Imaginary Laws

Question

Marc asked: How do you handle a deputy who tells you that must keep to the extreme right of a substandard roadway or ride on the sidewalk?

Answer

That depends on the circumstances.

If it is a drive-by announcement over the bullhorn, I suggest moving over until the deputy is past, then following the law that you seem to be familiar with, being aware that you might encounter the same officer later on.  See the posts about Lane Width and Sharing

If you have been stopped and the deputy is present, IF it seems you can conduct a reasonable discussion, you might ask the deputy to show you the statute and point out the exceptions, asking if the lane in question is wide enough to safely share, that being at least 14 feet according to the Department of Transportation. See this post:

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

If you have a Law Enforcement Guide, a copy of the pertinent articles from this site or a smart phone, which you can use to show the site, point out the exceptions to the “keep right” regulation.

Such a discussion is usually not possible. You can ask to have a supervisor called to the scene, at which time you can ask the officers the wording and purpose of the narrow lane and other exceptions to the “keep right” provisions in the statute.

All of the above require that you be fully versed in the applicable laws and be able to quote the wording in the statute, so it is recommended that all cyclists study the information on this site, not just for a response to a law enforcement incident, but to be able to fully use the laws to ride safely.

It might be helpful for all cyclists to memorize the following question for use in such a situation:

What does Florida Statute 316.2065 Bicycle Regulations, subparagraph (5)(a)3 say about keeping right in substandard-width lanes?

As a last resort, you can challenge the officer to write a citation and pursue it through the legal system, being aware that you are taking a chance that the system will fail you as it has others. See this post:

http://flbikelaw.org/2010/03/two-citations-identical-circumstances-opposite-verdicts/

See also this post about other options:

http://flbikelaw.org/2012/04/improper-enforcement/

In any event, we recommend that you insure you get the officer’s name, badge number or the number on the officer’s vehicle and write a letter to the police chief or Sheriff and explain the circumstances and the exact width of the lane in question, and quote the information on this site. Request that they consider a training program to educate the officers about this situation.  Follow up to local bicycle clubs and other advocacy groups, the Bike/Ped Advisory Committee, city and county commissions and councils will also support the effort to have proper education programs in place.

Posted in Ask Geo, Lane Width & Sharing, Misc
2 comments on “Imaginary Laws
  1. Bruce Epperson says:

    I would have to disagree with Geo on this one. The street is no place to carry out an adjudication. Moreover, in the process of “making my case,” the cyclist waives his or her fifth amendment protections against self-incrimination. The cyclist’s response should be brief and to the point: write me a citation or let me be. (And keep in in mind that the fine for a section 316.2065 violation is only $25 !)

    Now, let me state what appears to be a contradiction to what I have just written. I have posted this before, and do so now again. Many of the interpretations of cycling-related laws, such as the 14-foot rule, rest on less legally clear-cut grounds than one would be led to believe just from just reading this column. In fact, many of them are very legally ambiguous. If you do go to court, be prepared to lose. However, the courtroom is still the place to decide what the law is, not the side of the road. You always have the opportunity of appealing to the appellate division of your circuit court. And remember, police officers are paid to be enforcers, not adjudicators.

  2. Geo says:

    Bruce,

    Glad to see you are still keeping an eye on us.

    Don’t forget the court costs, which can run the bill up to $100 or more. Much more if an attorney is retained. Plus the time and energy to fight it once the ticket is written.

    Notice that I said “IF” in caps, the officer is receptive. I am aware of a few successful encounters by well informed people with officers, but it’s not for the faint of heart or the foolhardy. It requires knowledge, tact and good comm skills.

    You are right about the uncertainly of court decisions. Actually, there have been a number of successes in different jurisdictions using the FDOT 14 foot criterion for substandard-width lane. They were all done by pretrial motion to dismiss, which requires a judge to actually consider the material and respond in writing, giving the basis for appeal if it is denied. Traffic court is a hard place to get full consideration.

    It should be noted that an appeal is difficult, expensive and requires full documentation, such as a transcript of the traffic court proceedings.

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