Complete Streets Design
Dennis asked: We have a lot of current road “improvement” projects planned or underway in downtown Fort Lauderdale under the Complete Streets program. There is a push to remove vehicle travel lanes in favor of bicycle lanes and in some cases on-street parking. I am, of course, in favor of bicycle lanes but in some cases they will make bike safety worse because the car lanes are very narrow and bike lanes too close. In the case of NE 13th Street between NE 4th Ave and the railroad tracks they intend to install on-street parking in addition to bicycle lanes. I do not believe the street is wide enough to allow all that and a 3-foot space for bicycles. In this case the shared bike lane option would be better suited as has been done in other parts of the city. Can they be legally prevented from installing bicycle lanes if it does not allow the 3-foot space?
The three-foot law doesn’t apply to the roadway itself, but the driver that must comply and leave at least three feet when passing a bicyclist.
s. 316.083 – Overtaking 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 a bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle.
Streets should be designed to permit that action. I recommend going directly to the agency having jurisdiction and asking them to see the plans. That would be either the Florida Department of Transportation for state roadways or the county or municipality. FDOT publishes their plans online, so it is a matter of finding the plans for this project. It may be more difficult if it is a county or city street, but you can ask the appropriate agency road department.
Three feet is not wide enough for a bike lane in any of the directives. You can see the design guidelines for state roadways here,
and those for cities and counties in Chapter 9 of the Greenbook here:
You may also want to contact the Broward County Complete Streets Program Manager or the Metro Planning Organization Bike/Ped Coordinator.
I can only think of one place where there are shared lane marking in Fort Lauderdale that is on Las Olas Blvd. and FDOT placed them in the wrong location. It would be better to do away with the on street parking and have separated bike lanes. I assume the parking was added to appease the business owners. In reality if the city would make it a truly pedestrian friendly street studies show business would increase. Hopefully they will take out the parking later. If you are concerned for the cyclist safety cyclist can ride outside of the bike lane if they feel it is unsafe. And having a bike lane next to a door zone is unsafe. So I would expect to see cyclist riding in the rodeway instead of the bike lane.
Where a bike lane is present, motorists in an adjacent travel lane often simply track in the middle of the lane, making no course adjustment to pass a cyclist in the bike lane. If the travel lane and the bike lane provide sufficient width, and a passing motorist is not driving a wide vehicle or towing a trailer, the motorist can usually track in the middle of the travel lane and still pass the cyclist with enough lateral clearance (3+ ft) to comply with the s. 316.083 requirement Geo quoted.
If a narrower travel lane width is used, though, or the cyclist needs to track along the far left side of a bike lane to, say, stay out of the door zone of parked vehicles (or for any other reason), motorist passing clearance will usually not be in compliance unless the motorist consciously moves to the left as necessary to provide adequate clearance. The lane lining, however, provides no cue to do so.
See this discussion about door zone bike lanes: