Bicycles Passing on the Right

Question

Jacci asked: I drive a car to work on Brickell, which is a haven for bicyclists. I respect that and their rights by not only looking both ways twice at an intersection, but also obeying the law when a right turn is only allowed on a green arrow. This morning, after waiting patiently for several minutes to execute a legal right turn, two cyclists blew through the intersection against a red light. They stopped me fast in my tracks from completing a legally-sanctioned right turn and cost me yet another four minutes of valuable time I could have been at work. This is certainly not an isolated case. There is hardly a day that passes without seeing bicyclists performing without any regard for the law or common courtesy. It seems as if they have been misinformed that they can do anything they want and are protected from following regular traffic laws. Everything I have read on this topic tells me that bicyclists are considered drivers of “vehicles” and must accordingly obey the traffic laws of this jurisdiction.  My questions are as follows:

What exactly are the laws governing bicyclists at red lights and stop signs?

If I am correct, that they are to obey the same laws as automobile drivers, then why do they blatantly and consistently do the opposite?

What can we do to educate the public so that we can all get along and share the traffic-ways?

Answer

Bicycles are vehicles and their operators have the same rights and duties as other drivers, with few exceptions. They must follow applicable laws including stopping at red lights and stop signs.

s.  316.2065 – Bicycle 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 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.

 

Some bicyclists, like some motorists, blatantly disobey the traffic laws. We have all seen motorists blow through red lights and stop signs. Those bicyclists and motorists are violating the law and should be sanctioned.

There are circumstances when passing on the right is permitted.

s. 316.084When Overtaking on the Right is Permitted

(1) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass on the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions:

(b) Upon a street or highway with unobstructed pavement not occupied by parked vehicles of sufficient width for two or more lines of moving traffic in each direction;

(2) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle on the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety.

It would appear that passing on the right at an intersection to blow through a red light violates the requirement that passing on the right must be done safely.

The general rule is that vehicles, including bicycles, must pass on the left.

s. 316.083Overtaking and Passing a Vehicle

The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions, and special rules hereinafter stated:

(1) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall …. pass to the left thereof at a safe distance ….

You can prevent bicyclists from passing on the right when you are preparing for a right turn by complying with the law that says you must keep as far to the right in the roadway as is practicable.

s. 316.151Required Position and Method of Turning at Intersections

(1) The driver of a vehicle intending to turn at an intersection shall do so as follows:

(a) Right turn – Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

If a bicycle lane is present, it is part of the roadway. The motorist should insure it is safe, then move into the bike lane to prepare for a right turn. The bike lane markings should (They are not always properly marked) change from a solid white line to a dashed line, indicating the motorist should move right and the bicyclist proceeding straight through the intersection should move left into the traffic lane to prevent a “right hook” by a motorist. See this post:

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

Regarding your last question, education is needed for all concerned. Few know the laws about bicycling and feel bicyclists are violating the law when they are operating legally. You are taking the first steps by reading the information on this site. You may want to encourage others to do the same.

Of particular note is the fact that most, including most bicyclists, do not understand the laws related to cyclists in narrow lanes legally impeding traffic by moving away from the right side of the roadway.

Staying to the far right in a narrow lane encourages motorists to try to illegally pass within the lane when there is not room to safely do so. See this post and others about “Lane Width and Sharing”:

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

Posted in Ask Geo, Making Turns, Rights & Duties, Stop Signs & Red Lights
13 comments on “Bicycles Passing on the Right
  1. Jay says:

    That’s just plain stupid running a red light …these type of cyclists give the rest a bad name.

    • jachearts14 says:

      Thank you, Geo, for the detailed citations, and Jay, for your candid opinion! Mutual respect for the lives of others and the laws governing traffic may someday result in perfect harmony! Until then, I will always expect the worst from my fellow drivers and bicyclists, because that’s the way that I stay out of trouble.

  2. Cyclists can delay a motorist from making a legal right turn after stopping on red only if they pass the motorist on the right–and then block the motorist’s turning path or run the red light. Law enforcement agencies in Florida have generally not expended much effort to apprehend cyclist red-light runners, except to cite them when a resulting crash occurs. However a motorist at a red light who intends to turn right can often discourage cyclist right-passing behavior by closely approaching the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, as legally required (as much as “practicable”) by s. 316.151(1)(a)), F.S. Especially on a curbed roadway, such positioning tends to make passing on the right impractical. This benefits both motorists and cyclists; cyclists benefit because the risk of being hit by the right-turning motorist (if the motorist failed to notice the cyclist) is thereby eliminated.

    • jachearts14 says:

      This is good to know, but my red-light-runners were coming from left to right. I do not think I would have argued the point had they come from behind me. That was too much of a gray area for me, prior to this clarification
      .

  3. I may have misunderstood Jacci’s question. I’m not sure whether the cyclists who blocked her right turn off Brickell Avenue were also on Brickell, traveling in the same direction, or were riding on the cross street she wanted to turn into. It also doesn’t say whether the cyclists were riding on the roadway or the sidewalk.

    If the cyclists were on Brickell and approached the intersection on the adjacent sidewalk, the curb-hugging technique I described above couldn’t have stopped them from passing on the right. In that case, though, the cyclists wouldn’t have been subject to a red light, because a cyclist on the sidewalk is required to take their cues from the pedestrian signal–which wouldn’t necessarily prohibit crossing when a traffic light for same-direction drivers is red.

    If the cyclists were riding on the cross street and rode through the intersection on a red light, they took a risk, because they might have been hit by a driver on Brickell who was proceeding or turning through the intersection.

    Why do (some) cyclists run red lights? Because (like everyone else) they want to minimize their delay, they perceive a gap in traffic they deem adequate for them to cross and clear (often it is, sometimes it isn’t), they have successfully run red lights in the past, and they haven’t been ticketed for doing so. Cyclists in Florida have seldom been cited for a red light violation when no crash results. To date, “educational” efforts haven’t been able to stop the practice.

    • jachearts14 says:

      Thank you so much for this forum! I find it so refreshing that there is such candor from both sides of the isle (i.e., whether driver or cyclist)! If Congress and the Whitehouse had this kind of rapport, I believe we could end World hunger and live in peace!

      In all seriousness, I can appreciate the need for specificity. Here are the facts of my story in more detail. The cyclists were traveling southbound on Brickell, and I was turning right/south from Coral Way/SE 12th Street. I waited for a green arrow because it is illegal to turn at all without a green arrow at this intersection, not that I see many drivers or cyclists adhering to that policy. The cyclists had sufficient warning of the impending red light, because they were not yet at the intersection when the signal changed. One cyclist was several feet ahead of the other and, just before realizing that they were running the light, I started to enter the intersection, and the head cyclist turned to look out for his companion, who was also running the red light. I slammed on my breaks and had to go into reverse until I was back behind the crosswalk, where I waited for another five light changes to complete my right turn.

      I hope this makes things clearer. I have certainly learned that, just as I anticipate the worst behavior from my fellow drivers (i.e., defensive driving), I should also expect it from the cyclists. What a shame, eh?

      I am just concerned that if people do not wake up and pay attention, the consequences will be much worse than a few simple delays. Assuming that all of this insanity is spawned by pure ignorance of the law, I would hope to see future enlightenment for both drivers and cyclists. This website looks like a great place to begin!

      • The consequences already are worse, in many cases. About 4 percent of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes involve cyclists who ran lights at signalized intersections.

        If the cyclists in this case didn’t know that running a red light is against the law, they must not have driver licenses, and must not have ever been cited for this violation.

      • jachearts14 says:

        Frankly, Dwight, I’m surprised that it is only 4%, the way I’ve seen both cyclists and drivers behave on the “mean” streets of Miami.

        While on this topic, I do want to express my sincere sympathy for those whose loved ones have been taken through any kind of vehicle/bicycle accident, and those who have been impacted with physical injury. Whether 4% or 40%,I would like to see a day when the record reflects a 0% accident rate between cyclists and automobile drivers in the very near future!

      • There are so many different types of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes, no single type accounts for more than a few percent of the annual total. Although this might suggest crash risk is small, the annual total of bicycle-MV crashes in the US is so great (about 70,000 reported), a few percent can amount to a few thousand cyclists.

        Other types of bicycle-MV crashes at traffic lights include (1) motorist driving through red light hits cyclist (0.8%); (2) motorist making right turn on red hits cyclist (3.6%); (3) motorist starting thru intersection on fresh green collides with cyclist who hasn’t cleared intersection (1.4%), etc.

        The percentages are from a 6-state study done in the 1990s. The actual percentages in Florida and in the US as a whole vary from year to year –no one tries to classify all the bicycle-MV crashes that occur each year.

      • LEE says:

        I ride along old dixie between oslo and 4th heading north on the shoulder against
        traffic it is perhaps against the law but on the other (north bound) side is a very narrow shoulder if a car veers into the shoulder from behind i cant see them but if i ride straight in a predictable manner i can get off the road and avoid being dead, and as the planning commision knows that is a dangerous stretch of road.
        Another subject which has not been covered is vegetation encroachment as i call it shrubbery that takes up half or more of the sidewalk

      • LEE says:

        I thought this post was only to people in vero beach it is good to know that its state wide great form thanks

  4. Geo says:

    Jachearts,

    Thanks for the nice comments about the site.

    I misunderstood your original statements, but the essential message is the same. Bicyclists and motorists who run red lights are breaking the law and putting themselves in grave danger, as well as inconveniencing others.

    • jachearts14 says:

      Absolutely agreed! We are all in this together. We share the roadways, let us also share in protecting our rights to live safely!

      Okay, I’m going to back away from the soapbox now!

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