Bike Lane as Shared-Use Path

Question

Dan asked: I’m seeking a definitive answer to the question of whether a bike lane can also legally serve pedestrians when no unpaved shoulder exists. And if so, is there a MUTCD-approved sign to indicate such a lane.

As an example this Google map shot depicts a situation where a four-lane boulevard was reconfigured into two motor vehicle lanes and two 8-9′ bike lanes. Because the right of way ends at the pavement, there’s no soft shoulder available for pedestrians. As well, it’s understood that the bike lane is indeed a bike/ped shared use lane on this roadway, although there’s nothing to indicate as much.

Answer

I assume the bike lane is marked as such? There is no enforceable statute that defines a bike lane. However, the statutory definition and the MUTCD and FDOT definitions say a bike lane is part of the roadway and, of course, there are laws that do apply to the roadway.

s. 316.003 – Definitions

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

MUTCD – Definitions

23.Bicycle Lane—a portion of a roadway that has been designated for preferential or exclusive use by bicyclists by pavement markings and, if used, signs.

FDOT PPM

3. Bicycle Lane: A bicycle lane (bike lane) is a portion of a roadway (either with curb and gutter or a flush shoulder) which has been designated by striping and special pavement markings for the preferential use by bicyclists.

The statutes that apply to pedestrians in the roadway are these:

s. 316.130 Pedestrians; 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.

The applicable statutes seem to attempt to keep pedestrians out of the roadway, so intentionally allowing their use of the roadway seems inconsistent with the laws. Rather, the only time pedestrians are allowed in the roadway is when “required by other circumstances.” It seems they are strictly prohibited from using the roadway when there is a shoulder of any kind, paved or not.

It appears this may be a case of “required by other circumstances”, and people walking in the roadway facing traffic would seem to be necessary and legal in those situations. Walking in the same direction as vehicular traffic would seem to be unlawful, but it isn’t entirely clear.

I have never heard of trying to make a bike lane, the roadway, part of a shared use trail or path and that would seem to be unlawful. Certainly, there is no approved MUTCD signage that indicates that a bike lane can be used as a shared-use trail, unless it is not a bike “lane” and is, in fact, a “bike path” , separated from the roadway by physical means.

MUTCD

191. Shared-Use Path—a bikeway outside the traveled way and physically separated from motorized vehicular traffic by an open space or barrier and either within the highway right-of-way or within an independent alignment. Shared-use paths are also used by pedestrians (including skaters, users of manual and motorized wheelchairs, and joggers) and other authorized motorized and non-motorized users.

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.

I don’t believe there could be any legal posting of signs or roadway markings indicating the bike lane section of the roadway could be used as a shared use trail or path. It does appear there is no alternative to pedestrians in the bike lane, so informal accommodations should be made so bicyclists understand that pedestrians may be in the bike lane and they should treat them as obstructions and avoid them.

I suggest that if the agency having jurisdiction truly intends this to be a shared use path, they consider physical separation from the roadway.  Another option may be to reduce the bike lane width and use the outer portion as a paved shoulder or sidewalk if the width permits.

Posted in Ask Geo, Bike Lanes
2 comments on “Bike Lane as Shared-Use Path
  1. Given the absence of any paved sidewalk, and the posting of obsolete (pre-2000 vintage) “diamond” Bike Lane signs at this location (as shown in the Google Maps Streetview imagery from Feb. 2015) which display the message “[bicycle symbol] ONLY”, is there indeed no confusion or conflict among cyclists and pedestrians re legality of shared use?

    The property lines shown in the Google Maps map view indicate a right-of-way width of 80 ft. If this is correct (County property appraiser should have detailed maps of property lines), some space for sidewalks is available on the borders and a pedestrian could legally walk there but, as the area is mostly planted in grass and interrupted by driveways, mailboxes, etc., it wouldn’t be convenient and could even present a tripping hazard.

    Given the pedestrian regulations quoted by Geo, the viable “shoulder’ a pedestrian could use would be the paved lane currently designated as bike lane. As a pedestrian in this case must walk on the left, whereas cyclists in a bike lane must travel in the direction of vehicular traffic, pedestrians and cyclists in the “bike lane” will travel in opposite directions.

    In other states where I have seen (in a few places) shared pedestrian-cyclist use of wide paved shoulders in suburban areas, the paved shoulder has been left unsigned, or might be signed with No Parking signs. As there is no such thing as a pedestrian “lane”, the MUTCD provides no way to sign a shared bicycle-pedestrian lane. Nor is there any regulatory sign to designate a shared-use path on the roadway (none of the nationally recognized bikeway design guides describes any sort of shared-use [bicycle-pedestrian] pathway immediately adjacent to a travel lane).

  2. NE2 says:

    Cape Coral used to handle this in an interesting way, with a contraflow ‘PED ONLY’ lane to the right of the bike lane, but more recent photos show the bike lane has been widened with a buffer to its left instead.
    http://goo.gl/maps/633VuFCna7s

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