Backing Vehicles in the Bike Lane

Question

Ozzie asked: In the community where I live there is a bike lane adjacent to the main road. It seems at times that two specific bikers dream about being in the Tour de France and travel pretty fast in those lanes. Now, in order to back my truck into my driveway, I have to cross the biker’s lane for a few seconds. This specific biker told me the other day that I am breaking the Law because I suppose to stop my truck completely and allow to zoom by before I back my truck into the driveway. Now, if he is ahead of me I slow down enough, so I can back into my driveway without interrupting his workout, but if he was coming behind me and I am backing into my driveway, I think he should slow down. I asked my next door neighbor, who is a policeman, and told me that I was right, but I need something in black and white to hand it to this gentleman.

Answer

I recommend that you ask the officer to explain the laws that apply and the officer’s conclusion that you are correct.  Please ask the officer to provide the information to this site.

I come to a different conclusion.  The primary statute seems to be that a driver backing a vehicle must not interfere with other traffic.  It appears you are backing unlawfully if you are interfering with other traffic, in this case the bicyclist.

s. 316.1985Limitations on Backing

(1) The driver of a vehicle shall not back the same unless such movement can be made with safety and without interfering with other traffic.

Bicycles are traffic.

s. 316.003 – Definitions

(57) Traffic – Pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, and vehicles, …. while using any street or highway for purposes of travel.

You may also be in violation of the statute that prohibits stopping on a bike lane.

s. 316.1945Stopping, Standing, or Parking Prohibited in Specified Places

(1) Except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic, or in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer or official traffic control device, no person shall:

(a) Stop, stand, or park a vehicle:

6. On an exclusive bicycle lane.

The bicyclists are entitled to travel at a fast speed if they are obeying the posted speed limit.

Although it is sometimes necessary to enter a bicycle lane briefly to cross to enter or leave the travel lane, bike lanes are for the exclusive use of bicyclists.  Therefore, bicyclists would seem to have the right of way when in the bike lane.

If a vehicle is stopped in the left lane of a multi-lane roadway and the driver backs into the right lane and interferes with other traffic, that driver is in violation.

A bike lane is also a lane, and if you are in the lane to the left of the bike lane and interfere with other traffic while backing across the bike lane, it seems to be a similar situation.

Bicyclists should also be aware that they may leave the bike lane for many reasons including to avoid an unsafe condition, in this case the apparent unlawful stopping and backing of a vehicle.

s. 316.2965 – 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 except under any of the following situations:

3. When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict, including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, turn lane, or substandard-width lane, which makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge or within a bicycle lane.

Posted in Ask Geo, Bike Lanes Tagged with: , ,
13 comments on “Backing Vehicles in the Bike Lane
  1. Dwight says:

    When does a vehicle stopped in the lane to the left of a bike lane–whose driver intends to back across the bike lane into a driveway–become a hazardous condition for a cyclist approaching in the bike lane?

    If (for any reason) the driver begins backing across the bike lane as cyclist approaches, a hazardous condition is certainly created, and the cyclist would be justified in leaving the bike lane.

    If the cyclist approached at a high (bicycle) speed, though, it might be difficult to avoid a collision or fall even if they began leaving the bike lane as soon as they noticed the motorist was beginning to back across it. The situation becomes potentially hazardous as soon as the cyclist is so close that, at the speed he is riding, noticing any movement of the motor vehicle and taking effective evasive action might be not be easy–and this may occur well before any movement of the motor vehicle.

    Even though the MV is stopped ahead and has not moved in such a way to interfere with the cyclist’s movement, the potential for a crash already exists. As a cyclist, I would therefore feel justified in leaving the bike lane well in advance of any backing movement. I have no assurance that the driver has seen me and will remain stopped. Yes, the driver is legally obliged to yield to me, but I am not obliged to put my own safety at risk by counting on them to do so.

  2. Geo says:

    It should also be noted that a bicyclist is only required to stay in the bike lane or otherwise keep right if traveling more slowly than other present traffic. Some cyclists can ride at 30 mph or faster, and remaining in the bike lane at that speed might be considered an unsafe condition.
    (5)(a) -Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic …. 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

  3. Frank says:

    Whether the driver is pulling into his driveway, forwards or backwards, the cyclist still has to watchout anyways…
    I don’t see the difference here…
    Just because the motorist is backing into his driveway as opposed to going forward into it, both he and the cyclist must have due diligence to be safe…
    I’ve run into a lot of people pulling into their driveways.. I make sure I watch te traffic is all….
    I see too many VC’s (“Vehicular Cyclists”) who think that just because they CAN travel at 30mph, that they shouldn’t have to slow down if there is a pontenti conflict…

    If a motorist was driving down the road instead of a cyclist, would it make a difference?
    According to ideas of the VCs in this case, they would have to say no too…
    Let’s be realistic here… There is no law, that I’ve seen that says a motorist can’t back into his driveway, as long as he’s doing it “safely”.

    That’s the problem I’ve seen with the VCs, they think they shouldn’t have to slow down…
    It’s more like they want to be treated like another vehicle except when it doesn’t behoove them to do so..
    That’s just my opinion.

    • Nathan (NE2) says:

      I think you’re confusing efficular cyclists with those who see themselves as better than other drivers.

  4. Geo says:

    “There is no law, that I’ve seen that says a motorist can’t back into his driveway, as long as he’s doing it safely.”

    If you are interfering with other traffic, you are not doing it safely or legally.

    “If a motorist was driving down the road instead of a cyclist, would it make a difference?”

    Cyclists are operating vehicles and must follow applicable laws.

    If you are driving in the left lane of a multi-lane roadway and turn right across the path of a motorist in the right lane, you are in violation. The same applies if you turn across the path of a bicyclist in a bike lane.

    There are a number of posts on this site addressing right-turning motorists and the potential conflict (right hook) with cyclists and recommended actions. This is one:

    http://flbikelaw.org/2009/08/138/

  5. Frank says:

    So someone is always doing something illegal when they pull into their driveway?
    That’s what you’re saying…

  6. Geo says:

    You can draw that conclusion if you want based on the use of the word “exclusive” as it is used in the statute about stopping on a bike lane, but it doesn’t make common sense because of the way bike lanes are installed.

    The only other mention of the nature of bike lanes is in the Bicycle Regulations, which refers to riding two or more abreast in a bike lane.
    (6) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway may not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

    Since there is no definition of bike lane in the statutes we must use other sources, such as the MUTCD.

    23. Bicycle Lane—a portion of a roadway that has been designated for preferential or exclusive use by bicyclists by pavement markings and, if used, signs.

    Or the FDOT definition, which only uses the word preferential.

    Since there is no specific mention in the statutes of motor vehicles crossing bike lanes, the exclusive or preferential treatment of bicyclists in bike lanes implies their right of way over other drivers of other vehicles.

    Back to the point of original question, whether preferential or exclusive, the bike lane is for use of bicyclists, and a motor vehicle driver must yield to bicyclists in bike lanes before crossing or otherwise using them. That particularly applies when backing or stopping on a bike lane if it interferes with bicyclists since that is specifically stated in the statutes.

    • Dwight says:

      Although the law does require the backing motorist to yield to a cyclist in the bike lane in this situation (i.e., not to “interfere” with other traffic), it also makes the cyclist responsible for determining that it is safe to pass on the right in the bike lane. Per s. 316.084, “The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle on the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety.”

      The greater the cyclist’s approach speed in the bike lane, the less time there is to observe a driver stopped in the next lane to judge whether he has seen the cyclist and will remain stopped to let the cyclist pass by before backing into a driveway.

      It’s not easy to look into the passenger compartment of a car or light truck from the rear and tell whether the driver is checking his mirrors or looking back. From a distance it’s usually hard to see outside mirrors well enough to tell whether the driver is checking them (especially if side windows are tinted).

      Even when motorists are completely stopped and appear to have seen an approaching cyclist or motorcyclist, they sometimes lurch into the path of the 2-wheeled driver.

      Making sure that the conditions permit safe passing on the right, if that is where cyclist intends to pass, may well require slowing down. To minimize the inconvenience as well as the hazard, a cyclist can look for an opportunity to pass on the left in this situation (where roadway and traffic conditions permit).

  7. Geo says:

    With that in mind, it should be noted that the due care provisions require all drivers, including bicyclists, to reduce speed, even if already traveling below the posted speed limit, in any situation in which there is a potential hazardous condition.

    s. 316.183 – Unlawful Speed
    (1) No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. In every event, speed shall be controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle, or other conveyance or object on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.
    (4) The driver of every vehicle shall, consistent with the requirements of subsection (1), drive at an appropriately reduced speed when:
    (e) Any special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions.

    s. 316.185 – Special Hazards
    The fact that the speed of a vehicle is lower than the prescribed limits shall not relieve the driver from the duty to decrease speed when …. when special hazards exist or may exist with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or other roadway conditions, and speed shall be decreased as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle, or other conveyance on or entering the street in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.

  8. Herman F. Ebeling, Jr. says:

    If I’m following this correctly, I was in a similar situation just last night coming home from a group ride.

    I was traveling north on 1st St. N., in St. Petersburg. I had a pickup truck in front of me turn into it’s driveway and then proceed to back across the street.

    Given the number of lights that I have on my bike, and the orange safety vest that I wear I am reasonably sure that when they passed me that they saw me, and knew that I was on the road. But that given that sadly, because the majority of Americans still see the bicycle as a “child’s toy” or as an “exercise/recreational equipment” to be used on the weekends in the local park/trails. And that they sadly are unaware of how fast we can travel.

    Seeing him start to backup I gave a quick toot on my air horn to let him know that I was approaching the area that he was backing towards. He gave a quick toot on his horn in response and after I cleared the rear of his truck I gave another quick toot on my air horn to let him know that I had cleared the area.

    Thankfully, I find myself using my air horn in that manner, i.e. to alert backing motorists that I am approaching and to wait until the area is clear before they backup.

  9. Marcus101RR says:

    Based on Laws and Logic, I will go with logic. If anyone has a brain in this community, the bicyclist should GIVE WAY for the Motor Vehicle period. It would your own fault for riding a bike at 30 mph just so you can have your exercise at intense magnitude just so you can cross a 30-second wait for someone to back into their own bloody property.

    Stop being selfish, I find it the law is very good at creating loopholes and at the same stopping stupid loopholes.

    Stop reading a book for once, and use your brain please. Would it kill you to stop? Bike Lance or sidewalk be it not, they all cross a driveway on urban areas, that should mean PEDs should stop, and the vehicle has the right to back into their own property.

    • Dwight says:

      A cyclist riding on the roadway is a driver, not a pedestrian. A cyclist riding 30 mph on a 30 mph street is not required to use a bike lane, and doing so is apt to be pretty risky, given the proximity of curb and gutter hazards, poor sight triangles at some driveways, the risk of encountering unexpected articles or users in the bike lane (debris, garbage/recycling carts, runners who prefer to run in bike lanes, loose dogs or dogs on long leashes that dash out into the bike lane unexpectedly, the occasional illegally parked/disabled/momentarily stopped vehicle, etc.), and the difficulty some left-turning and right-turning motorists have noticing bike lane users in time to yield (i.e., because they were concentrating their attention on traffic in the travel lanes).

      At 10-15 mph, an alert cyclist using a bike lane may have time to brake or take other evasive action to avoid bike lane hazards and conflicts. As the cyclist’s speed increases, this becomes progressively more difficult, and bike lane use can become hazardous. At higher cyclist speeds, it is generally easier to manage a conflict like the one under discussion (motorist ahead backing into a driveway) if high-speed cyclist rides in (or moves into) the travel lane. The cyclist’s intent is clear, there is no long delay while motorist and cyclist try to guess what each other will do and negotiate priority.

  10. Geo says:

    Some might consider it selfish to violate the law and endanger someone who is complying with the law or to feel that a motorist should have the right of way simply because their vehicle is bigger. Should drivers of large trucks always have the right of way over automobile drivers, or should they obey the laws?

    On this site, we are trying to encourage everyone to learn and follow the laws, not just do as they please, ie. be selfish.

    The laws are in place to try to establish some order on the roadways. If we all just break them because we don’t like them, we will just have anarchy and no one will be safe.

    If you read the article and comments, you will note that there are legal alternatives to riding 30 mph on the right in a bike lane past a stopped or backing car, or stopping and yielding to a car in the bike lane. If it is unsafe for any reason, a cyclist can leave the bike lane and use the portion of the roadway that is safe. Unfortunately, too often when cyclists do legally leave the bike lane to avoid dangerous situations, motorists fault them for not remaining in the bike lane and declare them selfish for impeding other traffic.

Leave a Reply