Right Turns Again

Question

J Lewis asked: Today I (a cyclist) was stopped at a red light while in a bike lane, and I was honked at and harassed by a person in a vehicle behind me. I presume they were trying to turn right, and I was in their way.

Am I correct in thinking that I was in the right to hold my ground and not budge until I had a green light, or should I have picked up my bicycle and moved off the curb into the grass so he could pass me? There was a proper turn lane just to the left of me, but he wasn’t in it and there were other cars preventing him from merging back into that lane.

This is a slightly different circumstance than some of the other situations listed on this site so I was hoping for some direct clarification. I’d like to know what to do for sure should this situation come up again.

Answer

When you are riding legally, you are not required to get out of the way of other drivers. You have the same rights and duties as any other driver.

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 ….

If you were legally driving a motor vehicle and something similar happened, would you even consider that you should move out of the way of another driver because they honked their horn. You were correct in your actions, and the motorist had no valid reason to expect otherwise.

The exception to that guidance is when riding legally and blocking a lot of drivers who have no other course but to remain behind you for a long period, you may want to consider using safe and convenient options to move out of the way to allow them to pass. Some states require that, but Florida laws do not.

See also this post: http://flbikelaw.org/2012/08/rude-bicyclist-or-rude-motorist/

The roadway configuration you describe, a bike lane to the right of a right turn lane, presents serious problems. You have mentioned one. The worst is that drivers in the right turn lane must cross the bike lane to turn right, the classic right hook for a bicyclist, since few look behind to the right before turning.

The bike lanes at some intersections are improperly marked. They should end or change to dashed lines 50-200 feet before the intersection, indicating that motorists should move as far right in the roadway (including the bike lane) as is practicable, as required by law, and that bicyclists are not required to remain in the bike lane. See this post for a better way to approach this situation:

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

See also the other posts under “right turns” in the tag cloud.

The Department of Transportation recognizes the problem and is taking steps to correct it for right turn only lanes, but many roads still have that configuration and will remain that way until scheduled repaving or reconstruction occurs. See these recently revised documents:

FDOT Plans Preparation Manual (For state roadways)

8.4.1 Bicycle Lanes

At intersections with right turn lanes, the bicycle lane shall continue adjacent to the through lane; between the through lane and the right turn lane ….

Manual of Uniform Minimum Standards for Design, Construction and Maintenance for Streets and Highways (Florida Greenbook) (For county and municipality roadways)

B.2 Bike Lanes

…. In most cases, bike lanes will be through lanes and be located to the right of the right most through lane.

The Bicycle Regulations were recently changed to make it clear that bicyclists should consider intersections to be unsafe conditions. An exception to the “keep right” or in the bike lane rule at turn lanes is incorporated:

(5)(a)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, Making Turns Tagged with: , ,
13 comments on “Right Turns Again
  1. Frank says:

    Forgive me, but doesn’t Florida allow right turn on red?
    Were you purposely blocking the person from making a right? I don’t see why he couldn’t make the right on red after passing you?
    I don’t see why someone would have to beep at you, when they can just pass you and make the turn.
    Please elaborate.

  2. Frank says:

    Or was he already in that spot and you filtered past him?

  3. Geo says:

    Frank,
    Obviously he was stopped in the bike lane and waiting to proceed straight ahead when the motorist came up behind him in the bike lane. As he stated, there was traffic in the lane to the left of him so the motorist couldn’t pass on the left. Passing on the right was not possible since there was no road there.

    • Frank says:

      Not, obviously, as he didn’t state whether he filtered past the stopped motorist, or not.
      I’ve never had a motorist honk at me at a red light. I’m sure there was a small series of events that occurred prior to the encounter.
      There seems (to me) that there is a missing element.
      However, yes, given that moment in time there is no reason for the cyclist to move.

      • J Lewis says:

        Original poster here: Geo is right. I was already in the bike lane preparing to cross the intersection going straight when the person came up in the bike lane behind me.

        Thanks for the fast post, by the way. I wasn’t expecting a response so quickly.

  4. Dwight Kingsbury says:

    Placement of a through lane (such as a through bike lane) to the right of a right-turn lane is inconsistent with standard road rules and sets up right-hook conflicts with drivers at the corner, unless no right-turning drivers are present. Since 2003 the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices has included a Standard statement that “A through bicycle lane shall not be positioned to the right of a right turn only lane…” (9C.04 P06, http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2009r1r2/part9/part9c.htm#section9C04 ).

    As it is “reasonably necessary” to move out of such a bike lane “to avoid [a] potential conflict” in this situation, I would employ the exception in s. 316.2065(5)(c)3, quoted above, to do so.

  5. Geo says:

    It may be that this is a bike lane to the right of a lane that is intended for both through traffic and right turns, and not a right turn only lane, in which case it would be even more important to install a dashed line as the left line of the bike lane, encouraging the actions described in the link above. J Lewis, can you clarify that please?

    You are not required to take that action though, but not doing so creates potential problems as stated above.

    Unfortunately, when a cyclist leaves a bike lane, particularly one that is fully marked up to the intersection, other drivers may not understand that to be a safe and legal movement. I have found that most are understanding and polite when if the cyclist looks behind, insures adequate clearance from overtaking traffic, clearly signals the intended movement as required by law, and safely moves into the through lane.

    • Frank says:

      Geo,
      I wouldn’t expect J. Lewis to respond.
      EVERY time, I ask for more info, I/we NEVER get a response.

      It seems that any question I’ve ever asked (of a poster) that requires more info and/or might shed some light as to what occurred previously to put them in that situation, in the first place, would not be in favor of the OP.

      Examples:
      1.) ANY question about motor size, battery size, top capable speed of a Poster’s electric bicycle.
      2.) ANY question about pre-cursor info leading up to issue.
      Etc.

    • J Lewis says:

      Man, this Frank guy is so negative!

      For additional clarification: I looked up a Streetview of the intersection I was at and it looks like the lane to the left of me was actually a through lane (no arrow), not a turn lane. I’m not sure what difference that makes (if any) because I’m not much of a driver. To my direct right was grass. The bike lane line was solid all the way to the stop line, which was even with the lines for the other lanes.

      That particular bike lane is narrow and poorly marked so there was barely room for me, much less the car. I’m pretty sure he shouldn’t have been in the bike lane at all, but when he pulled up behind me there was a line of 4-5 cars to my left and I don’t think he could have safely merged back in, either.

      • Dwight Kingsbury says:

        Maybe worth mentioning that every outside “through” lane approaching an intersection with a crossing street is also a right-turn lane, i.e., allows right turns at the corner, unless turning right is prohibited by signs (e.g., if crossroad is signed as one-way street, carrying only traffic headed to the left). Presumably the lane to the left of the bike lane in this case was a through-or-right lane; otherwise, why would the driver enter the bike lane and honk at the cyclist ahead of them?

      • SpecialX says:

        What’s the intersection?

  6. Dwight Kingsbury says:

    Earlier this year I was stopped at a red light in a travel (through-or-right) lane on a street with no bike lane. A motorist who pulled up and wanted to turn right honked at me. Although I was positioned toward the left side of the lane, the lane was so narrow there still wasn’t room for the driver to squeeze between me and the corner to make his turn. I’m not sure what he expected me to do–run the red light? We waited until the light turned green.

    Where a jurisdiction marks a bike lane with a solid line to the stop line, or nearly to the stop line, to the right of a travel (through-or-right) line on the approach to a signalized intersection, there usually is room for a motorist in the travel lane to safely pass a cyclist stopped in the bike lane and make a right turn after stopping on red (or on a fresh green) IF the cyclist stops some distance short of the stop line.

    There have been a number of highly publicized crashes, including one here in Tallahassee, where cyclists who pulled up to the stop line in bike lanes were caught by surprise, knocked over and fatally injured when heavy trucks in adjacent travel lanes (whose drivers hadn’t noticed the cyclists pull up) made wide turns on red, or on fresh greens.

    A cyclist who employs the hang-back-in-the-bike-lane technique at red lights to avoid such conflicts still needs to keep an eye out for vehicles turning from the travel lane when the light turns green.

    Also, of course, a cyclist who stops in the bike lane will impede a driver who moves into the bike lane to reach the intersection and make a right turn on red. Cyclist is under no obligation to move out of the way.

    The technique described by Geo (leave bike lane to merge safely into adjacent travel lane on approach to a red light) will usually leave space for a following motorist to make a right turn on red, if the cyclist is first to arrive at the red light and stops near the left side of the travel lane, and no other cyclist is pulling up in the bike lane. In any case, this positioning prevents the right-hook scenario with an overtaking motorist when the light turns green.

  7. Geo says:

    J Lewis,

    Thanks for following up and clarifying the situation for us.

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