More About Bike Paths and Sidewalks

Question

Jim asked: My family, which includes several experienced cyclists, is visiting xxx in Florida and have had some interesting experiences with police and a bike shop employee who have told us that we cannot ride on the roadway and we must ride on the pathway that is a large sidewalk/paved area.  My take is that the path is not designated a bike path via symbol or signage and it is littered with people puttering on beach bikes, kids on trikes and walkers, all getting in the way of us trying to ride at 20-30+ mph.  In reading the documentation here and elsewhere my take is that if there is a designated bike path with symbol and signage I am to ride there otherwise, as is the case here, we should ride on the road.

Answer

Even if the area is marked and signed or otherwise designated as a bike path, cyclists are never required to use a bicycle path or a sidewalk.  Cyclists may use a paved shoulder, sidewalk (Unless prohibited by local ordinance), or a bike path if they so desire, but it is not required.  A bike path is not a bike lane, which is a portion of the roadway marked for the use of bicyclists.  Use of a marked bike lane by cyclists riding in the roadway is mandatory under some circumstances.

You should ask anyone who thinks otherwise to show you the statute that requires it.  They will not be able to do so.  Please see this and the other posts related to sidewalks, bike paths and bike lanes:

http://flbikelaw.org/2010/01/bicycles-must-use-sidewalk/

I suggest that you take this information to the local police and ask them to clarify the situation for all users.

Tagged with: , ,
7 comments on “More About Bike Paths and Sidewalks
  1. Francis S. says:

    You may use the roadway, no problem, just like Geo says..
    My suggestion to you is that when you do use the roadway, ride single file as far right as practicable to avoid run in with “officials”
    (I know you are allowed double riders, But “they” can get a little miffed if you do..)
    It kinda sounds as if you asked a specific question to the police and LBSs’
    Did you ask if you could use the entire lane for your use? They do allow double riding as long as you don’t impede traffic, but that’s subjective at best.

    IF there is a “BIKE LANE” and you wish to ride on “the roadway”, you MUST (by law) use the bicycle lane and NOT the roadway, UNLESS you are avoiding an obstacle in the bike lane.

    Does any or all of that help?

  2. Geo says:

    Francis is partially correct. However, a bike lane is part of the roadway. There are many reasons that you legally may not be using the bike lane in addition to obstacles. Passing, turning left, any unsafe condition.

    Keeping far right may not be the best and safest option in a substandard-width lane. You are not required to do so by law.

    Please see the other posts in the tag cloud for the details and rights and responsibilities of cyclists and motorists related to substandard-width lanes and bike lanes.

    The avoidance of run-ins with officials should not be the driving factor in how we ride our bicycles. It should be safety which is usually common sense supported by the laws.

  3. Francis S. says:

    You know as well as I do, that it can go either way in a court case when dealing with sub standard width lanes.

    I have a feeling the OP wants to use the entire lane all the time..
    I’m sure of it, otherwise there wouldn’t be an issue..

    Just to “feel safe” is NOT a legal reason to take up an entire lane.
    Hell, if that was the case, I would constantly take up an entire lane. (and would get ticketed EVERY time I did so.

    Too often, bicyclists want to feel “empowered” by doing something they THINK is legal, when the majority of the time, that’s just not so.

  4. Francis S. says:

    The ONLY time you can ALWAYS take up an entire lane, is if you are travelling at the posted speed limit (or jut slighly under).

    There are many streets by me that have a posted limit of 20-30 and when I’m traveling at that speed, I ALWAYS take up the entire lane.

  5. Geo says:

    That is not correct.

    One of the circumstances, the one you mention, in which a cyclist is not required to “keep right” is when traveling at the same speed or greater than other traffic (normal speed of traffic at the time and place, etc). There is no mention of the speed limit in these statutes. Cyclists are also not required to “keep right” under all of the other situations mentioned above. They are when passing, preparing for a left turn, any unsafe condition, substandard-width lane. They may use the portion of the lane required (Not required to “keep right”) to be safe under any of those situations. In many situations, taking the lane is the safest legal option.

    The actions of cyclists should not be to “feel” safe. They should be to BE safe while obeying the laws. Many cyclists “feel” safe while keeping too far right and encouraging motorists to pass in lanes which are too narrow for motor vehicles and bicycles to travel safely side by side (substandard-width lanes). They are placing themselves in danger when doing so. Controlling the lane discourages unsafe and illegal passing.

    Please read the other posts in the tag cloud about this subject, including those about substandard-width lanes and impeding traffic.

    Readers should consider taking the FBA’s Cycling Savvy course to learn the laws and safe cycling practices. See http://cyclingsavvy.org/

  6. LevI Waters says:

    I sometimes ride on a sidewalk, against traffic, with my front and rear lights on. Is this ever legal?
    People always look left for oncoming traffic, never right.
    I read somewhere that a bicycle rider has the same rights to a sidewalk as a pedestrian, but is never required, nor can be ordered to ride on a sidewalk by any Law Enforcement Officer?
    Where do I stand?

  7. Geo says:

    It would only be unlawful if there is a local ordinance prohibiting sidewalk riding. Direction doesn’t matter, as for pedestrians, except that there are many unexpected situations that endanger sidewalk riders, particularly when riding against the flow of roadway traffic, one of which you mentioned.
    Good on you for recognizing that lights are required both on the roadway and sidewalk. When on the sidewalk, you have the rights and duties of a pedestrian, but you are still operating a vehicle and pertinent laws apply. Lights, helmets, DUI, etc.
    See the posts under the “sidewalks” tag and you will find that you are correct, and a lot more info as well.

Leave a Reply