BMUFL and Narrow Lanes

Question

John asked: Florida State Statute 316.2065 states that bicycles may ride 2 abreast in a single lane but they may not impede the traffic flow. This would mean that the bike the farthest out when traffic approaches from the rear would have to move to the right curb in single file so as not to impede the vehicle flow and give room for the vehicles to safely pass the bikes. But in the City Of Doral, Fl. particularly on NW 114 Avenue in the area of NW 74 Street, the city has created a very dangerous situation. They have posted that the right lane of traffic, both directions on NW 114 Avenue, is a bicycle lane and car lane both. The signs advise the bikes have full use of the entire lane. This clearly gives the bikes the impression that they own the entire lane and may ride two abreast and not have to move over. State law requires them not to impede traffic flow. This sign also gives a single bicycle rider the impression he owns the entire lane and for all practical purposes can ride down the middle of the lane and again impede the the traffic flow of vehicles approaching them from the rear. This will eventually result in a very serious crash or even daily road rage with the cars and bicycles trying to navigate one lane. I have seen the difficulty on a few occasions. For the safety of everyone involved would you agree this needs to be clarified and changed and how to go about it? I would not be comfortable riding in these “dual purpose” lanes they have tried to create.

Answer

The signs that are posted only state what the law says; bicyclists in a narrow lane may use the full lane, even without the signs. Narrow is normally less than 14 feet. A driver of a motor vehicle must at least partially change lanes to safely pass a bicycle in a narrow lane, even if the cyclist is riding to the far right. If there is oncoming traffic, or approaching a blind curve, intersection, etc, the motorist must wait.

You are correct that one sentence in the statutes says cyclists riding two abreast may not impede traffic. However, a single cyclist in a narrow lane may take the lane and legally impede traffic. Cyclists in a line in a narrow lane may take the lane and legally impede traffic.

The sentence that says cyclists must not impede traffic and is often taken out of the context of the other statutes that permit a cyclist to take the lane.

For a wide lane, that make perfect sense and your phrase ” bike the farthest out when traffic approaches from the rear would have to move to the right curb” is correct.  However, in a narrow lane, whether the single cyclist is legally riding in the center of the lane and legally impeding traffic or two cyclists riding abreast are impeding traffic practically doesn’t make any difference.

If you want to insure you are being technically legal (and safe), two cyclists riding abreast in a narrow lane could single up in the middle of the lane (or anywhere in the lane) and legally impede traffic.

One of the most dangerous things a cyclist can do in a narrow lane is keep far right. That encourages motorists to unlawfully and dangerously attempt to pass within the lane. The cyclist is communicating to the motorist

“I know this lane is too narrow for you to safely pass me, but go ahead and give it a try and we’ll see what happens.”

A cyclist riding in the center or left of a narrow lane is communicating to the motorist

“This lane is too narrow for you to safely and legally pass me, so please wait until you can change lanes to pass”.

The Bicycles May Use Full Lane signs you mention were posted in St. Augustine on the Bridge of Lions, the lanes of which are 12 feet wide. The newspaper introduced the signs and sharrows in articles explaining their meaning. The numerous comments were about the same as your statements, that chaos and carnage would surely follow. To date, two years later, there have been no problems. Cyclists take the lane. Motorists are patient and wait to safely pass.

The signs only state what the law already says. If the lane is narrow, even with no signs posted, cyclists may take the lane and motorists must wait to pass if the adjacent lane is not clear.

See more information and detail in these posts:

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

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

and

http://flbikelaw.org/2012/03/bicycles-may-use-full-lanes-signs/

Posted in Ask Geo, Impeding Traffic, Lane Width & Sharing
5 comments on “BMUFL and Narrow Lanes
  1. Regardless of where a cyclist rides in an outside lane on NW 114th Avenue in this area, an overtaking motorist needs to use (at least part of) an overtaking lane to pass. The travel lanes on NW 114th are each 12 ft wide, not wide enough for a cyclist and a typical dual-track motor vehicle to travel side by side. (No bicycle lanes are present.)

    Florida’s “3 foot law” (s. 316.083) requires a driver passing a cyclist to maintain a clearance of “not less than” 3 ft. It would be a challenge to gauge 3 ft clearance with 3 inch accuracy in a parking lot; when driving 35 mph (speed limit on NW 114th Ave), one’s ability to gauge and control lateral clearance on the far side of a car or truck is much less. To be sure of passing a cyclist with at least 3 ft clearance, most of us (as car or truck drivers) need to aim to pass with not less than about 5 ft clearance.

    Moreover, although physical width of a ridden bicycle is usually not more than about 2 ft, a cyclist will commonly occupy an operating width of about 4 ft by steadily making small steering adjustments to maintain balance and correct drift, to avoid debris, roadkill, uneven pavement, motorists emerging from driveways, etc.

    Thus, even if a cyclist tracks along the rightmost portion of the lane, most passing motorists will use at least a few feet of the adjacent lane to pass safely and legally. Motorists who misjudge lane width and available clearance and try to pass within the lane may strike the cyclist with their passenger-side mirror (this is one of the most common types of overtaking crash).

    If a collision >does< occur, both the motorist and the cyclist will experience quite a bit of delay. A motorist on a multilane roadway who spots a cyclist ahead and looks for an opportunity to move into the next lane can pass safely and practically.

  2. Geo says:

    ” …. give room for the vehicles to safely pass the bikes …. ”

    We should also note that bicycles are vehicles and their operators have the same rights and duties as other drivers, with few exceptions.

  3. Good point. The duty to maintain adequate room in passing is a mutual responsibility. On a laned roadway, when driver A overtakes more slowly moving driver B in the same lane, A should pass B only when room for passing B is or becomes available in an adjacent lane, and driver B (dual-track driver, motorcyclist, or bicyclist) should not reduce that room by drifting toward or into the lane that A is using to pass.

    An exception would be when driver B is riding a bicycle and the lane is wide enough for A and B to travel side by side within the lane. For a driver of a dual-track vehicle (car, truck, bus), this width has been considered to be 14 ft or wider. Lanes this wide do exist on Florida roads, but they’re rare.

  4. Geo says:

    Here’s an interesting one.
    One of the narrowest vehicles on the road, a motorcycle, is the only one always required to entirely change to a different lane to pass a bicycle (a vehicle).
    s. 316.209 – Operating motorcycles on roadways laned for traffic
    (2) The operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken.
    One might think that a motorcycle and a bicycle could safely travel side by side in nearly all lanes, including those defined as substandard-width.

  5. This (s. 316.209(2)) is Florida’s rule that prohibits motorcyclists from “lane splitting”. Florida adopted this provision of the Uniform Vehicle Code sometime in the 1970s. When the provision was originally incorporated in the UVC, “bicycle” was still defined as a “device”, and consequently the rule did not apply to a motorcyclist passing a bicyclist. Later, the UVC redefined “bicycle” as a “vehicle”, which changed the effect of the model provision.

    Either the committee that maintained the UVC did not notice that the new definition of “bicycle” extended the application of the motorcycle passing rule as written, or they did notice but reconsidered that, even in this case, a motorcyclist should not pass a bicyclist in the same lane. In the latter case, though, to be consistent they should have adopted a corresponding model regulation to prohibit an automobile driver from passing a bicyclist in the same lane (i.e., regardless of lane width). As they did not do this, the former explanation may be more likely.

    In the case of an automobile driver who desires to pass another automobile, the UVC committee may have deemed it unnecessary to prohibit the overtaking driver from passing in the same lane, inasmuch as it is usually impractical, when not outright impossible, for an automobile driver to try to pass another automobile within the same lane.

    In the case of an automobile driver who desires to pass a motorcyclist, inclusion of an explicit prohibition of passing in the same lane was unnecessary, because the UVC rule quoted in s. 316.209(1), F.S., already entitles a motorcyclist to the full use of a lane, implicitly prohibiting any overtaking driver from passing in the same lane.

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