Two Abreast Impeding Traffic

Question

Michael asked:  I recently received a ticket for riding two abreast and impeding traffic on A1A.  The traffic lane is 10′ 2″ with a 3 ft paved shoulder.  I want to contest the ticket based on the 316.2065 substandard lane statute and Section 316.083 Overtaking and passing a vehicle “an overtaken (impeding) vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle, ON AN AUDIBLE SIGNAL.  Can you cite any specific Florida case law that I can use in my defense?

Answer

The statute to which you refer is this:

s. 316.083Overtaking and Passing a Vehicle

The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions, and special rules hereinafter stated:

(1) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall give an appropriate signal as provided for in s. 316.156, shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance, and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle. The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle.

(2) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle, on audible signal or upon the visible blinking of the headlamps of the overtaking vehicle if such overtaking is being attempted at nighttime, and shall not increase the speed of his or her vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

I have not seen the “audible signal” defense and I am not aware of any case law that can be used as a precedent about these issues.  To be a state precedent, a case must be decided at the Court of Appeal or that level trial.  Traffic court decisions vary on these questions, but there have been a number of successful defenses based on a single rider in a substandard-width lane charged with failure to “keep right.”  Separately, I will forward one of those to your email address. I am not aware of the same in your jurisdiction.

Separately I will also send you a very long and detailed Power Point presentation that was used to educate officers in other municipalities in your area.  The previous police chief of this community was aware of this.

If one of you was on the paved shoulder and the other in the roadway, you were not riding unlawfully.  The statute clearly applies to two cyclists in the roadway riding abreast.  The paved shoulder is not part of the roadway and is not a lane unless marked as a bicycle lane.

s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations

(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. 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.

s. 316.003 – Definitions

(42) That portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the berm or shoulder.

Cyclists are never required to use a paved shoulder unless it is a marked bike lane.

See the section in the Power Point that specifically addresses the paved shoulder.

Keep in mind that traffic court is hurried and magistrates are not always fully aware of bicycling issues and laws.  You will likely not be able to present a full case, and the phrase in the statutes “Persons riding two abreast may not impede traffic …” will be probably taken out of the context of the other provisions in the statutes about substandard-width lanes.

I strongly recommend retaining counsel and filing a pretrial motion to dismiss, which will allow full consideration of your facts and supporting law.  That is what was done in the successful defense I provided above.  That also provides the documentation for an appeal later, which is not likely if you go to traffic court.

You will probably have to educate your attorney also, unless he/she is among the very few that really understand cycling and the applicable laws.

In addition to the roadway/paved shoulder issue above, if you were both in the roadway, an argument you may want to make is that a single bicyclist or a line of bicyclists one behind the other using the full lane in a narrow lane and impeding traffic is not violating any statutes.  An overtaking motorist must always change lanes to pass any cyclist in a substandard-width lane.  That is the definition.  The other lane must be clear to do so, so a cyclist can never be unlawfully impeding traffic when in such a lane, no matter where in the lane he or she is riding.  That is also usually the safest practice since it discourages illegal and dangerous passing.

Cyclists riding two abreast in those narrow lanes are not impeding traffic any more than the cyclist taking the lane.  This post and others under “impeding traffic”, “overtaking and passing” and “substandard-width lanes” in the tag cloud will provide that information.

http://flbikelaw.org/2009/07/cyclists-riding-two-abreast/

Another option is to address a letter to the chief asking him to reconsider the citation and reverse it. I will forward the Power Point above to the new chief.

This is a common problem around Florida.  I will also send your email to others who may be able to provide further assistance.

Posted in Ask Geo, Impeding Traffic Tagged with: , , , , , ,
6 comments on “Two Abreast Impeding Traffic
  1. Dwight says:

    I often hear people call paved shoulders “bike lanes”–where no bike lane markings or signs are present! Minimum width to designate a bicycle lane on a paved shoulder is 4 ft, per FDOT manuals (consistent with AASHTO guidelines). Minimum cyclist operating width, per 2012 AASHTO, is 4 ft. Under the Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law, a shoulder is not part of the “roadway”.

  2. fred_dot_u says:

    Being directly involved in a current court case, which is going to trial after having the motion to dismiss returned with a denial, I am hopeful that a powerpoint presentation may be of value. Would it be possible to have a copy of that presentation?

    My case hinges on the judge’s interpretation of a 12.5 foot lane as being of sufficient width for operation side by side with a motor vehicle, and on the judge’s foundation of a 30″ bicycle width, with no reference for operating space required, and also on the foundation of the “average width of a motor vehicle” being stated as seven feet. The lane in which I was operating was 11.5 feet wide, measured from inside of stripe to inside of stripe and I have measured motor vehicles at a couple of inches short of nine feet wide.

    I’m hopeful that I can squeeze a not-guilty out of all this on any one focus point, but all of them are valid.

  3. Special X says:

    Micheal,

    What are of a1a are you speaking of?

  4. Leo says:

    ” Traffic court decisions vary on these questions, but there have been a number of successful defenses based on a single rider in a substandard-width lane charged with failure to “keep right.”

    “Single rider” being the key…how many two abreast riders have had succesful defenses utilizing the substandard-width lane defense?

  5. Mike Cryer says:

    I would really like to get a copy of that PowerPoint. Could I possibly get a copy? Avid cyclist here trying to educate myself.

  6. Geo says:

    Mike,

    I sent a copy by email.

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