Bicyclists using the Full Lane

Question

Chris asked: If there are two lanes for each direction of traffic and no bike lanes, may one or two bicycles use the right whole lane?

Answer

It depends on the width of the lane. A narrow lane that meets the definition of “substandard-width lane” is one of the many exceptions to the “keep right” provision in the law. Usually, that is less than 14 feet. The normal lane in a multi-lane roadway is about 12 feet wide. In those lanes, a cyclist is not required to keep right.

In wide lanes, cyclists must keep right in many cases, but again, there are many exceptions.

The above makes common sense as it is unlawful to for a motorist to pass a cyclist within the same narrow lane, but it is legal to pass within the same lane in a wide lane.

See the posts under “Lane Width and Sharing” for more information.

See the posts under “Impeding Traffic” for information about riding two abreast.

Posted in Ask Geo, Impeding Traffic, Lane Width & Sharing
One comment on “Bicyclists using the Full Lane
  1. It’s usually impractical for a driver of a conventional dual-track vehicle to pass a cyclist legally within a lane narrower than 14 ft, even if the cyclist keeps right.

    First, a cyclist ordinarily weaves a little, to maintain balance at lower speeds and to avoid potholes, debris, roadkill, other surface irregularities (e.g., uneven manhole covers), and any other hazards that may be encountered. So the cyclist’s dynamic envelope will often be 4 ft wide.

    Second, Florida’s “3-foot law” (s. 316.083, F.S.) requires a driver passing a cyclist to maintain a clearance of (not less than) 3 ft. It’s practically impossible, of course, for a human driver passing at speed to gauge a lateral clearance of 3 ft with, say, 1-inch accuracy and (even if they could) to steer the vehicle so precisely. To be sure of passing with the minimal clearance, most of us (when driving a MV) need to aim to pass with greater clearance, at least 4 or 5 ft.

    Thus, between the typical cyclist’s dynamic envelope and the practical passing clearance needed by a motorist, about 8 ft or more of lane width are unavailable to the passing motorist even if the cyclist keeps right.

    Florida’s “keep right” rule for cyclists (s. 316.2065(5)(a), F.S.) allows an exception in this case (the somewhat confusingly named “substandard-width lane” exception), although it doesn’t say whether the cyclist may use the “whole”/”full” lane.

    Section 316.2065(1) states, though, that “Every person propelling a vehicle by human power has all of the rights…applicable to the driver of any other vehicle under this chapter, except as to special regulations in this chapter, and except as to provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application.”

    If the exception to the special “keep right” regulation is applicable, then s. 316.2065(1) implies the cyclist may use the lane as other drivers would. Many (most?) motorists seem to recognize this; what I observe here in the Tallahassee area is that even when a cyclist keeps to the right on a multilane roadway, overtaking motorists usually move into the next lane to pass.

Leave a Reply