Obstructions

Question

Emily asked:  I recently decided to ride my bike to and from work. I have to travel along a roadway that has no bike lane but has sidewalks on both sides. There is a carwash/restaurant that puts an advertisement sign directly on the sidewalk only allowing about a foot of space closest to the street to pass. As I was trying to avoid/pass the sign, I fell off of my bike into the middle of the street. Luckily, my riding partner was able to block the oncoming traffic and I only sprained my ankle. Is it legal to block the sidewalk in this manner?

Answer

Let’s begin with the reminder that sidewalks are intended for pedestrians, but cyclists may use them unless prohibited by local ordinance.  This is one of many unexpected hazards that endanger cyclists on sidewalks.

Advertising that interferes with safe passage is not generally allowed on transportation facilities.

s. 334.03DefinitionsWhen used in the Florida Transportation Code, the term:

(31) “Transportation facility” means any means for the transportation of people or property from place to place which is constructed, operated, or maintained in whole or in part from public funds. The term includes the property or property rights, both real and personal, which have been or may be established by public bodies for the transportation of people or property from place to place. The following applies to transportation facilities outside municipalities.

s. 337.406Unlawful Use of State Transportation Facility Right-of-Way; Penalties

(1) Except when leased …. or otherwise authorized by the rules of the department, it is unlawful to make any use of the right-of-way of any state transportation facility, including appendages thereto, outside of an incorporated municipality in any manner that interferes with the safe and efficient movement of people and property from place to place on the transportation facility. Failure to prohibit the use of right-of-way in this manner will endanger the health, safety, and general welfare of the public by causing distractions to motorists, unsafe pedestrian movement within travel lanes, sudden stoppage or slowdown of traffic, rapid lane changing and other dangerous traffic movement, increased vehicular accidents, and motorist injuries and fatalities. Such prohibited uses include, but are not limited to, the free distribution or sale, or display or solicitation for free distribution or sale, of any merchandise, goods, property or services; the solicitation for charitable purposes; …. Local governmental entities may, within their respective jurisdictions, initiate enforcement action by the appropriate code enforcement authority or law enforcement authority for a violation of this section.

The following ordinance seems to be targeting individuals standing in the roadway, but selected sections may also be applicable.  In Chapter 316, streets and highways are defined as all public right-of-way, including sidewalks.

s. 316.2045Obstruction of Public Streets, Highways, and Roads

(1) It is unlawful for any person or persons willfully to obstruct the free, convenient, and normal use of any public street, highway, or road by impeding, hindering, stifling, retarding, or restraining traffic or passage thereon, …. or by endangering the safe movement of vehicles or pedestrians traveling thereon.

For regulations about transportation facilities within municipalities, there may also be local ordinances that prohibit obstruction of sidewalks that can be found at this link, or in your county code of ordinances:

http://www.municode.com/

You may also want to contact your local police department to determine the requirements.

Posted in Ask Geo, Sidewalks & Crosswalks Tagged with: ,
8 comments on “Obstructions
  1. Eddie Suarez says:

    so according to that last ordinance, those people who stand holding a sign, or a spinning sign, or a large arrow on the sidewalks are not allowed to?

  2. Geo says:

    If they are hindering traffic, which includes pedestrians on sidewalks., that would seem to be true.

  3. eddie suarez says:

    So….. No one cares to cite them? It’s not like they hide.

    • Andrea says:

      Hello, I am doing research for my son’s scoohl about placing a speed lump/hump on the street that the scoohl is on. The scoohl is Dudley Elementary in Antelope. There is only one street that runs along that scoohl, deep in a residential neighborhood. The street name is Aztec Drive. Drivers continently drive 40+ while kids are trying to use the crosswalk. The scoohl can’t afford crossing guards and as a parent I even feel at risk just walking across the street to get to the scoohl.I also work for the Sacramento Bee (photo department) and I’ve asked our transportation reporter for info and he recommend that I contact you for any leads on how to go about this. I’ve downloaded the City of Sacramento’s Speed Hump Program Guidelines and am currently reviewing them. The scoohl has been denied in the past and I would like to find out why and get some kind of speed protection to the kids of our scoohl.Any help would be appreciated.Thanks,Scott Craig

      • Dwight says:

        The area around Dudley Elementary in Antelope is in the unincorporated part of Sacramento County CA. Any traffic calming on Aztec Way would presumably be implemented through the Sacramento County Neighborhood Traffic Management Program (http://www.sacdot.com/Pages/NeighborhoodTrafficManagement.aspx ). As explained in the flow chart, neighborhood residents can apply to the County for consideration of traffic calming on a street. The next step is mailing of a petition to residents. Typically local traffic calming programs require that some percentage of residents (of the affected street and connecting streets) must support traffic calming measures by signing the petition (although the County’s page doesn’t say what minimum number or percentage of residents must indicate support).

        County DOT staff would evaluate the street (step 3); this usually involves making a study of traffic speeds and volumes on the street.

        Someone at the County (customer service number listed on the webpage) should be able to explain why traffic calming measures have not been implemented on the street. Perhaps not enough residents supported measures by signing a petition, or no one has made a formal request, or the amount of speeding found in a speed study was deemed not to be serious enough to merit traffic calming, or the street is on a route used by emergency responders. Many local governments have had to reduce funding to their traffic calming programs because of budget cutbacks.

  4. Geo says:

    Dwight,
    Thanks for your very insightful comments on this question. I wasn’t sure how to respond since this isn’t a Florida or bicycle related question. Your input is appreciated.

  5. Jeff Redding says:

    I live in Sarasota where several years ago the FDOT placed about 75 street lamp posts near the middle of the sidewalk. This is on Bee Ridge Road a busy four lane street with no bicycle lane. Cyclists must navigate around the posts close to the busy road. Many have been injured.

    The Governments position is that the posts will not be relocated to the edge of the sidewalk or off the sidewalk because they are further than 36 inches from the curb and are thus ADA Compliant because a standard wheelchair can pass by the post.

    However, I believe they are misrepresenting ADA Law. Minimum Wheelchair Pass By Standards are meant to allow wheelchair users access to narrow sidewalks. The FDOT should not use this standard as justification in obstructing the center of a normal width sidewalk. Wheelchair users are not the Lowest Common Denominator of access.

    They are actually using the ADA to justify obstructing all Pedestrians Right of Way. Why, just so they can save some money on cement and a little wiring? I think this is very unethical, immoral, and an insult to my service to our Country. Before the ADA was Law street lamp posts were not allowed in the middle of a sidewalk because of Above Ground Utility Placement Structure Standards and Sidewalk Width Standards.

    Now the Government is basically saying it is the ADA which gives them the right to obstruct a sidewalk as long as a wheelchair user can pass by. This is so wrong!

    Jeff Redding
    Sarasota, Florida
    Lifetime Member, Blinded Veterans of America

  6. Geo says:

    Jeff,

    In your original question, you stated the same concern:

    http://flbikelaw.org/wp-admin/post.php?post=2144&action=edit&message=1

    We understand your frustration about this and sympathize with you. Although there may be some who are interested in your plight, this site is intended to address the laws about bicycling.

    Bicycles are permitted on sidewalks unless there is a local ordinance to the contrary.

    Sidewalks are designed and intended for pedestrians, so any considerations of their hazards for bicyclists may be secondary. This is just one of many hazards that we warn cyclists on the sidewalk to take into consideration. See the posts about “Sidewalks and Crosswalks”.

    Unfortunately, since it is beyond the scope of this site, there is nothing we can do about this except publish it for others to see. We recommend that you contact authorities that can do something about it. That would be the FDOT, your county/city commissions, your Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee or local advocacy groups that have similar concerns.

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