Cyclist’s Rights and Duties

Question

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.

Answer

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. 316.2065Bicycle 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.

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9 comments on “Cyclist’s Rights and Duties
  1. NE2 says:

    Thanks for the response, but it still doesn’t seem clear. In situation 1, the way I do this is by getting in the left turn lane and turning into the crosswalk. Presumably if the light is red this is not legal. But if the light is green, the pedestrian signal is at don’t walk. This is the problem – is it legal to enter the crosswalk on don’t walk *as a vehicle* and then cross the other half of the road? (And in situation 3, does it matter that there’s a median?) Unless I’m missing something, the statutes don’t explicitly say what a pedestrian control signal actually means, just that it “must conform to the requirements of the most recent Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices”. Situation 2 would also require details on what “don’t walk” legally means.

    In situation 4, I see that the definition of a roadway does not include the sidewalk. So am I correct that if I turn into the near side of the driveway, cross the driveway on the sidewalk, and then turn into the far side and proceed through the parking lot, I am not breaking the law? (Otherwise it would seem that any maneuver involving the sidewalk, including a so-called “pedestrian turn”, is illegal if it avoids a traffic control device.)

  2. Cecil Powell says:

    I participate in the City of Seattle’s Traffic Solutions forums, and this question has come up several times. The safe and lawful way to conduct this manuever between bike and pedestrian is to stay in the outside lane until you get to the crosswalk. Then step off or ride onto the sidewalk. Walk the bike across the crosswalk, and then get back on and continue your ride. Personally, I don’t like to ride on or see other adult riders on sidewalks. This encourages accidents between pedestrians and cyclists, and gives cyclists a bad name. I think the best solution is for cyclists to wear bright clothing and take the lane in most municipal areas.

    • NE2 says:

      I disagree that that’s the only safe way if turning volumes are light and care is taken to look for any conflicting movements. (My sidewalk riding is on suburban residential arterials with an intersection every half mile or so. I’d never use the sidewalk in a commercial area with frequent driveways.)

  3. Geo says:

    NE2,

    As you stated, the Pedestrian Regulations don’t help much and just require obeying traffic control devices. See:

    http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2011/316.130

    The statute about traffic lights, s. 316.075 – Traffic Control Signal Devices, describes the required actions of drivers and pedestrians and may help more.

    http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2011/316.075

    My reading of the statute indicates that if you are in the left lane and approach a red light, the driver of any vehicle, including a bicycle, stop at the stop bar and remain stopped until the signal changes. Entering the crosswalk while in the roadway would seem to be a violation, although it is done regularly by many drivers. The exception described is a driver in the right lane preparing for a right turn, or a left turn to a one-way street.

    A question that is not specifically answered is whether the cyclist can leave the roadway to the left into an existing median, or to the right out of the roadway, before the stop bar, then enter the crosswalk and follow the pedestrian signals. I can not find a prohibition to that.

    Please keep in mind that the traffic laws are not perfect and cannot precisely define every eventuality. In many cases, they are ambiguous and even contradictory. That seems to apply to the bicycle regulations as well, which were written and placed on top of the original traffic regulations. Sometimes they don’t mesh exactly. My comments on your wide vehicle question about lack of uniform enforcement apply here.

    The bigger problem is that there is a general lack of understanding of cyclists rights and duties by too many people and we have a “motor vehicle” society that considers bicycles a lesser vehicle, in contradiction to the laws. You and the readers of this site are helping to empower cyclists to understand the laws, comply with them and stand up for their rights.

    • NE2 says:

      http://lawandorder.blogs.gainesville.com/10565/pedestrian-gets-ticket-after-being-injured-in-crosswalk/ says that a pedestrian was ticketed for “failing to observe a traffic signal”. But 316.075 says “unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian control signal as provided in s. 316.0755”, and that section only says that “such indicators must conform to the requirements of the most recent Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices”. This is a regulation that applies to the agency installing the signal, not the pedestrian. In fact I can’t find anything in the state laws that requires a pedestrian to follow a pedestrian signal, not even something that says that they must follow the text of the MUTCD.

      But if the MUTCD applies (relevant section: http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/pdfs/millennium/06.14.01/4e_4lndi.pdf “A steady UPRAISED HAND (symbolizing DONT WALK) signal indication means that a pedestrian shall not enter the roadway in the direction of the signal indication.”) it appears that situations 1 and 2 are both legal. In 1, you are not entering the roadway, but are already in it, and in 2 you are not proceeding in the direction of the signal. As for 3, 316.003(42) says that “In the event a highway includes two or more separate roadways, the term “roadway” as used herein refers to any such roadway separately, but not to all such roadways collectively.” so it’s probably illegal to turn left directly from a divided highway onto a path at a crosswalk, since you’ll be entering the other roadway on a don’t walk.

  4. Geo says:

    “So am I correct that if I turn into the near side of the driveway, cross the driveway on the sidewalk, and then turn into the far side and proceed through the parking lot, I am not breaking the law?”

    It seems so to me. If you are on the sidewalk or shoulder, you are no longer in the roadway.

  5. geo says:

    I don’t claim to be fully knowledgeable about pedestrian regulations, but pedestrians must comply with all traffic control devices.

    s. 316.130 – Pedestrians; Traffic Regulations
    (1) A pedestrian shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device specifically applicable to the pedestrian unless otherwise directed by a police officer.

    The pedestrian signals are traffic control devices, and my understanding is that the MUTCD has the effect of law when adopted by the FDOT, which it is.

    If you are in a crosswalk after having entered from the median, it seems logical that you must wait until for the appropriate “Walk” signal to continue across the roadway within the crosswalk.

    We should be aware that certain local authorities have the power to enact regulations concerning bicycles and pedestrians. See s. 316.008 – Powers of local authorities.

  6. TabbyB says:

    It also depends on the city. Here in Jacksonville, the JSO does not want bicycles on the sidewalks. If you hit a pedestrian while riding a bicycle on the sidewalk you will be at fault. No ifs, ands, or butts. Cities can ban bicycles from the sidewalks by local ordinances so know local law as well. When in doubt, talk to a LEO.

  7. Geo says:

    Bicyclists are always required to yield to pedestrians when on sidewalks. You are correct about local ordinances prohibiting bicycles on sidewalks in some places. For more posts and discussion of bicyclists on sidewalks, please click on “Sidewalks” in the tag cloud.

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