Normal Speed of Traffic

Question

Herman also asked: Does the following apply even if the person riding a bicycle is the only traffic on the road?

s. 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 ….

Answer

The phrase “normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing” is not defined in the statutes and as far as I know, has not been the subject of case law or legal opinion that is applicable to bicycling.

Contrary to popular belief, bicyclists are vehicles and traffic.

s. 316.003 – Definitions

(2) Bicycle – Every vehicle propelled solely by human power

(75) Vehicle – Every device, in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway

(57) Traffic – Pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, and vehicles, streetcars, and other conveyances either singly or together while using any street or highway for purposes of travel.

The intent of the “keep right” provisions of the Bicycle Regulations” is clear.  Slower-moving bicyclists should not impede traffic under some circumstances.

A common sense reading of that phrase would indicate that the only existing traffic, the bicyclist, would be the normal speed of traffic at the time and therefore would not have to remain in the lane marked for bicycles or the right side of the roadway since there is no impediment to other traffic.

The statutes seem to dictate that bicyclists should use bike lanes when present, lacking cause. If there is a need to leave the bike lane or right side of a roadway without bike lanes to pass, prepare for a left turn, or avoid any unsafe condition, the statute is clear that it is legal to do so.

I am aware of one case in which it was argued that the normal speed of traffic is the posted speed limit.  I believe roadway agencies in some cases use 85% of the average motor vehicle speed as the posted speed limit, arguing that posted speeds lower than that encourage dangerous passing by frustrated drivers.  Is the “normal speed of traffic” actually higher than that posted?

The question could also be posed as one motorist traveling in the presence of a group of 100 bicyclists, or one bicyclist and one motorist.  What is the “normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing?”

As far as I know it is not definitively decided, but any reasonable approach to the question should reveal a common sense answer, that bicyclists that are not impeding other traffic are not violating this statute.

See also the other posts at this link.

http://flbikelaw.org/tag/impeding-traffic/

Posted in Ask Geo, Impeding Traffic Tagged with: , , ,
5 comments on “Normal Speed of Traffic
  1. Herman F. Ebeling Jr. says:

    Thank you, about a year or two ago while I was riding over to visit my girlfriend I had a cop get on his PA system and instruct me to either ride closer to the right i.e. I can only presume that he meant hugging the curb, or to get on the sidewalk. This was at 2200hrs (10:00pm) on a road with 2 lanes for each direction of travel and he had just left the parking lot of my apartment complex and could have easily gone into the left hand lane to pass me as we were the only traffic on the road at that time.

    Also several years earlier I had an encounter with an off-duty city traffic homicide officer who even though I was riding in the right side tire track somehow interpreted that as I was riding in the “middle” of the road, as well as accusing me of riding without lights, and had threatened to seize my bike on the spot. Fortunately when I stopped I stayed astride of my bike. As when he “flashed” his badge he did so from the drivers side of his official SUV where I couldn’t see it clearly.

    He also started off with “You and your clubs need to learn. . .” Trailing off, then he switched to “I’m tired of cleaning ‘your’ brains off of the road.” Given that he was talking to me, I can only presume that he meant bicyclists in general and not me in particular as we were talking he obviously hasn’t “cleaned my brains” off of the road. 😉

    I think that he started the way that he did, as I was in full kit at the time, which is how I usually ride.

  2. Geo says:

    I suggest writing to the police chief and asking them to have all their officers read this post:

    http://flbikelaw.org/2010/04/a-department-bulletin-to-help-officers-understand-cyclist-safety-and-lane-use/

    • Herman F. Ebeling Jr. says:

      Thank you. I’ll pass it on. I do recall calling first the non-emergency number and then the second or third number that they gave me to report it. I had to “laugh” when they told me that there was “no way” to identify the the car(s) that were in my area the night the officer had instructed me to either ride closer to the right side of the road, or to get on the sidewalk.

      Uh, correct me if I’m mistaken, but even IF they don’t have GPS’ in their cars they dispatch does know who they sent on what call and when and where. Their claim that they couldn’t “confirm” which car(s) that were in the area was them trying to “pass the buck” and not to do their job.

  3. Geo says:

    I wouldn’t necessarily assume that. If it was a marked car, there would be an identifying number on the car. In any event, I recommend the above.

    • Herman F. Ebeling Jr. says:

      It was one of two marked cruisers that had been dispatched for some sort of disturbance.

      In the incident with the off duty traffic homicide the St. Pete bicycle and pedestrian safety coordinator was able to ascertain just who it was with the little information that I was able to provide her.

      So it makes sense (at least to me) that given that given that it was a marked cruiser that had been dispatched to some sort of disturbance that there should have been some sort of record on who had responded/been dispatched to the call.

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