CA Asked: So the situation was that a car traveling down the road wants to turn right. He signals, slows, and begins to make the turn. A bicycle at the same time is racing down the sidewalk in the same direction as the car, on the same side of the road, and wants to continue through the crosswalk. The bicycle is going so fast that he is not in, or even near, the crosswalk when the driver looks, signals, and makes the turn.
This seems to happen very often where the drivers are looking for pedestrians and slow moving objects in the crosswalk and a fast moving bicycle can travel far further in the short time of the cars turning. The driver would literally have to turn and look behind him before making the turn to see the fast moving bicycle approaching. So in the event of an accident who would be at fault? The law doesn’t say that a bicycle has to stop at a crosswalk, nor does it say they have to cycle at a reasonable speed so that a driver can see them approaching a crosswalk.
In my particular encounter, the cyclist panicked and tried to stop, ended up losing control and swerving off the sidewalk into the grass. I was able to hit my brakes and came to a stop before getting to the crosswalk, but the cyclist almost hit me anyway since they swerved off the sidewalk in my direction. Obviously the cyclist was upset, but there is no clarity in who should have been doing what. Personally I don’t think it should be expected for a driver to turn to look over their right shoulder trying to look through their car for fast approaching bicycles while trying to signal, slow, and turn without causing some other accident. Any thoughts?
Sidewalks are designed and intended for the use of pedestrians.
s. 316.003 – Definitions
(47) Sidewalk – That portion of a street between the curbline, or the lateral line, of a roadway and the adjacent property lines, intended for use by pedestrians.
Bicyclists may use a sidewalk unless there is a local ordinance to the contrary.
s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations
(9) A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.
The crosswalk may be marked or unmarked.
s. 316.003 – Definitions
(a) That part of a roadway at an intersection included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway, measured from the curbs or, in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the traversable roadway.
(b) Any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.
Actions of drivers and pedestrians (bicyclists on the sidewalk with the rights and duties of pedestrians) are determined by the presence of lack of signals or other traffic control devices.
s. 316.130 – Pedestrians; Traffic Regulations
(7)(a) The driver of a vehicle at an intersection that has a traffic control signal in place shall stop before entering the crosswalk and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian, with a permitted signal, to cross a roadway when the pedestrian is in the crosswalk or steps into the crosswalk and is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.
(b) The driver of a vehicle at any crosswalk where signage so indicates shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian (bicyclist) to cross a roadway when the pedestrian (bicyclist) is in the crosswalk or steps into the crosswalk and is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian (bicyclist) is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.
(c) When traffic control signals are not in place or in operation and there is no signage indicating otherwise, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian (bicyclist) crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian (bicyclist) is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.
(8) No pedestrian (bicyclist) 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.
If the cyclist is not actually in the crosswalk, the motorist is not obligated to yield. Note that the law says,
“ …. in the crosswalk or steps into the crosswalk and is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian (bicyclist) is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger”
If the cyclist is on the sidewalk, he/she is not in the roadway.
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.
You state above, that “The law doesn’t say that …. they have to cycle at a reasonable speed so that a driver can see them approaching a crosswalk.”
That isn’t necessarily the case. Just because there is no posted speed limit, cyclists must always exercise due care to avoid collisions.
For the following discussion, we need to distinguish between the roadway defined above and the highway. The highway includes the sidewalk.
s. 316.003 – Definitions
(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 ….
Cyclists on the sidewalk must travel at a speed that is safe for all circumstances.
s. 316.183 – Unlawful Speed
(1) No person shall drive a vehicle (bicycle) on a highway (sidewalk) 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 …. drive at an appropriately reduced speed when:
(a) Approaching and crossing an intersection or railway grade crossing;
(e) Any special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions.
s. 316.185 – Special Hazards
…. shall not relieve the driver (cyclist) from the duty to decrease speed when approaching and crossing an intersection, …. or when special hazards exist or may exist with respect to pedestrians or other traffic …. and speed shall be decreased as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle, or other conveyance on or entering the street in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.
We should note that the due care provisions apply to both parties in this case, so the motorist is not relieved of all responsibility. The actual determination of fault for an incident would be made only after considering all factors.