Laws for Bike Paths and Shared-Use Paths

Question

Patric asked: I am aware of right of way laws for cyclists vs pedestrians on sidewalks and they make perfect sense to me. I always yield to pedestrians there. I often ride the Commodore Trail in Miami, a marked bike trail and often encounter runners running on their left of the trail, my right. In blind corners, only my yelling “bike” and slowing down has averted disaster but in other cases I have looked up in the open to see a runner on “my side” with enough time and both them and I kept switching sides to avoid each other and ending up on the same side. So far it was a funny occurrence but could easily turn ugly if there is only time for one correction and we both end up choosing wrong. What, if any is the law of right of way here?

Answer

There is a dearth of specific laws about bike paths and shared-use trails, and I am not aware of any case law that would help.

From this parks plan description the Commodore Trail is made up of paved path, sidewalk, shared road and on-street bike lane

http://www.miamidade.gov/parksmasterplan/library/commodore.pdf

The laws about sidewalks and roadways (Including bike lanes) are pretty clear and can be found elsewhere on this site.

If the section to which you refer is marked and signed as a bicycle path, which has a traffic law definition, it may infer preferential use by bicyclists.

s. 316.003 – Definitions

(63 Bicycle Path – 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.

It may be a stretch but it seems that bike paths and paved shared-use paths, which are not defined in the statutes, are considered roadways and highways for the purpose of traffic laws.

(42) Roadway – That portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, ….

(53) Street or Highway

(a) The entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place of whatever nature when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular traffic ….

If bike paths or shared-use paths are subject to roadway or highway traffic laws, pedestrians are required to walk on the shoulder, which seems to contradict the term shared-use path. (See below)

s. 316.130Pedestrians; Traffic Regulations

(4) Where sidewalks are not provided, any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall, when practicable, walk only on the shoulder on the left side of the roadway in relation to the pedestrian’s direction of travel, facing traffic which may approach from the opposite direction.

A bicyclist would also be subject to traffic laws about speed and safety and you would be required to slow when approaching the blind curve you describe.

s. 316.183Unlawful Speed

(1) No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. In every event, speed shall be controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle, or other conveyance or object on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.

(4) The driver of every vehicle shall, consistent with the requirements of subsection (1), drive at an appropriately reduced speed when:

(b) Approaching and going around a curve;

(d) Traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway; and

(e) Any special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions.

The Florida Department of Transportation definition of a shared use path provides for many varied users, but there is no specific priority stated or implied.

Florida Greenbook definition (Not a traffic statute definition) of a shared use path is this:

Paved facilities physically separated from motorized vehicular traffic by an open space or barrier. May be within the highway right of way or an independent right of way, with minimal cross flow by motor vehicles. Users are non-motorized and may include: pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, people with disabilities, and others.

Local authorities can write and post the rules for the use of such paths under their jurisdiction. I can find no such rules in the Miami-Dade Muni-Codes. You can check for yourself here:

https://www.municode.com/library/fl/miami_-_dade_county/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=PTIIICOOR

In the event of a crash or other serious incident on a bike path or shared-use path, I believe the traffic laws above would be considered as part of the investigation and potential liability.

If you believe the conditions present a hazard for bicyclists or pedestrians, I recommend working with your Bike/Ped Advisory Committee

http://miamidadempo.org/bicycle-pedestrian-advisory-committee.asp

and joining advocacy groups such as these:

http://www.evergladesbc.com/advocacy

http://www.themiamibikescene.com/p/local-links.html

http://greenmobilitynetwork.org/

See other information about bike paths here:

http://flbikelaw.org/category/bike-paths/

Posted in Ask Geo, Bike Paths
One comment on “Laws for Bike Paths and Shared-Use Paths
  1. In the US, the design expectation for a shared-use path with no separate pathway for pedestrians has ordinarily been that all users will travel (except when passing) on the right. For example, MUTCD 9C.03 P03 states:

    “If conditions make it desirable to separate two directions of travel on shared-use paths at particular locations, a solid yellow line should be used to indicate no passing and no traveling to the left of the line.”
    http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2009r1r2/part9/part9c.htm#section9C03

    Trail “etiquette” signs and publications typically advise pedestrians to keep right (cf. http://www.miamivalleytrails.org/safety-trail-etiquette ). Travel on the right side of a shared path is regulated by custom, however, not by state codes.

    Runners who run on the left sides of shared-use paths may prefer to do so because (1) they may be accustomed to running on left-side sidewalks on streets (this makes it easier for a runner to avoid awkward right-hook conflicts with overtaking motorists on approaches to side streets), (2) they feel more comfortable being able to see any oncoming cyclist on same side of the path.

    Left-side pedestrian travel usually isn’t problematic on roads without sidewalks because pedestrians ordinarily keep to the shoulder or, if traveling in the roadway, will step off it when they notice an oncoming driver approaching (the rationale for instructing pedestrians to walk on the left sides of roads was that they would notice oncoming motorists sooner and step out of the way).

    On a shared-use path, a pedestrian has no obligation to step out of the way of a cyclist, and left-side pedestrian travel can give rise to awkward conflicts. A cyclist approaching an oncoming pedestrian or pedestrians on same side of the path may not be able to pass on the left if an oncoming cyclist is approaching at the same time. If oncoming traffic is heavy, the first cyclist may even need to stop for a moment.

    If runners and other pedestrians keep to the right, then an overtaking cyclist who can’t immediately pass on the left because other path traffic is oncoming can reduce speed to the speed of the overtaken pedestrians and just ride behind them at their speed until the left side of the path is open again.

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