Bicycles Impeding Traffic

Question

John asked:  Recently my friend and I were stopped for impeding traffic on a road way of less than 14 feet. I looked up the law on your site which states on roadways less then 14 ft, the vehicle passes must use the oncoming lane to pass safely. The local Sheriff’s Department states that if a car must use the on coming lane to pass then it is interpreted as impeding traffic. My question is even if a single bicycle rider was passed on a 14 or less width roadway, then is not enough clearance to give the bicyclist 3 feet clearance on the pass without using the on coming lane. Which is it?

Answer

Please feel free to provide the information below to any law enforcement department.  We welcome any legal opinions, case law and court precedent.  We try to provide information that may not have been fully considered.

I wish it were as easy as 14 feet or not.  Our explanation of the 14 feet is a common sense application using all the available information and safe cycling practices.  There is no uniform interpretation of the traffic laws over all jurisdictions.  An example relating to this issue is this article:

http://flbikelaw.org/2010/03/two-citations-identical-circumstances-opposite-verdicts/

Most officers receive no formal training in the laws related to bicycling.  We hope to improve both of the above situations with the Bicycle Law Enforcement Program.

The bicycling community must step up and provide financial support to complete the program.  The cost will be about $100,000 for program development, web design, illustration, animation, filming and production and duplication and distribution.

Before we go any further, let’s correct the title of this article.  A proper title is:

Bicycles Impeding Other Traffic

Bicycles are a part of the normal mix of traffic.

s. 316.003 – Definitions

(57) Traffic –Pedestrians …. ridden and herded animals, and vehicles …. while using any street or highway for purposes of travel.

Bicycles are vehicles.

(2)  Bicycle – Every vehicle propelled solely by human power

Bicycle operators have the same rights and duties as other drivers

s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations

(1)  Every person propelling a vehicle by human power has all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle

In some situations, a bicyclist must keep to the right side of the roadway.  Even when keeping right, cyclists sometimes delay other traffic.  There are many circumstances require a cyclist to leave the right side of the roadway.

For the purpose of this discussion, assume the bicyclist is otherwise riding legally.

We will be considering a single cyclist or a line of cyclists, one behind the other.  Cyclists riding two abreast are discussed in another article:

http://flbikelaw.org/2009/07/cyclists-riding-two-abreast/

While most motorists are cooperative and try to insure the safety of all roadway users, some believe cyclists must avoid delaying them and do not understand or care about cyclists’ rights or safety.  They may not consider the many other things that delay them in the same way as bicyclist.

What does impeding traffic mean?  The act of impeding in itself is neither legal nor illegal.  Impeding may become unlawful if it is due to an unlawful act.

First, let’s define exactly what we are talking about when using the word “impede”.

One definition is simply to block or hinder.  Note that it is simply a physical act, and neither legal nor illegal.

Webster’ Dictionary

Impede – To retard in movement or progress by means of obstacles or hindrances; obstruct; hinder.

Impeding is not specifically defined in the statutes, but there is a description that might help.  Note the use of the phrase “normal and reasonable movement of traffic”.

s. 316.183 – Unlawful Speed

(5)  …. such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic ….

What is reasonable and normal?

In many situations, traffic must actually come to a full stop, such as a school bus impeding traffic while embarking children, or an officer directing traffic.

These are examples of traffic being impeded and are certainly reasonable and normal.

Drivers are impeded all the time on the roadways.  When you are stopping for a traffic light or a stop sign, it is reasonable and normal.  Traffic signs and signals are intended to impede traffic.

Stopping to wait for traffic to clear so we can safely pass a stopped garbage truck or a mail carrier is reasonable and normal.

Stopping as required by law for a pedestrian in a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, or at a marked crosswalk in other locations.

Someone who cannot go as fast as they might like because of traffic is being impeded, but it is not necessarily unlawful.

A driver may want to drive at the speed limit, which 60 mph, but cannot safely pass another vehicle traveling at 57 mph due to oncoming traffic.  That happens all the time, and is reasonable and normal.  There is no unlawful act.

If a driver can pass by changing lanes in a reasonable amount of time, there is no unreasonable delay.

…. impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.

In lanes that are too narrow for a motor vehicle to safely pass a bicyclist within the lane, the motorist must change lanes to pass. That is the definition of a substandard-width lane, which is discussed in another article:

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

Assume the lane is 10 feet wide, certainly not wide enough for an 8 foot wide truck to safely pass within the lane.  If the adjacent lane is not clear, the motorist must wait.  The bicyclist is impeding traffic, but it is not unlawful.

We would all probably agree that a driver going 30 mph on the interstate highway, minimum speed 50, with no safety reason such as weather, etc, and causing other traffic to back up, would be illegally impeding traffic under FS 316.183.  That is not reasonable and normal.

The same would be true of a bicyclist impeding traffic on a limited access highway, which is clearly not legal because bicycles are not permitted there, and is not reasonable and normal.

s. 316.091 – Limited Access Facilities

(2)  …. no person shall operate upon a limited access facility any bicycle ….

If an action is not prohibited in the statutes, it is not unlawful.  Other than the two abreast situation in another article, there is nothing in the statutes that says that a bicyclist:

  • Can impede traffic, or
  • Cannot impede traffic

The statute that discusses bicyclists impeding traffic while riding abreast says that two cyclists riding abreast cannot impede traffic in some circumstances.  Surely that must mean that there are other conditions under which bicyclists not riding abreast may legally impede traffic.

Let’s go back to the statute about unlawful speed and impeding traffic.  Note that it applies only to motor vehicles.

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.

The definition of “motor vehicle” in the statutes specifically excludes bicycles.

s. 316.003 – Definitions

(21) Motor Vehicle -Any self-propelled vehicle …., but not including any bicycle

Bicyclists are not included in the statute above that prohibits motor vehicles from impeding the reasonable and normal movement of traffic.

We have determined that impeding traffic can be either legal or not legal.  Also, the statute about unlawful speed does not apply to bicycles.  The statutes neither prohibit nor allow bicyclists to impede traffic.

When otherwise riding legally, bicyclists by their nature are normally slower than motor vehicles.  If they were never allowed to cause other traffic to slow, they would effectively be prohibited from using the roadways.  That certainly was not the intent of the legislation giving bicyclists all the rights and duties of other drivers.

s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations

(1) Every person propelling a vehicle by human power has all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle.

Let’s talk about a few cases of cyclists operating legally in situations that may slow other traffic.

When the statute states that a cyclist is required to keep right except under certain circumstances, such as unsafe conditions, it is implied that that other traffic may be affected.

The details of the circumstances requiring a bicyclist to keep right and the exceptions will be discussed in detail in other articles.  For now, let’s just concentrate on the concept of impeding traffic when otherwise operating legally.  These are a few situations in which a cyclist may need to leave the right side of the roadway to operate safely.

s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations

(5)(a) Any person operating a bicycle …. shall (keep right) except under any of the following situations:

1. When overtaking and passing

2. When preparing for a left turn

3. When reasonably necessary to avoid any (unsafe) condition.

One statute is quite specific about the cyclist impeding traffic legally.  When preparing for a left turn, a cyclist may use the full lane from which the turn will be made.

s. 316.151 – Required Position and Method of Turning at Intersections

A person riding a bicycle and intending to turn left in accordance with this section is entitled to the full use of the lane from which the turn may legally be made.

Clearly, the intent is that the cyclist will sometimes impede other traffic, but it is the safest operation and is entirely legal.  Safety is always paramount in the statutes.

Even though the other statutes are not as specific, when a cyclist is otherwise riding legally and impeding other traffic, there is no violation.

A national program for law enforcement officers discusses bicyclists impeding traffic.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Enhancing Bicycle Safety: Law Enforcement’s Role

Some people believe it is illegal for a bicyclist to travel on the road if other traffic has to slow down – such a cyclist would be impeding traffic. However, this belief has no basis in law.

Some States have statutes to prohibit impeding traffic, with language such as the following: “No person shall operate a motor vehicle upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the reduced speed is necessary for safe operation.  These statutes usually specifically apply to motor vehicles.

Even if the statute does not use the term “motor vehicle,” it is clear that traveling a bicycle at normal bicycle speeds is not a violation of this rule. Such an interpretation would have the effect of prohibiting bicycles on many roads, which is clearly not what was intended.

In Florida law, cyclists have the same rights and duties as other drivers, which would not be the case if cyclists were prohibited from use of the roads.

FS 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations

Same rights and duties of other drivers

The NHTSA program is not specific to each state’s traffic laws.  Florida’s Bicycle Law Enforcement Program will supplement the national program by providing Florida-specific statutes.

The national program is available on CD-ROM at no cost by sending a fax to 301-386-2194.

Although a bicyclist can legally impede other traffic under some circumstances, the cyclist cannot disrupt traffic by moving right or left in the roadway at will.

Bicyclists are operators of vehicles and are subject to all other traffic laws, including those that dictate safe lateral movement in the roadway.

Posted in Ask Geo, Impeding Traffic Tagged with:
18 comments on “Bicycles Impeding Traffic
  1. INANUTSHELL says:

    The two cases cited here are not similar at all….one having occured on a four lane road, the other on a two lane road; the distinction between the two is broad. The recent ruling in XXXX against the YYY team members, as well as the one cited here that occured in ZZZZ county, were both on two lane roads and both relied on the “sub standard” width defense….both cases were lost by the cyclists. The fact remains, the definition of sub standard that this website and others have promoted has lost twice in the court of law.

    The analogy given of a motorist traveling at 57 mph in a 60 mph highway and impeding traffic is not synonymous with a two abreast cyclists impeding traffic. Why? There is no law forbiding the motorist from driving 3 miles under the speed limit and impeding traffic. Yet, there is a statute forbiding two abreast riders from impeding traffic:

    ” Persons riding two abreast may not impede traffic when traveling at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing and shall ride within a single lane”

    In addition, there is nothing in our traffic laws about a bicyclist controlling or “taking” the lane to send messages to motorists….although that seems to be a consistent meme being promoted by cycling advocates and lobbyists….all based on this irrelavent and losing argument of 14 feet sub standard width lanes.

  2. Geo says:

    Inanutshell,

    I have redacted the mention of particular locations from your comments since we try to avoid specific mention of people or localities. The purpose of this site is to discuss the laws, and not point fingers. Names and locations will be included when praise is warranted.

    You have done what I tried to avoid in this topic. That is trying to discuss all of the topics that might be somewhat related in one article. Only those who are fully knowledgeable in all aspects of the laws, state and federal highway design criteria and safe cycling practices can avoid irretrievable complexity in combining all these topics.

    I don’t claim to one of those, and must separate each component into one that can be fully explored and understood. It is necessary to mention those related subjects to exclude them from the present discussion.

    Apparently, I was not able to isolate the topic for everyone to be able concentrate on the subject of the article, Bicyclists Impeding Other Traffic, even with the statements:

    “For the purpose of this discussion, assume the bicyclist is otherwise riding legally.”
    and,
    “We will be considering a single cyclist or a line of cyclists, one behind the other. “

    I will try to be more explicit about that in the future.

    The mention of the only place in the statutes that says anything about cyclists impeding traffic was necessary, but that discussion was not pertinent to this article. A full understanding of that statute in the context of all related statutes demonstrates it’s inadequacy to distinguish between cyclists riding abreast in wide lanes, when it makes perfectly good sense, and in narrow lanes, when other statutes come into play.

    You stated, “The two cases cited here are not similar at all….one having occured (sic) on a four lane road, the other on a two lane road; the distinction between the two is broad.”

    The principles of the language in the statutes about substandard-width lanes being too narrow for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to travel safely side-by-side are precisely identical in two-lane roads and multi-lane roads.
    1. It is an unsafe condition that permits a bicyclist to leave the right-most curb or edge of the roadway.
    2. A motor vehicle cannot safely pass within the lane.
    3. The motorist must wholly or partially change lanes to safely pass.
    4. The motorist which cannot safely move into the adjacent lane a multi-lane roadway or the lane for opposing traffic in a two-lane roadway due to other traffic must wait and is impeded, but legally so.

    Concerning your statement that, “ …. the definition of sub standard (sic) that this website and others have promoted has lost twice in the court of law, and “ ….. this irrelavent (sic) and losing argument of 14 feet sub standard width (sic) lanes.

    That definition is the best and most logical explanation that people who know a lot about these things have for something that is not fully explained by the statutes. When there is a lack of definitive explanation in the statutes, the upper courts rely on common usage and other relevant information.

    Having traffic citations upheld twice in a lower court does not make statewide precedent. The lower courts typically do not provide detail about their decisions. I am not aware of a court that determined exactly how narrow a substandard-width lane must be to allow the cyclist to move away from the right side of the roadway.

    The purpose of that article was to point out the difference in court decisions in different jurisdictions, which is inconsistent with the statute that requires uniform traffic laws throughout the state.

    However, if we are keeping score, there are four citations of which I am aware that have been dismissed based on that argument, and two upheld.

    We are regularly challenged about that definition. No one, I repeat, NO ONE, has come forward with a different informed interpretation, much less a better one.

    My gut opinions and others’ knee-jerk reactions don’t count. We try to provide all the available information and attempt to relate it to the statutes. If anyone has knowledge of case law, formal legal opinion or state precedent in that regard, please enlighten us.

    You are correct that, “ … there is nothing in our traffic laws about a bicyclist controlling or ‘taking’ the lane to send messages to motorists.”

    There is also nothing in the statutes that specifies that a cyclist cannot do that. That is the only practical reason we can determine for the language in the statute that says a cyclist is not required to “keep right” in a substandard-width lane. Experienced and educated cyclists fully understand the importance of that concept. We have searched for the history and the legislative intent of that wording, without success. If you have such information, or a better reason for the language, please let us know.

    About your statement, “There is no law forbiding (sic) the motorist from driving 3 miles under the speed limit and impeding traffic.”

    That was my point and even a cursory reading would see that I was using that as an example of a motorist being legally impeded, one of the many situations in which that occurs. My words were:
    “That happens all the time, and is reasonable and normal. There is no unlawful act.”

  3. INANUTSHELL says:

    “I am not aware of a court that determined exactly how narrow a substandard-width lane must be to allow the cyclist to move away from the right side of the roadway. ”

    That definition is intentionally not defined in the statutes and subsequently has not been defined by the courts….however, I do know my statement remains factual; ” the definition of sub standard (sic) that this website and others have promoted has lost twice in the court of law.”

    Regarding your definition of substandard lane, which you claim “is the best and most logical explanation that people who know a lot about these things have for something that is not fully explained by the statutes”; apparently neither those who wrote the statute and at least two judges dont agree with you.

    You have been very persistent in previous posts that less than 14 feet is the definition of sub standard. I will take you at your word that four cases have been dismissed, one of which was in a multi lane road and apprently the judges have dinstinguished between two lane and four lane roads as they pertain to impeding traffic. Perhaps you should post something about those other three cases, since praise would certainly be warranted and effective defenses could be shared.

  4. Geo says:

    “That definition is intentionally not defined in the statutes”

    If you have access to evidence of that legislative intent, please share it. Our search has not been successful.

    Repeating the same statements without providing supporting objective documentation or a viable alternative is not productive in assisting the readers to understand the laws.

    Discussing the details, or lack of same, in decisions made in local traffic cases does not provide a statewide precedent that is needed for clarity.

    “You have been very persistent in previous posts that less than 14 feet is the definition of sub standard (sic).”

    That isn’t my definition. It is the Florida Department of Transportation definition of a lane that is the minimum width for MOST motor vehicles to safely pass a bicycle, as was quoted in the article on substandard-width lanes.

    My interpretation is a width that is safe for motor vehicles to pass a cyclist. In the case of a very wide truck, a 14-foot lane might not be adequate.

    Please keep in mind that safety of all roadway users is the ultimate goal of the traffic statutes. The entire burden for that safety when passing a bicycle or any other vehicle is always on the overtaking driver, if the overtaken driver is otherwise operating legally.

    We welcome constructive documentation of realistic alternatives to the proposals we have put forward. Please make the comments after the appropriate article, in this case, that on substandard-width lanes.

  5. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

  6. INANUTSHELL says:

    I will assume then, that youre not going to write about those four other cases which succesfully utilized the “substandard” width argument. In fact, at your insistence of keeping score, lets do it correctly….the east Pasco case included four or five cyclists….while only one motion to dismiss was written, easch case was seperate and should be counted individually. Whats that bring your score to now?

    PS…HB 971 was signed into law yesterday.

  7. Geo says:

    Right! It would serve no purpose. The problem is the variability of education, enforcement and court decisions around the state. The state’s laws should be uniformly understood and enforced, and in support of safe roadway use. We hope to help in that regard.

    Your point is well taken about the group rides. In some places they cause problems for everyone, including those of us who are trying to improve the roadway environment for all users. That is one very important difference between that case and the others, which were single riders. The group thing presents all kinds of complexities that are not adequately covered. I have railed against the illegal group rides for years.

    I’ll address 971 separately. Not really significant, except for the confusion it will cause.

  8. Tim B. says:

    Geo:

    Does the content of the traffic play a role in determining what is the “normal speed of traffic”, per 316.2065(6)? For example, if there are 50 cyclists (in two columns on a road 15 feet wide) moving at 25 mph in a 35 mph (speed limit) zone followed by one car with a driver wanting to go 35 mph is that car being illegally impeded? If cyclists and motorists are equal components of “traffic”, with a ratio of 50:1 in this example, would the “normal speed of traffic at the time and place under the conditions then existing” be 25 mph and not 35 mph?

  9. Geo says:

    Good question, Tim. I’ve rhetorically asked the same thing many times. How about the very large cycling events where 1000 riders or more are on the same roadway with a single motor vehicle?

    Sorry, but I don’t have an answer that I can substantiate. These questions are not usually resolved until they are subjected to Circuit Court of Appeal scrutiny that results in rulings that become precedent.

    There is one case pending that may touch on this. It is a cyclist cited for impeding traffic while riding abreast and traveling at nearly the posted speed limit behind a large group in the rain in an 11-foot lane on a two-lane road. The issues of impeding traffic, riding abreast and substandard-width lanes may be addressed.

    I don’t know, but the “normal speed of traffic” issue may come up. It may be decided in other than a local traffic court. The results in the lower court will have no statewide impact. I’ll post the results if it is finally decided at a higher court.

  10. Bruce Epperson says:

    The issues of “impeding traffic” (actually, in Florida, its called “obstructing traffic” in 316.2045, F.S.) and riding to the right or riding two abreast are completely separate, and largely unrelated, issues.

    Obstructing traffic cases have been heard in Florida appellate courts fairly often. The statute as written is clearly targeted at protests, demonstrations and the like, although it has become a favorite way for law enforcement officers to generate probable cause stops for a vehicle or personal search for drugs, and so the allowable span of the statute becomes the basis for argument over whether the search was valid. Also for this reason, the definition of the statute gets bent around, because the judges are more focused on throwing the search out or letting it in than reaching an in-depth analysis of the traffic code itself.

    That being said, I soldier on.

    There are several cases over the years, but the two most recent are Underwood v. State, 801 So. 2d 200 (2001) and Reid v. State, 898 So. 2d 248 (2005). Both involved cars stopped in the road. The Underwood court made it clear that obstructing traffic had to be a willfull act, “an act done voluntarily and intentionally and with specific intent to impeed or hinder traffic.” The court implied that Underwood did not meet this test because no traffic was impeded, thus an implied second prong of the test is that the act “actually does impede or hinder the ‘normal use’ of the street by traffic.”

    Now in Reid, that court used the same test, but ruled it was a valid traffic stop because traffic was actually impeded. Thus, it appears that the determining factor turns out to be an element of “willfullness” that is not contained within the dictionary definition of the term: whether the intentional act successfully executes its intent.

    Thus, the arguument that one is obeying (by either a cyclists’ interpretation of the bicycle laws or even a consensus judgement of the lay public) is largely irrelevant–one could be following the bicycle rules and still violate 316.2045 if the cyclist or cyclists were voluntarily and intentionally engaging in an act that intended to impede traffic, and that actually did so.

    Although no Florida case discusses this, the California case of Trotwood v. Seltz goes into this dilemma in some depth for the case of a solitary cyclist. It is discussed in detail in Bob Mionske’s bike law book, but the upshot is that a cyclist who held up traffic on a narrow road because he was grinding up a steep hill as fast as he could was not obstructing traffic, but had the officer cited the cyclist for failure to ride to the right, the court speculated that the citation may have been good. However, the officer did not do this.

    In the case of a paceline, I was once asked to defend just such a ticket, but declined, as I informed the cyclist that he would better off to simply pay the ticket, as I thought the odds of prevailing in front of the magistrate or before the appellate court too small to warrant their time and money, especially as they told the officer (and were likely recorded on the officer’s video camera) as explaining that a primary purpose of the paceline was to force passing motorists to move all the way over into the other lane to make the pass, even if that forced them to wait until a gap opened up in the left lane. My belief was then, and continues to be, that a paceline that impedes passing motor traffic in this manner violates 316.2045, even if it may not necessarily violate the bicycle provisions.

    As to Geo’s “1000 cyclists” question, section 316.2045 contains a lengthy road-use permitting provision that was revised in 2003 in response to a first amendment challenge that actually invalidated the statute briefly in 2002.

  11. Geo says:

    “My belief was then, and continues to be, that a paceline that impedes passing motor traffic in this manner violates 316.2045, even if it may not necessarily violate the bicycle provisions.”

    Bruce,

    I don’t see any applicability of 2045 if the cyclist or single file paceline is permitted to leave the right side of the road for other purposes, safety being the primary one. For example, in a substandard-width lane, a motorist MUST change lanes, at least partially, to safely pass, a reworded definition of ssw-lane. That is the case even if the cyclist is riding at the right edge of the roadway. The motorist cannot legally and safely do that if there is on-coming traffic in that lane, or if there is conflicting traffic in the adjacent lane of a multi-lane roadway. The motorist desiring to pass is legally impeded, notwithstanding 316.2045.

    I believe 2045 does not apply to cyclists otherwise riding legally, even though they may temporarily delay traffic in some cases. Whether it is intentional or not is in the mind to the cyclist, and may be difficult to determine. Are the cyclists doing what they need to do to remain safe, or are they impeding traffic just for the sake of impeding traffic?

    I also think it is stretch to include other normal vehicle operation in this provision and imply that they are obstructing traffic “by standing or approaching motor vehicles thereon, or by endangering the safe movement of vehicles or pedestrians traveling thereon”, the operative phrase of 2045.

    Thanks for mentioning 2045 though. I should have included that in the discussion, and will do so when we revise this post and when we prepare that module of the Bicycle Law Enforcement Program.

  12. Bruce Epperson says:

    Geo, I fully understand why you say it defys common sense that .2045 could not be applied where “cyclists are otherwise riding legally.” But the fact is, the law can be fully applied in such manner. Two points here. First, there is lots of interpretative case law out there that says “you cannot use statute X to interpret statute Y–if you violate the established elements of statute Y, you’ve broken the law.” (To be completely honest, you can find many cases that say the opposite, but I’ve not found any directly on point to traffic ordinances.) Second, keep in mind that ordinances do not sanction (i.e. “bless”) certain action, they only criminalize other acts. Thus, the “two abreast” law can easily be interpreted as a law that merely makes riding three or more abreast (the same is true for riding to the left outside of the defined exceptions) a strict liability violation–that is, no exigent circumstance or affirmative defense is acceptable–if a comet falls into the roadway, causing a group of cyclists to ride more than three abreast, they’ve broken the law-period, end of discussion.

    That’s why I’ve always had a lot of concern about Florida’s bicycle ordinances–if you can temporarily adopt a rational, but intense, anti-bike “devils advocate” set of values and perspectives, you can reach interpretations vastly different from those the cycling community assumes is true for these things, and simply whistling past the graveyard isn’t going to help. These things are dangerously squishy, because they are often poorly written, incrementally adopted, and usually the product of extended compromise. We are probably very fortunate they have not gone to appellate court more often.

  13. Geo says:

    Thanks for that Bruce. It’s great having input like yours to this site to insure we don’t do as you indicated, state only our interpretations. As much as possible, we hope to state the statutes and let everyone at least see what they say. Some are pretty straightforward, but others not so. Keeping in mind that the information in this forum is not legal advice or intended to be presented as legal opinion, it is instead an place for all of us to learn more about the laws as they apply to bicycling and safe cycling practices. Given a better understanding of that, we hope to help with education and enforcement.

    We hope to provide a common sense interpretation where there is no other, and support it as best we can. Lacking the case law and formal precedents, that’s at least a step in the right direction. We always respect others views,but must insist they be supported, and not just opinion.

    A long range objective of this program is to gain the support of the law enforcement community to correct some of the problem areas. That’s way down the road though.

  14. Frank says:

    Basically what he’s saying is…

    You can not break the “impeding law” to satisfy your own thought on the “stay right law”.

    Is that basically it?

    I can’t decide to move a little more left just to satisfy my “safety” because I would be impeding traffic.

    That’s what it sounds like to me.

    • Bruce Epperson says:

      In reply to Frank’s question, as best I can discern from the available case law (given that these were, at heart, drug cases, with the traffic law something of a pretext), the elements of “obstructing traffic” are:

      1. An individual or individual
      2. engages in an act
      3. voluntarily and intentionally and with specific intent
      4. to impede or hinder traffic
      5. and that does, in fact, impede or hinder traffic

      The three main defenses to such a charge whould be:

      1. Void for vagueness: the law is so unclear that the average, reasonable person could not reasonably know what is expected of him or her to avoid breaking the law.

      2. Lack of specific intent: the law means that the “intent” in question must be an intention to actually impede or hinder traffic, not merely an intent to engage in some act that merely resulted in the hinderance (this goes to the core of the discrepancy between the Underwood and Reid cases–what does “intent” mean?)

      3. Lack of resulting harm: if the court does, in the end, agree that “intent” means only “an intent to engage in the act that caused the hinderance”, then the resulting obstruction or hinderance, being only neglegent in causation, should be more than merely incidential or minimal in impact.

      The paceline problem can be dealt with, but must be carefully worded, in that it is OK to assert that it is a safety measure, but by arguing that it achieves its greater level of safety by inhibiting the free overtaking of traffic to a greater extent than would be the case for a solitary cyclist comes very close to admitting that the cyclists’ intent was to obstruct, not merely an intent to ride in a paceline. Admitting an intent to obstruct would be a stipulation to the key element of the charge, leaving only the question of whether obtruction actually took place.

  15. Deaner says:

    If a riders are in single file it is MUCH easier for a car to safely pass them. If there are any cars at all behind them, the riders should “single up” and also ride in the right hand half of the lane. Safe passing then takes much less time to do and everyone is better off as a result.

  16. Deaner says:

    If riders are in single file it is MUCH easier for a car to safely pass them. If there are any cars at all behind them, the riders should “single up” and also ride in the right hand half of the lane. Safe passing then takes much less time to do and everyone is better off as a result.

  17. Geo says:

    This is a comment I frequently hear from motorists who do not understand safe cycling practices or appreciate the hazards that commonly confront cyclists.

    There is no requirement in the laws to “be nice” and make it more convenient for motorists to pass. In many cases, motorists are not playing nice and endangering cyclists simply because they think that since their vehicle is larger and faster, cyclists must accommodate their desire to go as fast as they want (Read: Get out of my way!”)

    In some circumstances, cyclists are required to remain as close as is practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. That is only when the lane is wide enough to safely share, they are traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic, and when none of the many exceptions apply. In that instance, they should not be impeding traffic. Please see this post on substandard-width lanes:
    http://flbikelaw.org/2010/01/substandard-width-lanes-updated/

    When cyclists are not required to keep right, they may use the part of the roadway required to remain safe and to accomplish their travels. Staying at the right side of the roadway in many situations encourages illegal and dangerous passing by impatient motorists when there is on-coming traffic, the motorist cutting in toward the cyclists at the last minute, as described in the link above. Many cyclists always ride far to the right, either because of their desire to be nice and accommodate others, or because of fear. No matter their motives, their actions place them in danger.

    My personal experience and that of many other experienced and educated cyclists, and the only study on that question that I am aware of, is that the farther to the right the cyclist rides, the closer motorists pass. Cyclists should use the statutes to encourage safe and legal passing by motorists. Sometimes motorists don’t even see cyclists at the far-right edge of the roadway. Riding farther into the roadway makes them more conspicuous.

    Although the laws require cyclists to ride single file under some circumstances, passing them is not necessarily easier. Imagine a large group of cyclists riding in a substandard-width lane (Not required to keep right) and legally riding in the center or left tire track portion of the lane. Motorists must change lanes to pass, the definition of substandard-width. The line of cyclists will be twice as long as the same group of cyclists riding two abreast, and will take longer to legally pass, requiring a longer gap in on-coming traffic. A case can even be made for cyclists riding three or more abreast to further shorten the passing time, but of course that is not legal under any circumstances. Please see:
    http://flbikelaw.org/2009/07/cyclists-riding-two-abreast/

    Motorists should obey the laws when passing and not expect cyclists to “Get out of my way.” Any delay caused by waiting to safely pass cyclists riding legally is normally minimal.

    When cyclists are riding legally and causing a significant backup, they may want take opportunities to safely leave the roadway to allow traffic to pass. In some states, that is required, but not in Florida.

    The laws are in effect primarily to promote safety, and not necessarily convenience. We should always try to understand and accommodate the needs of other roadway users, and do so within the laws.

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