Rude Bicyclist or Rude Motorist?

Question

C asked:  Today it was raining as I was driving down University Blvd in Orlando. The speed limit was 45 miles per hour. Directly in front of me in the middle of the lane was a bicyclist riding at 20 miles an hour. I, of course slowed to his speed as did everyone behind me. The bicyclist did not move to the right and continued to cause traffic to slow. Because the adjacent lane of traffic was traveling at the speed limit I was unable to change lanes for quite some time. I beeped lightly in the hopes of getting his attention so he would realize that traffic was building behind him. He merely “shot me the bird” multiple times and continued biking.

I find that I encounter rude riders more often than not. How is it fair, or safe, for a bicyclist to ride in a lane with a motor vehicle? In the rain he ran dded risk of skidding and falling. He would be much safer on a sidewalk. I have no intention of putting myself in a position of feeling responsible for an accident w/ a bicyclist and resent the fact that they (and I say “they because I run into this more often than not) feel an entitlement than encroaches on my ability to get where I am going at the legal speed limit!

I am actually beginning to believe that bicyclists should have a license, take a road riding test and have a license plate so that they can be reported when abusing the road.

Answer

Cyclists are not required to use the sidewalk, but may do so.  In many circumstances, riding on the sidewalk is more dangerous than being in the roadway.

The provision in the statutes that applies your question is:

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.

Judging from the appearance of University Blvd. on Google Maps, the lanes are barely wide enough for the motor vehicles there.

A cyclist is not required to “keep right” in a narrow lane.  The lane on University Blvd. is a substandard-width lane (Less than 14 feet, which the Department of Transportation says is the minimum for a motor vehicle to safely pass a bicyclist).

Most roadways in Florida are composed of lanes that are 10-12 feet wide and therefore are substandard-width lanes. This subsection of the Bicycle Regulations defines a substandard-width lane, and indicates the other exceptions to the “keep right” rule.

(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:

1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

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. For the purposes of this subsection, a “substandard-width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

Even if the cyclist is keeping right in a substandard-width lane, a motorist must at least partially change lanes to pass, so you could not have legally and safely passed within the lane if the cyclist had moved over and you could not change lanes due to the traffic in the other lane.  You must wait until there is a clear adjacent lane.

A cyclist staying to the right in a narrow lane encourages unsafe and illegal passing, and creates a hazardous situation.  Remaining in the middle of the lane discourages dangerous and illegal passing within the lane.  Although it may slow other drivers for some period, it is legal and safe.  Just because your vehicle may be faster and you are in a hurry, the cyclist is not required to get out of your way.  Blowing your horn only aggravates the situation, as was indicated by the cyclist’s response.

There is a full discussion of cyclists in narrow lanes and legally impeding traffic in these posts:

http://flbikelaw.org/2010/01/substandard-width-lanes-updated/

http://flbikelaw.org/2010/05/bicycles-impeding-traffic/

If you would like to see an Orlando Police Department Bulletin on the subject, please see this post:

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

Posted in Ask Geo, Impeding Traffic Tagged with: , , , , ,
14 comments on “Rude Bicyclist or Rude Motorist?
  1. Frank S. says:

    What you ran into was probably one of the cyclists from the advocacy group called “Commute Orlando”…

    They are quite adamant about using the road as a “Vehicular Cyclist”…
    The use of a vulgar finger gesture is uncalled for, but sometimes you just have to “go with the flow” when it comes to VCs…

    Was he/she at LEAST using the lights on their bicycle, at the time they were riding in the rain?
    (That’s needed, legally, even for a cyclist)

  2. Geo says:

    The point is that the bicyclist was riding legally and C apparently didn’t know that. For those interested, there is a course for legal and safe cycling readily available in Orlando called:

    http://cyclingsavvy.org/

    We don’t know if C and the other motorists had their lights on either, but that’s not the subject of this post. See “bicycle lights” in the tag cloud.

  3. Dwight says:

    In a study of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes in the Orlando area, 44% of the 605 crashes of adult cyclists involved cyclists who were riding on sidewalks and connecting crosswalks. Trying to ride fast on a sidewalk without conflicting with driveway traffic or startling pedestrians is actually pretty difficult.

    The six travel lanes on University Boulevard in north central Orange County (“Orlando” mailing address) use 11-ft lane widths. Passing a cyclist in an 11-ft lane with a dual-track motor vehicle requires moving at least partially into the next lane. Minimum cyclist operating width (per AASHTO) is 4 ft (allows for wobble, routine side-to-side movement) and minimum passing clearance is 3 ft (s. 316.083). At most 4 ft of the lane width would remain available for safe and legal passing.

    Thus, passing motorist would need to use at least 2-3 ft of the adjacent lane even if cyclist kept far right. From the point of view of a driver sitting on left side of a car, though, it can appear there is room to pass in the same lane when a cyclist keeps far right. To avoid this hazardous illusion, the law makes an exception to the “far right” rule in this situation (“substandard-width” lane).

  4. Geo says:

    Some previous comments removed. Please refrain from personal exchanges on this site.

  5. c says:

    Thanks for all your responses! I never think of University Blvd as having less than adequate width or substandard width lanes. It didn’t come into play since I wasn’t going to pass him that lane.

    What has been overlooked is that he caused traffic in that 45 mi hr lane to slow to 20 mi hr! That just is not OK!

    The bicyclist did not have a light(s) and I don’t know about hand signal use since he was not in need of using them after moving to the center of the lane. I don’t recall if he used hand signals to move from the curb to the center of the lane.
    I can’t believe that he was safer in the middle of the road. How often in bike vs auto does a bike win?

    • Dwight says:

      Your original post did not mention the time of day. If it was after sunset, then the requirement s. 316.2065(8) for a bicycle to be “equipped” with a headlamp, tail lamp and rear reflector and for the lamps to “exhibit” white light (front) and red light (rear) would definitely apply. Re daytime conditions of darkness due to rain, fog, or smoke, s. 316.2065 (“Bicycle regulations”) is silent, whereas s. 316.217 states:

      “Every vehicle operated upon a highway within this state shall display lighted lamps and illuminating devices as herein respectively required for different classes of vehicles, subject to exceptions with respect to parked vehicles, under the following conditions;

      […]
      (b) During any rain, smoke, or fog.”

      In any case, cyclist use of lamps under daytime low-light conditions due to rain, smoke or fog would be highly advisable.

      Delaying a following driver by going more slowly than the following driver would like to travel is not illegal in Florida except when the lead driver (1) is traveling more slowly than a posted minimum speed limit or (2) the lead driver is driving “a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law” (s. 316183(5)).

      Some state traffic codes have included a provision applying on 2-lane highways that requires the driver of a slow-moving vehicle to turn out under certain conditions. California’s CVC 21656 is typical of such provisions:

      “On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, a slow-moving vehicle, including a passenger vehicle, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in line, shall turn off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout by signs erected by the authority having jurisdiction over the highway, or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, in order to permit the vehicles following it to proceed.”

      Florida hasn’t adopted such a rule, but it could be considered a matter of courtesy.

    • Jens Hagen says:

      Totally silly to be this impatient. We need more cyclists, less cars, less sprawl, and slower speed limits. This is why Orlando ranks #1 for pedestrian deaths. I feel bad for walkers or riders who have to contend with Florida’s horrid car-centric infrastructure. Take pity on the cyclists and slow to 20mph. Your personal moment of zen.

  6. Geo says:

    “What has been overlooked is that he caused traffic in that 45 mi hr lane to slow to 20 mi hr! That just is not OK!”

    I wasn’t overlooked. It has been comprehensively covered in this post and the others linked above. Cyclists are sometimes required to keep right or in bike lanes, but in this case, the law says the cyclist was riding legally and that such cycling is OK. If you don’t like the laws, you should lobby to have them changed. I recommend reading the Orlando Police Department Bulletin linked above.

    Too often, the cyclist is singled out as the only impediment. We are impeded all the time. Garbage trucks stopped in the roadway. Mail carriers. Pedestrians in crosswalks. Slower motorists. Red lights and stop signs. My pet peeve is someone doing the speed limit in the left lane of I-95. All those and many other conditions are legally keeping us from going as fast as we would like in our rush to get somewhere, or more often, to stop at the next red light. We don’t have the right to go as fast as we would like all the time. The laws regulate that.

    The laws about cycling were developed with safety, and not necessarily speed, in mind. Any educated and experienced cyclist will confirm that legally “taking the lane” is sometimes the safest option. When doing so, the cyclist is clearly visible and can’t be ignored, communicating that it is not safe to try to pass, please wait. The law provides for that for many reasons as stated above, the exceptions to the “keep right” laws.

    Many motorists do not realize the danger they create when trying to pass impatiently and unlawfully in narrow lanes. Cyclists who are “buzzed” or “mirrored” or worse know that.

    Some cyclists choose to pull over in a safe location when they are blocking traffic for an extended period, but Florida laws do not require that.

  7. Herman F. Ebeling, Jr. says:

    There is one thing I noted with interest in “C’s” initial posting. That is his description that it was RAINING, and that he evidently felt the “need” to drive at the posted speed limit.

    Aren’t drivers taught when it’s raining, or foggy, etc. to SLOW down?

    If “C” had been involved in a crash while driving in the rain at the posted speed limit, couldn’t he be issued a ticket for speeding?

    • Dwight says:

      Per s. 316.183, a driver “shall…drive at an appropriately reduced speed when… Any special hazard exists…by reason of weather or highway conditions”.

  8. xaos says:

    I ride University to and from work every day. I’ve ridden on the road itself on the right and let me tell you, at 7:45 in the morning it’s frightening and at 5 PM, it’s more so as the people are rushing to get home or wherever they are going. The people driving on that road are notoriously not paying attention or are in a hurry. I routinely see people slamming on the brakes at traffic that has been stopped for some time. I no longer ride on the right of the road after nearly getting run off it by a school bus (Unfortunately, I didn’t get the number).

    I have ridden on the left side once. There is a decent sized shoulder there to ride on and I know it’s legal to ride on the left on a one way, multi lane road, but the semis don’t really pay much attention to how close they are and, well, my bike doesn’t jump curbs too well.

    So, my option is to ride on the sidewalk on University. There are very few pull-outs that are blind, and I ride with one hand on the brake at every single entrance/crosswalk and it seems to work well enough. I approach peds with caution and warn them if I am behind them and I’ve not had any issues thus far. Perhaps one day, they’ll make the road more bike friendly, but until then, I’ll just continue doing what I do.

    It doesn’t matter if I am in the right or wrong if I am dead.

  9. Geo says:

    Unless there is a local ordinance prohibiting cycling on the sidewalk, it doesn’t sound like you are doing anything wrong.

  10. Damian says:

    I find the sidewalk to be much more dangerous, as cars turning right pay zero attention to what is coming down the sidewalk even when the crosswalk has a walk sign. I do most of my riding on the road and have been grazed a few times by car side mirrors, there really needs to be more driver education in regards to how to safely pass a cyclist , rarely do they give the 3 ft they should. That being said many of my fellow cyclist need to remember that they have to follow the rules of the road as well, you don’t get to go through red lights just because there is no other traffic around.

  11. Jens Hagen says:

    Totally silly to be this impatient. We need more cyclists, less cars, less sprawl, and slower speed limits. This is why Orlando ranks #1 for pedestrian deaths. I feel bad for walkers or riders who have to contend with Florida’s horrid car-centric infrastructure. Take pity on the cyclists and slow to 20mph. Your personal moment of zen.

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