Right of Way in State Parks

Question

Judith asked: I was walking in a Fl State Park on an elevated walkway about 3 ft wide. I was hogged from behind by a biker and fell 4 ft down to the ground. The ranger told him he didn’t have to give any information and that he could go. I am sure there should at least have been a fine and police called. Luckily have no lasting injuries I think but am very sore.

Answer

You should check that park’s rules and regulations to determine the rights and duties of pedestrians and bicyclists on walkways within the park. Some parks prohibit bicycles in some areas and impose other restrictions. This is general guidance for all Florida Parks, which tells bicyclists to yield to all other users:

https://www.floridastateparks.org/things-to-know/park-rules

I suggest writing a letter to the administrator of the park in question describing the incident, giving the name of the ranger, and asking them to enforce the regulations in place about walking and bicycling.

Posted in Ask Geo, Rights & Duties
6 comments on “Right of Way in State Parks
  1. Phil Leinbach says:

    The cyclist should have warned her before attempting to pass. If Judith had ear buds in all bets are off!

  2. Geo says:

    Phil,

    We don’t know what the park regulations say about this walkway, but on a sidewalk cyclists must yield to all pedestrians, whether they hear them or not for any reason, even if they do give an audible warning. If necessary, they must stop or slow to insure they don’t collide with the pedestrian. Unlike cycling, there is no statutory prohibition to walking with earbuds. How about a hearing impaired person in the same circumstances?

    s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations

    (10) A person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.

  3. HarryB says:

    The actions of visitors in Florida State Parks are governed by the Florida Statutes and Florida Administrative Code (specifically 62D-2.014). The references to yielding in the above noted “Florida State Park Rules” are listed under “State Trails Etiquette”—hardly state law.

    While I am of the opinion that § 316.2065(10), Fla. Stat. (“A person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk…shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian…”) also applies to shared-use paths, the OP was walking on “an elevated walkway about 3 ft wide.” This does not sound like a sidewalk nor a shared-use path, so I doubt the concept of right-of-way would apply.

    Rather, I think the issue boils down to a person’s common law duty of care obligation to not injure others: Did the bicyclist exercise reasonable care to avoid colliding with the OP?

  4. Geo says:

    HarryB,

    Unless there is a specific regulation for the park in question that addresses this, I agree.

    I believe the statute to which you refer is this:

    s. 316.130 – Pedestrians; Traffic Regulations
    (15) Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian ….

    Note that it does not indicate any particular location.

    • HarryB says:

      Geo wrote: “I believe the statute to which you refer is this: s. 316.130…”

      I do not think Chapter 316 of the Florida Statutes has any relevance in this situation (if I understand it correctly). As we know, that chapter is the State Uniform Traffic Control, the purpose of which is “to make uniform traffic laws to apply throughout the state and its several counties and uniform traffic ordinances to apply in all municipalities” (§ 316.002).

      Traffic is defined as: “Pedestrians…and vehicles…and other conveyances singly or together while using any street or highway for purposes of travel.” (§ 316.003[86]) And street or highway is defined as “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…” (§ 316.003[77][a])

      The OP described the location where the collision occurred as being “an elevated walkway about 3 ft wide” within a state park. I doubt this walkway was open to the use of vehicular traffic and therefore doubt it meets the definition of street or highway. Consequently, I think the concept of right-of-way is irrelevant in this situation.

      The common law, I submit, probably applies here because I can not find any specific statute or rule which addresses this situation. Under the common law the bicyclist owed the OP the duty of care to avoid colliding with her, not because he was riding a bicycle, but because he had the common law duty to avoid injuring her.

      Of course, the OP had a reciprocal duty of care to avoid injuring the bicyclist, but because she wrote he “hogged (her) from behind” I doubt she was negligent in her duty to avoid injuring him. Consequently, this would not be a situation in which the police would normally become involved because it is probably a tort (a civil wrong).

      If the OP wishes to recover damages she would probably need to sue the bicyclist, attempting to prove that he breached his duty of care.

  5. Even if the elevated walkway were 4 ft wide, it would be rather surprising in a state park to have no sign somewhere on the trail approach prohibiting bicycles beyond that point or, at least, directing a cyclist to dismount.

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