Unsafe Bike Lanes

Question

Graham asked: BC Sheriffs rigorously enforce riding in the bike lane in Weston. However I maintain that they allow parking, joggers, walkers, lawn people and others to use the lanes without any enforcement. Also the condition of the lanes is often poor with wet leaves and debris remaining untouched for long periods. I maintain that the lanes are not bicycle lanes but are dual use paths because of the above. What is your opinion and if I were ticketed and went to court determined to push the issue up the “chain” would I have any case?

Answer

A bike lane is part of the roadway. The roadway is designed and intended for vehicular travel.

s. 316.003 – Definitions

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

A bike path is typically, but not always, a shared-use or multi-use path and is completely separate from the roadway.

(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 is unlawful to park a motor vehicle in a bike lane. See this post:

http://flbikelaw.org/2015/07/parking-in-bike-lanes-3/

Pedestrians may use the roadway only under certain circumstances.

s. 316.130Pedestrians; Traffic Regulations

(3) Where sidewalks are provided, no pedestrian shall, unless required by other circumstances, walk along and upon the portion of a roadway paved for vehicular traffic.

(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.

Also, leaving a place of safety to be endangered by a bicyclist in a bike lane is unlawful.

(8) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.

The fact that a bike lane is poorly maintained and used illegally by others does not change its character to a dual use or shared use path. It is still a bike lane.

According to the laws, you are never required to subject yourself to unsafe conditions and are not required to remain in a bike lane or at the right side of the roadway.

There are many circumstances that permit leaving the bike lane or right side of the roadway, including any unsafe condition or potential conflict.

s. 316.2065Bicycle 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:

  1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
  2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
  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.

While you may prevail in court if you receive a citation and can demonstrate (Just your saying so won’t do it) that you left a bike lane to avoid an unsafe condition or potential conflict, that will likely not resolve this continuing problem.

Since this is a problem for you, it is certainly a problem for other cyclists. I recommend contacting bike clubs, advocacy groups such as

http://www.southfloridabikecoalition.org/,

and the county MPO Bike/Ped Advisory Committee and writing a letter to the Sheriff, the MPO and your county commissioners advising them of the circumstances and the information in this post, asking them to address the apparently inappropriate enforcement of cyclists in unsafe bike lanes while ignoring the other obvious violations.

Posted in Ask Geo, Bike Lanes, Bike Paths

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