NE2 asked: When is it legal to switch between vehicle and pedestrian modes? Cyclists have the enviable position of being either a vehicle operator (when riding on the road) or a pedestrian (when riding on the sidewalk or in a crosswalk). But how can you switch between the two? To give a few examples:
1) Turning left at a traffic light onto the near-side sidewalk. Is there a legal way to do this without turning right onto the sidewalk and then turning around and crossing?
2) Turning right at a traffic light from the sidewalk onto the road (the reverse of the above). Are you allowed to “turn right on don’t walk”?
3) Turning left from a divided highway onto a path at a crosswalk controlled by pedestrian signals. Once you enter the median, are you allowed to cross the other direction, despite facing a “Don’t walk?”
4) Using a parking lot to avoid an intersection. This is illegal in a car per 316.074(2) Obedience to and required traffic control devices. But it’s legal to walk through a parking lot, so you would not necessarily be “driving” from one roadway to another if you switch to pedestrian mode on crossing the sidewalk.
Don’t confuse the nature of a vehicle with the rights and responsibilities of the driver or pedestrian.
A bicycle is always a vehicle, whether on the roadway or the sidewalk.
s. 316.003 – Definitions
(75) Vehicle – Every device, in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway ….
(2) Bicycle – Every vehicle propelled solely by human power …. having two tandem wheels, and including any device generally recognized as a bicycle though equipped with two front or two rear wheels. The term does not include such a vehicle with a seat height of no more than 25 inches from the ground when the seat is adjusted to its highest position or a scooter or similar device.
A bicyclist has the same rights and duties as drivers of other vehicles.
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 under this chapter, except as to special regulations in this chapter, and except as to provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application.
A bicyclist on the sidewalk is not a pedestrian, but has the rights and duties of a pedestrian. A bicycle on the sidewalk is still a vehicle and the operator must comply with applicable statutes, such as those requiring lights.
(10) A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.
A cyclist does not have the option of switching between modes. That happens automatically. The statutes that apply and whether the cyclist has the rights and duties of a roadway driver or a pedestrian are defined by the physical location of the bicycle at the time. A cyclist does have the option of changing the location of the bicycle, and can move between the roadway and the sidewalk as desired as long as the appropriate laws are followed.
I believe if you carefully consider the scenarios posed in the question or others, using the concept of drivers and pedestrian’s rights and duties and the actual location of the bicycle, you will see that the answers will be pretty clear.
I believe you are correct that the intent of the law is to give cyclists the freedom to use sidewalks and roadways as best suits their needs and their safety.