Preparing for a Left Turn

Question

Dylan asked: Recently, a Pinellas Park Police officer informed me that me and my son (who is 12) must “keep right” and that we were breaking the law by being in the middle lane of 78th Ave in Pinellas Park.

The problem is that we had signaled and gone into the middle lane to turn left (on west-bound 78th ave, at 52nd st). Under the instructions from the PPPD we could never effectively turn left on the street we live on.

I was under the impression that leaving the right-most edge of the road way was acceptable in a number of conditions, including when turning left. Has this changed recently? Are the rules different for people under the age of 18?

Answer

Although not marked as such, the left lane westbound appears to be a left turn lane since that lane does not continue across the intersection.

In any event, you are correct that you are not required to keep right when preparing for a left turn.  These regulations have been in effect for 30 years or so.

s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations

(5)(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

Not only is it allowed, you are operating a vehicle and are required to move left to prepare for a left turn.

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:

(b) Left turn – The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left at any intersection shall approach the intersection in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of such vehicle, and, after entering the intersection, the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection in a lane lawfully available to traffic moving in such direction upon the roadway being entered.

The same statute permits a bicyclist to use the full lane from which the turn is to be made.

A person riding a bicycle and intending to turn left in accordance with this section is entitled to the full use of the lane from which the turn may legally be made.

You may use this alternative method to prepare for a left turn, but it is not required.

(c) Left turn by bicycle – In addition to the method of making a left turn described in paragraph (b), a person riding a bicycle and intending to turn left has the option of following the course described hereafter: The rider shall approach the turn as close as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway; after proceeding across the intersecting roadway, the turn shall be made as close as practicable to the curb or edge of the roadway on the far side of the intersection; and, before proceeding, the bicyclist shall comply with any official traffic control device or police officer regulating traffic on the highway along which the bicyclist intends to proceed.

Other situations specified the Bicycle Regulations that also allow cyclists to leave the right side of the roadway or bike lane are:

1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

3. When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict, including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, turn lane, or substandard-width lane, which makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge or within a bicycle lane. For the purposes of this subsection, a “substandard-width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

(b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a one-way highway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of such roadway as practicable.

I am aware of one citation written for a cyclist remaining in the left lane for 1300 feet when preparing for a left turn. It was dismissed in court since there is no distance specified in the statute. Traffic moves in waves and cyclists must take advantage of lulls in the traffic to safely cross a roadway.

The rules about keeping right are not different for various ages of cyclists.

I recommend writing a letter to the police chief and asking that the officers be educated about the laws related to bicycling, including the information in this post.

Posted in Ask Geo, Making Turns

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