Jurisdiction Over Bike Path

Question

Harry asked: Does the manager of a shared-use path (managed by the DEP) have the authority to permit the public to drive motorized vehicles on it? F.S. § 316.1995 seems to be very clear that no one may drive a motorized vehicle on a bicycle path, and this shared-use path fits the definition of a bicycle path. If the manager of the trail opens it up to motorized traffic is he not encouraging people to violate the law?

I don’t think § 316.008(7) gives him or the County permission either because the trail can not be construed as a sidewalk because it is physically separated from the street and is not even in the same right of way. Maybe there is another statute which gives him this permission, but I can’t find it.

If he does have permission to do so, are there regulations which require the public to be notified that the bicycle path has been changed to a highway?

The situation: Because of the flooding of a nearby road, the trail’s manager has given the County permission to temporarily open the trail to motorized vehicular traffic for a distance of a half to three quarters of a mile. Yesterday the 12′ wide trail was blocked by equipment as workers were installing “Share the Road” signs, speed limit signs (15 mph) and yellow W6-3 two way signs.

The situation can not be considered an emergency because that road has a history of flooding and the trail’s management was advised at least 10 years ago to work with the County to develop a nearby alternative route for the home owners to get to and from their houses.

If the trail manager’s actions are legal I have a number of concerns about the safety aspects of forcing motorists and trail users who are traveling in opposite directions to share this 12′ wide shared-use path (I guess it gives a new meaning to the concept of shared-use path!) But at this point I’m asking for your help in determining if the Statutes forbid the manager from giving the County and drivers this permission.

Answer

This is beyond the scope of this site and has more to do with the authority of an entity having jurisdiction over a “road” in their area or responsibility.

s. 334.03DefinitionsWhen used in the Florida Transportation Code, the term:

(22) “Road” means a way open to travel by the public, including, but not limited to, a street, highway, or alley. The term includes associated sidewalks, the roadbed, the right-of-way, and all culverts, drains, sluices, ditches, water storage areas, waterways, embankments, slopes, retaining walls, bridges, tunnels, and viaducts necessary for the maintenance of travel and all ferries used in connection therewith.

However, here are some points to consider.

The statute you refer to is this:

s. 316.1995Driving upon Sidewalk or Bicycle Path

(1) Except as provided in s. 316.008 or s. 316.212(8)(golf carts under certain circumstances), a person may not drive any vehicle other than by human power upon a bicycle path, sidewalk, or sidewalk area, except upon a permanent or duly authorized temporary driveway.

(3) This section does not apply to motorized wheelchairs.

You refer to this statute.

s. 316.008 – Powers of Local Authorities

(7) A county or municipality may enact an ordinance to permit, control, or regulate the operation of vehicles, golf carts, mopeds, motorized scooters, and electric personal assistive mobility devices on sidewalks or sidewalk areas when such use is permissible under federal law. The ordinance must restrict such vehicles or devices to a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour in such areas.

This the definition of “bicycle path” from the traffic laws:

s. 316.003 – Definitions

(63)Any road, path, or way that is open to bicycle travel, which road, path, or way is physically separated from motorized vehicular traffic by an open space or by a barrier and is located either within the highway right-of-way or within an independent right-of-way.

I believe 316.008(7) above does not apply since it refers to sidewalks or sidewalk areas. Those are not bike paths.

It appears there are no signs that specify this as a bike path with cyclists having preferential or exclusive use. Since DEP apparently has jurisdiction over this path, it would seem they can do what they want as far as allowing other traffic. Allowing and encouraging motorized vehicles simply changes the definition to something other than “bicycle path”. It is no longer separated from motorized vehicular traffic. I assume they could entirely remove the path if they so desired.

I recommend pursuing this through your local Bike/Ped Advisory Committee or advocacy group.

Comments from someone who knows about this (Dwight?) would be appreciated.

Posted in Ask Geo, Bike Paths, Misc
3 comments on “Jurisdiction Over Bike Path
  1. Harry says:

    I’m convinced the DEP is violating its own policies and rules for the management of this shared-use path because it has been specifically set aside for non-motorized use by the State of Florida. By tomorrow morning a number of DEP officials will have received an email from me about this.

    I also plan to bring this to the attention of the Community Traffic Safety Team which meets in a couple of weeks because I believe forcing two way motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians to share a 12′ wide path is not safe, even if the posted speed limit is 15 mph. (Having dealt with this CTST over the last year I wouldn’t be surprised if they agree and would recommend banning the bicyclists!)

    I’ve spent more time researching this and at this point have to agree with what you wrote: “Since DEP apparently has jurisdiction over this path, it would seem they can do what they want as far as allowing other traffic”. It is probably akin to a DOT removing a sidewalk and turning it into a travel lane for motorists—there is no law which prohibits it from doing so.

    Regarding your comment, “It appears there are no signs that specify this as a bike path with cyclists having preferential or exclusive use.” This is a typical shared-use path specifically designated for non-motorized traffic. At each road crossing there is a “No Motorized Vehicles” sign (or something similar) and the rules for the trail specifically forbid motorized vehicles from being driven on the trail.

    However, I need to clarify something I initially wrote: the workers were installing “Share the Road” signs. Yes, but with a twist because the typical bicycle sign has been replaced with a combined Bicycle/Pedestrian (W11-15) warning sign. This is the first time I’ve seen this combination and wonder if pedestrians are going to be required to walk on the left or right side of the path, road, highway or whatever they’re going to call it.

    I’m a strong advocate for these types of separated bicycle facilities (as long as they keep motorists off them) and ride this trail almost every day. However, I am also an experienced road cyclist, and when I mix it up with motorists I “take the lane” when I’m riding in a “substandard-width lane”. This bike path (or however they’re going to designate it) is only 12′ wide and has numerous potholes along the sides. I will be “taking the lane” and am wondering how it will play out with motorists approaching from the opposite direction.

  2. A narrow street in Tallahassee was adapted for use as an east-west bikeway several years ago. On its narrowest blocks, the curb-to-curb width is only about 22 ft, and on-street parking is permitted. Where vehicles are parked on the street and two motorists, or a motorist and a cyclist, are approaching each other to go through this more constricted section, typically a motorist will pause along the side to let the other motorist, or the cyclist, go through the narrow section first.

    When a motorist and an oncoming cyclist both proceed through a parking-constricted section of the street at the same time, typically one or both will reduce speed so as to maintain adequate clearances.

  3. Geo says:

    “I will be “taking the lane” and am wondering how it will play out with motorists approaching from the opposite direction.”

    If the usual traffic laws apply on this “roadway” (See this post:
    http://flbikelaw.org/2015/08/laws-for-bike-paths-and-shared-use-paths/),
    you are entitled to half of the “roadway”.

    s. 316.082 – Passing Vehicles Proceeding in Opposite Directions
    (1) Drivers of vehicles proceeding in opposite directions shall pass each other to the right.
    (2) Upon roadways having width for not more than one line of traffic in each direction, each driver shall give to the other at least one-half of the main-traveled portion of the roadway, as nearly as possible.

    You might want to ask the law enforcement department having jurisdiction at the CTST meeting about the applicable laws in this case. If a crash occurs, who will investigate and what will be their criteria for determining potential liability.

    Hopefully, everyone will play nice as Dwight says, and no problems will arise.

Leave a Reply