Rights of Cycling Groups

Question

David also asked: Yesterday (Sunday, April 1) on the Rickenbacker Causeway in Miami, a police officer was getting all upset about a group of about 50 – 100 cyclists taking up a whole lane of the road. He was screaming out of his window for us to “keep right.” The Rickenbacker causeway also has a bike lane painted on it. Could you please discuss the legal status of a group of cyclists taking an entire lane in a double-lane road? From reading your site, I believe a) that we are not impeding traffic because there is still another lane for vehicles to pass. b) we are indeed violating the “two abreast” rule.  c) We are not obligated to be in the bike lane because we are passing a steady stream of slower cyclists who are in the bike lane. d) If (hypothetically speaking) the bike lane was empty, we’d still spill over into the road lane, this time violating the statute. So, what rights does a large group of cyclists have to cycle as a group in the road?

Answer

Short answer:  None.

A cycling group is not a defined entity in the statutes.  Rather, each cyclist is operating a vehicle and has the same rights and duties as other drivers while in the roadway.  A bicycle lane is part of the roadway.

Cyclists do have some advantages not applicable to drivers of motor vehicles, such as no requirement to have a driver’s license, no points for a violation of traffic laws and  legally impeding traffic under some circumstances.  On the other hand, they are also required to “keep right” and in the bike lane under some circumstances.  There are many other posts on this site about the exceptions to the “keep right” rules and impeding traffic.

The premise of your question is already answered in your statement, “We are indeed violating the ‘two abreast’ rule.”  If you are admittedly operating unlawfully, how can we devise a statutory justification?

The provisions in the statutes that apply are:

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

Let’s not conveniently forget the part about “all the duties” of other drivers.

One of those duties is to comply with the provision that cyclists

(6) …. may not ride more than two abreast at any time except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

Another is the requirement to ride within a single lane.  A bicycle lane is a lane.

(6) (Cont.) Persons riding two abreast may not impede traffic when traveling at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing and shall ride within a single lane.

Cyclists when traveling in a group do not have any special privileges.  In fact, they have a greater responsibility to ride lawfully since their presence creates problems for others.  I am aware of numerous situations throughout the state in which cyclists traveling in large groups routinely run lights and unlawfully take up a full lane and overflow into the adjacent lane, even the lane for on-coming traffic.   Among other locations, I have heard the complaint about Rickenbacker Causeway that groups sometimes overflow into both main travel lanes.  Some groups seem to feel that the roadway is their own personal racing venue, and that the laws do not apply to them.

I fully understand the fact that some cyclists travel in groups for a feeling of security that is not necessarily provided by a respect for the laws and cycling rights by others and full and fair enforcement of the laws that should protect cyclists.

Another consideration that is not addressed in the statutes is that when large groups of cyclists do ride legally, single file and taking the lane in substandard-width lanes, the line can be so long that it becomes virtually impossible for motorists to legally and safely overtake and pass.

Posted in Ask Geo, Group Riding Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
3 comments on “Rights of Cycling Groups
  1. David Brookes says:

    Thank you for your quick and carefully considered response. Do you know of or cite examples of statutes in other states that set out some sort of reasonable legal parameters for group riding? I’m imagining that one could approach this along the lines of something like “if there are two travel lanes, cyclists may take one lane and occupy as much of that lane as they like irrespective of how many abreast they are riding.” I guess I am asking if you have any thoughts about how to construct a statute that is fair and reasonable for both cyclists and drivers in the context of a substantial group of cyclists riding together.

  2. geo says:

    I am familiar with many other states’ laws, none of which have provisions such as those you propose. Most states’ laws are based on national recommended language, and Florida’s bicycle laws, like many other states, are almost exactly that language.

  3. geo says:

    Also, I recommend that you work with the Florida Bicycle Association about developing legislative language such as that you mention. They have a legislative agenda which addresses of many common problems we have with the laws about bicycling. The one you mention is not on that agenda as far as I know.

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