orderly and efficient use of parking spaces where turnover is substantial. Parking space markings tend to prevent encroachment into fire hydrant zones, bus stops, loading zones, approaches to intersections, curb ramps, and clearance spaces for islands and other zones where parking is restricted.
Drivers are required to obey any traffic control device.
FS 316.074 – Obedience to and Required Traffic Control Devices
(1) The driver of any vehicle shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device ….
In some cases, the statutes are specific about the required actions, such as that directing the use of a marked lane for its designated purpose. This statute directs drivers to use lanes designated for a particular direction, a right-turn only lane for example.
FS 316.089 – Driving on Roadways Laned for Traffic
(3) Official traffic control devices may be erected directing specified traffic to use a designated lane or designating lanes to be used by traffic moving in a particular direction ….
Another statute tells drivers of slower vehicles where they are required to drive.
FS 316.081 – Driving on Right Side of Roadway; Exceptions
(2) Upon all roadways, any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic …. shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.
A fact that a lane is marked for parking indicates its purpose and that it is not a “lane then available for traffic”.
Although the parking lane might be part of the roadway, we are still required to obey all traffic control devices. We are prohibited from using a right-turn-only lane for through traffic. Similarly, we are prohibited from using a parking lane as a lane then available for traffic.
We would not expect a motor vehicle operator to drive in a parking lane. There should be no expectation that any other driver, such as a bicyclist with all the rights and duties of other drivers, would do so.