One of the roads that I travel to work is frequented by bicycles. Sometimes they are two abreast, and sometimes there are many traveling in a single file. This road has curves in some areas, and double yellow lines in some of the long straightaways.
Is it legal to pass a bike, with the 3-foot rule, over a double yellow line?
This is a common problem, and if motorists couldn’t cross the double yellow line to pass bicyclists in a narrow lane, they could be stuck for very long times in some locations. Even if the cyclist is riding far to the right, motorists cannot legally and safely pass in narrow lanes without at least partially changing lanes.
If there is no oncoming traffic, and if there is no intersection, blind curve or other hazard, the law provides an exception for crossing the double yellow center line to avoid an obstruction. Is a slow-moving bicyclist an obstruction? Please see this post for more detail:
In some states, there are statutes that require bicyclists to move out of the roadway if traffic is backed up behind them. That is not the case in Florida but courteous bicyclists will consider doing that when it can be done safely.
See also the posts about overtaking and passing and substandard-width lanes.
The Florida Driver Handbook (2013) interprets:
“Double solid yellow lines prohibit vehicles moving in either direction from crossing the lines. You may not cross these lines unless turning left when it is safe to do so.”
Given the need to pass a cyclist only when one can do so with at least 3 ft clearance, this would make it impossible to pass a cyclist in compliance with law on a typical 2-lane, 2-way road except where (1) the yellow line nearer the driver became a broken line or (2) cyclist pulled off the traveled way at some point. In practice, I observe that motorists who overtake me on such roads commonly do cross solid yellow lines to pass me when traffic in the oncoming lane is visibly clear for a sufficient distance to do so safely. Of course, it would be risky to try to pass on the approach to a blind curve or hilltop. Cyclists who control the lane on approach to a blind curve do so for the safety of following motorists as well as their own safety.
The UK Highway Code includes an exception clause to allow a driver to cross a solid center line nearest the driver to pass a “pedal cycle, horse or road maintenance vehicle, if they are travelling at 10 mph (16 km/h) or less” (see Rule 129 at https://www.gov.uk/general-rules-all-drivers-riders-103-to-158/lines-and-lane-markings-on-the-road-127-to-132 ). There’s been talk here in the states of adopting similar provisions but, offhand, I don’t know of a state that has done so.
Page 30 of http://www.flhsmv.gov/handbooks/EnglishDriverHandbook.pdf :
The prohibition of passing in a no Passing zone does not apply when an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway [s 316.0875(3) F.S.]. Thus, when a cyclist is traveling so slowly as to constitute an “obstruction,” a motorist may cross the center line in a no-passing zone if the way is clear to do so, i.e., when it can be seen that oncoming traffic is far enough away the pass may be completed before coming within 200 feet of an oncoming vehicle.
Unfortunately I can’t recommend that handbook, since it lies about the meaning of a single solid white line (p. 46). In reality, it’s completely legal to cross one when safe; its only meaning in Florida is advisory.
The Florida Driver Handbook’s advice in section 5.23 can be defended as describing a practice that reasonable, alert drivers already follow (“Thus, when a cyclist is traveling so slowly as to constitute an “obstruction,” a motorist may cross the center line in a no-passing zone if the way is clear to do so…”); unfortunately, this interpretation deprecates cyclist operation in traffic, and is ambiguous.
Below what speed does a cyclist become an “obstruction”? If a cyclist is an “obstruction”, are they still even part of traffic? S. 316.2035 makes it “unlawful to obstruct…any street or highway”; in that case, shouldn’t the cyclist be obliged to leave the roadway?
The next bullet point in the Driver Handbook paragraph lists “Where a solid yellow line is painted on your side of the center line” as one of the conditions under which “You may not pass on a two-lane road with traffic moving in opposite directions”. Does this condition over-ride the Handbook’s interpretive exception for passing a cyclist “obstruction” mentioned in the preceding bullet point–or does the “obstruction” exception still apply? Clearly the “obstruction” exception for passing cyclists would/should not apply to the next bullet point (“On hills or curves, and at intersections”).
most recently involved in a accinent while passing a bycle that was all over the lane moving verry slowly,while in the other lane she turned stright into and, hittring me. hope im not charged with anything,she , i have heard has a mental problem,and riding on a main roadway on a bycle,she was injured….