More HB 971

We have received a number of inquiries about HB 971, which was the subject of a recent post on this site.  They show the confusion that exists about the laws and the change in that bill.

Two questions are common.

  1. What is the impact of the bike lane provision on cyclists on the sidewalk?
  2. What is the effect of the change on the group riders that ride 3, 4 or more abreast and use the roadway?

An officer forwarded the following Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) legal bulletin that addresses the change.  As far as I can determine, this is extent of the bulletin.

“Amends F.S. 316.2065(5)(a) to require bicycle riders to remain in a lane marked for bicycle use and if such a lane is not provided, riders must stay as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except as otherwise provided in the law.” (My emphasis)

First, let’s dispel the idea that this change has anything whatsoever to do with riding on the sidewalk.  This is the language that will appear in the change to the statutes on September 1st.

FS 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations

(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 ….

The sidewalk is not part of the roadway, so there is no effect on cyclists riding on the sidewalk.  The FDLE bulletin omits that part, leading to possible confusion.

This is that officer’s comment about the change in the law.

“I have talked to other officers and you are right, it is similar to prior verbiage, however it appears to be more explicit in stating that when a bike lane is present, cyclists must use it. In past conversations I have told you of the dilemma I am tasked with in dealing with pack riders who ride sometimes six abreast. Officers who read this new law and compared with 316.2065 (6) will definitely have and easier time understanding the laws new wording. However, this could be misconstrued and cause for future tensions with cyclists.”

The FDLE bulletin says “…. except as otherwise provided in the law”? What does that mean?

The bulletin does what virtually always happens, and ignores the exceptions, the exact problem I mentioned in the previous article about HB 971.  This memo stresses the times when a cyclist is required to keep right, and does not address all the other situations when a cyclist must leave the right side of the roadway, or a bike lane, for a lot of reasons.  I can’t imagine any statute suggesting that a cyclist or any other driver should stay in a lane or take any other action if it is not safe. Why not tell the law enforcement community that, instead of ignoring it?

This new change will reinforce the belief by many, including cyclists, that cyclists must always keep right and in bike lanes, even if they are endangered when they do so.

Many do not understand that the exceptions are the most important part of 2065(5) to the safety of cyclists and their right to use the roadways.  “Keep right! Get out of my way!” is the only apparent concern.  Too many cyclists do just that, endangering themselves in the process.

The FDLE bulletin does nothing to change that.

Let’s not confuse the change in the law in 971 with the law that has always prohibited cyclists from riding more than two abreast.

FS 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations

(6) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway may not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

Cyclists that ride as a mob are breaking the law and always have been.  Learn the law! Pull them over! Give them citations!  What’s so hard about that?  I have railed about that for years.

Until we get an understanding in Florida that cyclists riding legally do, in fact, have a right to ride as legitimate roadway users, we will continue to be the state with the worst bicycle crash record in the nation.  CA is second, and has more than twice the population.

Here is an email I received recently that shows the problem.

“I live in a bicycle friendly area and ride 300 miles per week, and motorists and bicyclists get along generally very well.  I spend my winters in Florida and I must tell you the difference is like night & day.  While it’s one thing to have a law on the books, it’s quite another to deploy it and apply it.  I don’t believe Fla. has done that.  I try to keep my mileage up while in Fla., but I’m pretty much on pins & needles the whole time as most motorists haven’t a clue as to how to negotiate a bicyclist regardless what lane they’re in or how fast they’re going.

What a huge education process you face!”

We hope to help change that with the Bicycle Law Enforcement Program.

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2 comments on “More HB 971
  1. Michael Grimes says:

    In Englewood, Florida we have a sidewalk that runs along the road leading to the beach. There is no bike lane on this two lane road. The sidewalk is separated from the roadway by parking bumpers. There is a sign in this area that says: “Bicycles only in right lane.” It is obvious that the sign is referring to the sidewalk.

    Earlier this year I posted to this site about an officer who told my wife and I that we were required to use the sidewalk. He was of course wrong, but now that this new bill is law, I am betting that he will try to enforce it as requiring us to use the sidewalk, and I’m not sure he isn’t right. Comments?

    I must say it gets very tiresome having to defend your rights time after time.

  2. Geo says:

    A sidewalk is not a bike lane. It is not a lane. The bike lane is part of the roadway. HB 971 only refers to bicyclists in the roadway.

    There is no authorized sign with the wording you mentioned. It sounds like one of the old signs that was easily misunderstood. The approved signs say “Bicycle Lane” and are only used for marked bike lanes.

    You might want to address this situation with your local Bicycle /Pedestrian Advisory Committee or other county officials.

    Also, it might be worthwhile talking to the police department or Sheriff’s Office for clarification. Please advise if you need more information.

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