Golf Carts in Bike Lanes

Question

Alan asked: Perhaps you can give some advice as to the legality and options we have regarding our GSCDD Board decision to convert the designated bicycle lanes in our community to ones which permit golf carts to utilize those lanes.

I live in Ft. Myers in the Pelican Preserve Community.  The GSCDD, which now own the major roads in our development, has painted over the bicycle chevrons and declared the lanes are no longer strictly for bicycles.  These lanes were planned bicycle lanes by the developer. Our community action group understands that the four-foot shoulder lanes should be exclusively for bicycles and that golf carts should be operated in the regular vehicle lanes. Their plan is to conduct a traffic study and make a recommendation based upon that.

Have you heard of this kind of conversion before?

My question is regarding the legality of this conversion and our options since there is a statute which says bike lanes are for bicycles only.

Answer

I don’t know the nature of your community. I will assume it is governed by the state statutes regarding the state highway system.

s. 316.003 – Definitions

(77) 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;

(b) The entire width between the boundary lines of any privately owned way or place used for vehicular travel by the owner and those having express or implied permission from the owner, but not by other persons, or any limited access road owned or controlled by a special district, whenever, by written agreement entered into under s. 316.006(2)(b) or (3)(b), a county or municipality exercises traffic control jurisdiction over said way or place;

Local authorities may enact ordinances related to golf carts on sidewalks under certain circumstances. That does not seem to include operating golf carts in bike lanes

s. 316.008Powers of Local Authorities

(7) A county or municipality may enact an ordinance to permit, control, or regulate the operation of vehicles, golf carts, mopeds, motorized scooters, and electric personal assistive mobility devices on sidewalks or sidewalk areas when such use is permissible under federal law. The ordinance must restrict such vehicles or devices to a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour in such areas.

Other statutes apply to the operation of golf carts in the roadway.

s. 316.212Operation of Golf Carts on Certain Roadways

The operation of a golf cart upon the public roads or streets of this state is prohibited except as provided herein:

(1) A golf cart may be operated only upon a county road that has been designated by a county, a municipal street that has been designated by a municipality, or a two-lane county road located within the jurisdiction of a municipality designated by that municipality, for use by golf carts. Prior to making such a designation, the responsible local governmental entity must first determine that golf carts may safely travel on or cross the public road or street, considering factors including the speed, volume, and character of motor vehicle traffic using the road or street. Upon a determination that golf carts may be safely operated on a designated road or street, the responsible governmental entity shall post appropriate signs to indicate that such operation is allowed.

The full statute is here:

http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2016/316.212

Above, you state that bicycle lanes are “strictly for bicycles” and “four foot shoulder lanes should be exclusively for bicycles”.

I believe the statute to which you refer is this:

s. 316.074 – Obedience to and Required Traffic Control Devices

(1) The driver of any vehicle shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device

Please see this quote from a previous post by Dwight Kingsbury, probably the foremost authority on these matters.

I doubt S. 316.074 would be of much use, as the standard Bike Lane sign (http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2009r1r2/part9/fig9b_02_longdesc.htm) simply says “BIKE LANE” (under a graphic of the bicycle symbol) and has no regulatory meaning for motorists defined in Florida Statutes.

The MUTCD’s definitions are internally inconsistent. If a “preferential lane” of any type were always for “exclusive use”, then the “preferential or exclusive use” wording in the MUTCD’s definition of “Bicycle Lane” would be redundant. Also, if a bicycle lane were legally for the exclusive use of bicyclists, then every motorist who crossed a solid-striped bike lane to turn into or out of a gas station or other commercial site–or even a residence, for that matter– would be breaking the law.

Another difficulty with the exclusive-use interpretation is that s. 316.151(1) requires that “Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway”. As a bicycle lane is part of the roadway (MUTCD definition) and the law mentions no exception to the right-turn rule where a bike lane runs along the right curb of the roadway, the logical inference is that this requires merging into the bike lane (after yielding to any cyclist present, of course) to make a right turn, as long as this is “practicable”.

FDOT design standards show a skip-stripe treatment for a bike lane line on final approach to a stop line at a signalized intersection, but in the field many bike lanes are solid-striped as far as the stop line.

There is no statutory definition of “bicycle lane”, although it is referred to as exclusive or preferential use in other statutes and in national and state documents

Here’s the definition from the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices:

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.

And from the Florida Department of Transportation Plans Preparation Manual

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, special pavement markings, and signing for the preferential use by bicyclists.

Those are not definitions upon which law enforcement actions can be based.

Note that both terms use the phrase “ A bicycle lane is a portion of the roadway”. This is the statutory definition of “roadway”.

s. 316.003 – Definitions

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

Note that the paved shoulder is not part of the roadway and that vehicles must be driven on the roadway.

A golf cart is a vehicle.

(26) – Golf Cart – A motor vehicle designed and manufactured for operation on a golf course for sporting or recreational purposes.

The following statutes require the use of the roadway by vehicles. There are exceptions for bicycles, but not other vehicles.

s. 316.081Driving on Right Side of Roadway; Exceptions

(1) Upon all roadways of sufficient width, a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway

s. 316.081 – Driving on Right Side of Roadway; Exceptions

(2) Upon all roadways, any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway

s. 316.081 Driving on right side of roadway; exceptions

(2) Upon all roadways, any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

Evidence of the ambiguity of the “exclusive use” provision is in the statute about mopeds.

Moped operators are required to keep as far right in the roadway as is practicable. The bike lane is part of the roadway, so using the bike lane seems not only to be permitted, but required under some circumstances, but that is not specified as it is for bicyclists.

s. 316.208 – Motorcycles and Mopeds

(2)(a) Any person operating a moped upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway

That would be the bike lane when present.

In summary, the use of golf carts is permitted in the roadway in some circumstances. A bike lane is part of the roadway. A paved shoulder is not part of the roadway and golf carts, being vehicles, are not to be operated on the paved shoulder. If golf carts are otherwise legally operated on the roadway, being slower traffic, they must use the right most lane which in this case is the bike lane.

Ironically, the change your board is proposing, eliminating the bike lane pavement markings, would seem to change the bike lane to a paved shoulder and preclude the operation of golf carts there, contrary to it’s intent.

Dwight, if you are there, please feel free to comment.

Posted in Ask Geo, Bike Lanes
5 comments on “Golf Carts in Bike Lanes
  1. fred says:

    As an additional aspect to this proposed change, removing the bike lane markings and ostensibly removing the bike lane, removes the requirement of a cyclist to occupy that area of the roadway. Currently, FL Statutes insist that a cyclist use a marked bike lane when one exists, but without a marked bike lane, the cyclist is able to use the entire width of a sub-standard width lane.

    As a former vehicular cyclist, I would applaud such a change, as it is unlikely that the lanes under consideration in this discussion are fourteen feet wide or wider. Unfortunately, vehicular cyclists or those with the appropriate understanding of safe cycling practices are quite rare.

  2. Keithmj says:

    This is one reason why I detest bike lanes, they cause more problems than they are suppose to fix. Does it really matter to you if they allow golf carts on the road as long as they allow bicycles? They are is easy to go around and really should not cause any problems for you. Just let them do what they want to do as long as you get use of the roads. You can voice your opinion to them but more likely they will do what they want to do anyway. Share the Road.

  3. Online information describes Pelican Preserve in Fort Myers as a gated community, with private roads owned by Gateway Services Community Development District. Alan’s question implies that GSCDD has not made any agreement with the city or county to “exercise jurisdiction” over the roads (as described in s. 316.006, F.S.). If so, there isn’t any public authority that could overturn a decision the DD has made about traffic signing and marking on the private roads.

    As Geo suggests, the perception that use of bike lanes in Florida is statutorily limited to cyclists may be a legacy of the old (obsolete) Bike Lanes signs that displayed a diamond symbol and the message “[bicycle symbol] ONLY”. Here and there, a few of the old signs still stand on public roads. Florida has not had any statutory wording to support the “ONLY” message’; Florida Statutes neither define “bicycle lane”, nor include any provision that explicitly prohibits other drivers from driving in a bike lane.

    Transit buses pull into bike lanes to make stops, and moped riders use them (as s. 316.208 implies they must, if riding at less than the “normal” speed of traffic, although many exceptions are mentioned).

    The MUTCD’s definition of “Bicycle Lane” was adapted from the old Uniform Vehicle Code and was intended to leave it to the traffic codes of the respective states to spell out whether bike lanes in a given state were to be considered “preferential” or “exclusive” (and, if “exclusive”, to explain just what was meant). To date, though, no one has found statutory wording in any state code that defines or describes bicycle lanes as “exclusive”. Most state codes that define “bicycle lane” just include a list of conditions under which other drivers may operate in a bicycle lane.

    • Sorry, need to correct the above. The Uniform Vehicle Code (last revised in 2000) never included a definition of “Bicycle lane”. The first edition of the MUTCD to contain a definition of “Bicycle lane” that described it as “for preferential or exclusive use by bicyclists” was the 2000 edition. That wording was probably taken from the definition in the 1999 edition of AASHTO’s Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, which similarly refers to “preferential or exclusive use”.

  4. Geo says:

    Thanks Dwight,

    This is a previous post that describes the enforcement arrangements that can be made by communities for private roads.

    http://flbikelaw.org/2010/04/bicycles-on-private-roads/

    As Dwight stated, lacking such an agreement with local law enforcement, the community Board of Directors (presumably that you elect) can make any rules it desires. Hopefully, they will be for the overall good of the community. How they are enforced would also be in the rules. Who determines the rules of the road such as stopping at stop signs and any consequences of a violation?

    I suggest reading the community by-laws or other governing directives that may determine your local rules and rights. If you don’t agree, you should address your concerns to the Board of Directors.

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