Bike Path Crosswalk

Question

Harry asked: Recently the city of Inverness, FL redesigned a major crossing of the Withlacoochee State Trail which I fear has increased the danger for trail users who are attempting to cross N Apopka Ave. I’m hoping you can help me understand if these changes have resulted in a crossing that is no longer a legal mid-block crosswalk.

In the past, this trail’s crossing was like the three dozen or so other mid-block crossings with white lines delineating the crosswalk, and pedestrian crossing signs facing motorists. (Stop signs also face trail users, but those signs do not determine who must yield the right-of-way at the crossings.)[1] At these crossings, motorists are required to yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be, to allow pedestrians (and bicyclists) who have entered the crosswalk to cross the roadway. (316.2065(9) and 316.130 (7)(c), F.S.)

Recently the city renovated part of this road and replaced the pedestrian crossing sign with a Cross Alert System [2]. This system consists of a BICYCLE CROSSING sign and a flashing amber beacon facing motorists, and a stop sign and flashing red beacon facing trail users. Both flashing beacons are passively activated by approaching trail users.

The city also replaced the asphalt crosswalk with brick pavers contained within an unpainted concrete border. Although this does not appear to meet the legal description of a crosswalk (12″ parallel white lines)[3], I’ve seen them in so many places I assume they are considered legal crosswalks. But are they?

It seems to me that the replacement of the pedestrian crossing sign with a bicycle crossing sign means this is no longer a legal mid-block pedestrian crossing. I can find nothing in the Florida Statutes which requires a driver to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian or bicyclist who is trying to cross the roadway when the sign informs the driver he is approaching a “bicycle crossing”. According to the Florida Driver Handbook, “This sign warns you in advance that a bikeway crosses the roadway ahead”, unlike the pedestrian sign which warns drivers to “Watch for people crossing the street. Slow down or stop if necessary.”

The upshot of all of this, I believe, is that any trail user who wishes to cross Apopka Ave must yield the right-of-way to motorists because this is no longer a legal crosswalk. (316.130 (10), F.S.)

(10) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

I believe this change, favoring motorists, is intentional by those who market the Cross Alert System. Please note this quote from their FAQ

[4] “Does the Cross Alert device alter traffic flow? Absolutely not. Our intersection systems reinforce existing Right of Way rules for recreational trails and pedestrian crosswalks, which typically require the person crossing the road to yield the Right of Way to vehicles at intersections. This sign is a warning system that raises the awareness of vehicular traffic to the presence of path users at or approaching the intersection.”

If this renovated crossing does require pedestrians and bicyclists to yield the right-of-way to motorists, I intend to follow up to see if this can be corrected. There are also other changes that have been made that endanger trail users and I don’t understand why this crossing has been so poorly designed.

[1] http://goo.gl/maps/dF0Mf

[2] http://www.crossalert.com/

[3] Florida design standards, index 17346

[4] http://www.crossalert.com/faq.html

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Answer

All traffic control devices must be uniform and meet certain standards to be installed on Florida roadways.

s. 316.0745Uniform Signals and Devices

(1) The Department of Transportation shall adopt a uniform system of traffic control devices for use on the streets and highways of the state.

The Department of Transportation has adopted the national Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for that purpose.

While I can find nothing in the MUTCD that directly addresses the System, I do not believe the presence of the Cross Alert System has any legal implications and in itself, does not alter traffic flow. It is the change in roadway markings and signage that does that. The signals seem to comply with the signals in the statutes, flashing yellow for caution, and flashing red for stop. They seem to reinforce the expected actions at each part of the intersection.

If this is a correctly marked crosswalk with the white lines described below, the applicable section of the Bicycle Regulations is:

s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations

(10) A person propelling a vehicle by human power …. across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.

These posts address the right of way at a bike path crossing another roadway:

http://flbikelaw.org/2012/05/bicyclists-on-bike-paths/

http://flbikelaw.org/2011/08/right-of-way-on-bike-paths/

As are you, I am more concerned that the changes to the intersection may have eliminated the crosswalk for the bike path. The primary question seems to be whether the new crossing meets the standards to be a legal crosswalk. Regarding the correct markings for a crosswalk, the following applies:

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

44. Crosswalk

(b) any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated as a pedestrian crossing by pavement marking lines on the surface, which might be supplemented by contrasting pavement texture, style, or color.

45. Crosswalk Lines—white pavement marking lines that identify a crosswalk.

Section 3B.18 Crosswalk Markings

Standard:

When crosswalk lines are used, they shall consist of solid white lines that mark the crosswalk. They shall not be less than 6 inches or greater than 24 inches in width.

Other crosswalk markings such as diagonal or perpendicular lines are sometimes used but not required to define a crosswalk.

If the lines were not clearly white, they would not appear to define a crosswalk. If that were the case, I would agree with your interpretation that preference is being given to motor vehicle traffic over trail traffic.

A crosswalk in a location where the speed limit is 40 mph or greater does not require additional signage.

New marked crosswalks alone, without other measures designed to reduce traffic speeds, shorten crossing distances, enhance driver awareness of the crossing, and/or provide active warning of pedestrian presence, should not be installed across uncontrolled roadways where the speed limit exceeds 40 mph ….

Even though not required in this case, the elimination of the “Pedestrian Crossing” sign is another indication that motorists are being favored. You are correct that the “Bicycles” sign has no regulatory impact since no statute, regulation or ordinance supports it.

I would pose the following questions to the appropriate roadway authorities:

Does the Cross Alert System meet the Uniform Signals and Devices requirements?

Is the intent to give precedence to motorized traffic at this intersection?

If the concrete lines are not clearly white and define the crosswalk, what are the intentions regarding the crossing? Is it intended to be a legal crosswalk?

Will they paint the white lines that define a crosswalk?

Will they replace the “Bicycles” signs with “Pedestrian Crossing” signs?

The Withlacoochee Trail is under the jurisdiction of the DEP Office of Greenways and Trails. Separately, I have forwarded this email to that office inviting them to comment on this post.

Dear Ms. Browne,
The Florida Bicycle Association web site Ask Geo at flbikelaw.org recently received an inquiry about a revised crossing of the Trail at Inverness and suggested the change makes the crossing less safe for bicyclists and pedestrians.
You can see the question and our response at this link:
http://flbikelaw.org/2013/10/bike-path-crosswalk/#more-1604
We request that you review the information posted and comment as you see fit.

samantha.browne@dep.state.fl.us

Chief, Office of Greenways and Trails

Office of Greenways and Trails
Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Recreation and Parks
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard, MS 795
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3000
850-245-2052

I also invite DeWayne Carver of the Bicycle/Pedestrian Office of the Florida Department of Transportation to comment.

Posted in Ask Geo, Bike Paths, Stop Signs & Red Lights Tagged with: , , , ,
8 comments on “Bike Path Crosswalk
  1. Dwight Kingsbury says:

    I don’t see that the use of a bicycle warning sign (the one the CrossAlert system displays to roadway traffic) in place of the former pedestrian warning sign would make any regulatory difference. They have no meaning defined in statutes. Purpose of warning signs is to warn drivers of potentially unexpected conditions that might require reaction.

    If crosswalk markings are not present, though, then a crosswalk is not present at this location; any pedestrian crossing at the location would be obliged to yield to road traffic.

    For a cyclist on the trail who wants to cross, I don’t see how this situation would differ from the intersection of a street and an alley that had a stop sign facing traffic emerging from the alley on each side of the street.

  2. Harry says:

    Geo,

    Your question, “Is the intent to give precedence to motorized traffic at this intersection” cuts to the heart of this matter. So today I met with an engineer from the city who oversaw the renovation of this crossing.

    She seemed befuddled by the very idea that motorists should yield the right-of-way to pedestrians (and bicyclists) anywhere the trail crosses a roadway. She said that the whole trail (including crossings) is owned by the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection), and it wants all trail users to yield the right-of-way to motorists at ALL crossings. That, she said, is why STOP signs are installed at all crossings.

    And that is the intention of the design of this particular crossing: to reinforce to all trail users that they must first stop and then yield the right-of-way to motorists.

    When I pointed out that prior to the renovation this crossing had the markings of a legal crosswalk, she said it never was a legal crosswalk despite whatever markings I claimed were on the roadway. I pointed out that all other places where the trail crosses a roadway (with one exception I discovered recently) also have markings consistent with the description of mid-block crosswalks. She reiterated that at all crossings, regardless of road markings, all trail users must yield the right-of-way to motorists because the DEP installed STOP signs at all of these crossings.

    When I showed her a copy of the Florida Statutes dealing with crosswalks, and the requirement that motorists yield the right-of-way to pedestrians (and bicyclists) entering the crosswalk, she simply disregarded it as irrelevant to any trail crossings regardless of markings on the roadway.

    The other concern I have with this redesigned crossing are the sight lines. She met me at the crossing, so I was able to show her that a large, newly installed sign blocks the view of approaching vehicles from one direction while a group of new palm trees planted next to the trail obscures the view in the other direction. She said that what pedestrians and bicycles need to do is, after stopping (she claims pedestrians are required to also stop) they should inch forward in order to peek around the sign to see if it is safe to cross!

    At that point I realized it was hopeless because it had become obvious that this crossing was designed by motorists, for motorists: it looks nice for motorists who drive through, but it is more dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists than the old crossing which had clear sight lines and legal crosswalk markings.

    The crossing was designed by an out of town company and approved by the local trail manager, so I will send a message to him about what I learned today.

  3. Geo says:

    Harry,

    Concerning your statement:

    ” that motorists yield the right-of-way to pedestrians (and bicyclists) entering the crosswalk”

    The wording of the statute is important.

    s. 316.130 – Pedestrians; Traffic Regulations
    (c) When traffic control signals are not in place or in operation and there is no signage indicating otherwise, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway

    “…. within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.”

    Note that the pedestrian (bicyclist) must actually be in the crosswalk to require the motorist to yield. The motorist need not yield to a pedestrian standing at the stop sign and not yet in the crosswalk.

    In crosswalk violation enforcement, there must be some specified minimum distance to allow the motorist to realistically respond to the pedestrian entering the crosswalk. For example, a pedestrian cannot step 10 feet in front of a motor vehicle going 45 mph and expect the driver to yield. On the other hand, if a pedestrian has one foot in the crosswalk and the driver going 30 mph is 200 feet away, the driver would be expected to yield.

    Those metrics for various speeds have been precisely calculated and are used for crosswalk enforcement training, but for obvious reasons cannot be applied under real time circumstances.

    • Harry says:

      Geo,

      Yes, the wording of the statute is important, which is why I chose my words carefully. When I wrote “…entering the crosswalk” I wanted to convey the real world dilemma I and other trail users face at legal crosswalks.

      Consider your example: “In crosswalk violation enforcement, there must be some specified minimum distance to allow the motorist to realistically respond to the pedestrian entering the crosswalk. For example, a pedestrian cannot step 10 feet in front of a motor vehicle going 45 mph and expect the driver to yield…”

      Isn’t it the job of the highway engineer to design the crossing in such a manner that both the motorist and the person who is going to cross the road have a clear view of each other so the motorist has enough time to respond appropriately?

      Your example doesn’t provide the context, but I’m certain this pedestrian didn’t suddenly appear out of thin air 10 feet in front of the speeding vehicle. Where was he in relationship to the vehicle 1/2, 1, 2, 5 seconds prior to your example?

      Most likely this pedestrian or bicyclist approached the crosswalk at a speed that is normal for his mode of transportation and therefor should have the right to continue his travels across the roadway without being endangered by speeding motorists. If the motorist is exercising due care to avoid colliding with the pedestrian or bicyclist (316.130 (15) F.S.) he will adjust his speed accordingly as he approaches the crosswalk.

      If the motorist suddenly “discovers” the pedestrian in the crosswalk 10 feet in front of his vehicle while still traveling at 45 mph, he is almost certainly at fault for not slowing his vehicle to the point that he could stop before hitting the pedestrian or bicyclist who entered it at his normal speed of travel.

      You also wrote, “Note that the pedestrian (bicyclist) must actually be in the crosswalk to require the motorist to yield. The motorist need not yield to a pedestrian standing at the stop sign and not yet in the crosswalk.”

      Indeed, which is why I don’t understand the placement of stop signs on shared use paths where they cross roadways in legal crosswalks. In fact, the AASHTO guide on bicycle design (2010 draft) specifically warns against the installation of stop signs in these locations in an attempt to increase user safety: “A common misconception is that the routine installation of stop control for the pathway is an effective treatment for preventing crashes at path‐roadway intersections.”

      Consider what happens at a typical crossing on the WST (which can be viewed in this Google Street View of one of the crossings on the WST): http://goo.gl/maps/Dt6Kg . This crosswalk is particularly dangerous due to the high speeds at which motorists travel and the high percentage of them who tailgate.

      Notice that the stop line for bicyclists is only a few feet from the edge of the roadway (and the beginning of the crosswalk), and that motorists have two control devices warning them of the requirement to yield the right-of-way once the approaching bicyclist is in the crosswalk.

      Let’s assume that a law abiding bicyclist and a typical motorist approach the crosswalk about the same time. The bicyclist has a stop sign facing him, so he slows down and stops. The motorist has traffic control devices facing him which warn him that he needs to yield to pedestrians and bicyclists who are in the crosswalk. However, he observes the cyclist stopping, and from what I have repeatedly observed, apparently concludes that the cyclist is stopping in order to yield the right-of-way to him. If the motorist also happens to see the stop sign facing the cyclist he is even more likely to reach the erroneous conclusion that the bicyclist is stopping for him, the speeding motorist.

      But the cyclist is only stopping because he is required to do so by the stop sign—for no logical purpose because he is not obligated to yield the right-of-way to anything or anyone! Having complied with the law he now propels his bicycle a few feet forward into the crosswalk…and into the path of the motorist who made the wrong assumption about the bicyclist’s intention. If the motorist can’t stop in time, who is at fault—the bicyclist, the motorist, or the engineer who designed the crossing and installed the stop sign?

      Most cyclists who ride this trail (and I’m guessing other trails as well) routinely violate the requirement to stop because doing so makes no sense—why should they stop when they are not required to yield to to anything? They will, of course, stop if they don’t think they can get across the road safely, but that is out of concern for their own lives, not because the law requires it.

      I speculate that for every cyclist who blows through these stop signs there are dozens, probably hundreds of motorists who play a game of chicken with pedestrians and bicyclists at legal mid-block crosswalks, having no intention of stopping when they want to enter the crosswalk because motorists don’t have to yield until the bicyclist is in the crosswalk, at which point it is too late to stop.

      • Dwight Kingsbury says:

        The MUTCD has the following guidance on assignment of priority at pathway-roadway intersections:

        “05 When placement of STOP or YIELD signs is considered, priority at a shared-use path/roadway intersection should be assigned with consideration of the following:

        Relative speeds of shared-use path and roadway users,
        Relative volumes of shared-use path and roadway traffic, and
        Relative importance of shared-use path and roadway.

        06 Speed should not be the sole factor used to determine priority, as it is sometimes appropriate to give priority to a high-volume shared-use path crossing a low-volume street, or to a regional shared-use path crossing a minor collector street.

        07 When priority is assigned, the least restrictive control that is appropriate should be placed on the lower priority approaches. STOP signs should not be used where YIELD signs would be acceptable.”

        http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2009r1r2/part9/part9b.htm#section9B03

  4. Geo says:

    Harry,

    Good points. You are correct that the driver has additional responsibility when rounding a blind curve or approaching a crosswalk.

    s. 316.183 – Unlawful Speed
    (4) The driver of every vehicle shall …. drive at an appropriately reduced speed when:
    (a) Approaching and crossing an intersection or railway grade crossing;
    (b) Approaching and going around a curve;
    (c) Approaching a hill crest;
    (d) Traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway; and
    (e) Any special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions.

    However, we all know that some drivers do not do that, and it is only enforced when an officer is present.

    It does seem visibility is a problem If you believe the speed limit should be reduced to allow more time for the driver to see the crosswalk, you should address that and other design flaws to the agencies that can do something about it.

    Re my example:
    “Your example doesn’t provide the context, but I’m certain this pedestrian didn’t suddenly appear out of thin air 10 feet in front of the speeding vehicle”.

    No matter what we think about drivers’ responsibilities, we must be realistic. I was trying to make the point that you can’t step immediately in front of a speeding car and expect the driver to be able to react in a timely fashion. Drivers are not required to stop to allow a pedestrian to enter a crosswalk if they are not already in the crosswalk.

    “If the motorist can’t stop in time, who is at fault—the bicyclist, the motorist, or the engineer”

    Unfortunately, unless a police officer witnesses the incident and can objectively determine the speed, timing and distances involved, that is determined in court after a crash. For the motorist to be found at fault, it must be demonstrated that there was adequate distance and time to respond.

    The metrics for law enforcement training that I referred to are those developed by years of study and application by an organization that conducts training for crosswalk enforcement training for police officers. The operations must be objective and designed to be able to stand up in court.

    See this link: http://cers-safety.com/pep.htm

  5. Christopher says:

    They should teach drivers education better in school. I say this because it seems like your “typical motorists” are uneducated about the laws of the road. They also seem uneducated as to why they are important to keep both the pedestrians/cyclists, and the motorists safe as well.
    This shouldn’t even be a discussion. Cars should yield to bikes, and that’s the bottom line.
    I am familiar with the laws, and I believe in them.. but I also believe in common sense.
    They should have instead of arguing with you about why it’s not illegal, have worked with you to make the road safe for both motorists and cyclists alike. I see those “share the road” signs everywhere, but not many motorists seem to abide.
    Unfortunately, this is a battle I assume we cannot win.

  6. steven roper says:

    misplaced yield signs for cyclists are also a major problem. giving motorists and law enforcement the wrong idea of who lawfully has the right of way. pedestrian crossings should be marked or not marked in accordance with already established pedestrian traffic laws. i didnt know anyone but the dot could make up thier own public traffic safety laws. this is confusing to cyclists, motorists and law enforcement and potentially deadly

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