Stop Signs on Shared-Use Paths

Question

HarryB asked: STOP signs are common traffic control devices facing people on shared-use paths that run parallel to the road and are located within the highway’s right-of-way. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I believe that their installation defies state law, and have discussed this issue with a county engineer who defends their use.

Please consider:

1) Despite various labels by which these particular ways are known (shared-use path, sidepath, multi-use trail, bicycle trail, trail, etc.), they meet Florida’s statutory definition of sidewalk: “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.” § 316.003(70), Fla. Stat.

2) Bicyclists who are riding on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk have the same rights and duties as pedestrians: “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.” § 316.2065(9)

3) The statutes assign the right-of-way to people traveling on sidewalks and in crosswalks (except at signalized intersections where priority is assigned by traffic control signals):

  1. a) “The driver of a vehicle emerging from an alley, building, private road or driveway within a business or residence district shall stop the vehicle immediately prior to driving onto a sidewalk or onto the sidewalk area extending across the alley, building entrance, road or driveway…and shall yield to all vehicles and pedestrians which are so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.” § 316.125(2)
  2. b) “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 crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian 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.” § 316.130(7)(c)

Installing STOP or YIELD signs facing pedestrians or bicyclists on the sidewalk/shared-use path at these crossings is an attempt to deprive these people of their statutory right to continue on their travels without having to yield to motorists.

The county engineer does not dispute that the shared-use path is intended for use by pedestrians and bicyclists, but he claims that it functions as a frontage road and has therefor assigned priority accordingly. I maintain that the path does not meet the definition of a road (“ROADWAY.—That portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the berm or shoulder” § 316.003(64)), nor does it function like one. Rather, it is a (wide) sidewalk and functions like one. Consequently, if the county chooses to install traffic control devices at crossings, it needs to comply with state law that assigns priority to the sidewalk/shared-use path.

I can not find any law that gives the county engineer the authority to override these statutes. Am I missing something?

Answer

I don’t agree with your characterization of shared-use paths as sidewalks unless they are immediately adjacent to the roadway and are, in fact, wide sidewalks.

A shared-use path is not an “alley, building, private road or driveway”.

MUTCD

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.

Florida Greenbook

Shared Use Path – Paved facilities physically separated from motorized vehicular traffic by an open space or barrier. May be within the highway right of way or an independent right of way, with minimal cross flow by motor vehicles. Users are non-motorized and may include: pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, people with disabilities, and others.

Hence, the answer to your question is in these posts.

http://flbikelaw.org/2012/05/bicyclists-on-bike-paths/

http://flbikelaw.org/2013/01/bike-path-stop-signs/

If the crosswalk is marked as such, the bicyclist does have the rights and duties of a pedestrian while in the crosswalk but must stop at the stop sign before entering the crosswalk and drivers must yield.

Concerning the wide sidewalk adjacent to a roadway, as well as other shared use paths, cyclists are operating vehicles and must comply with traffic control devices.

The Bicycle Regulations indicate bicyclists on the sidewalk or crosswalk have the same rights and duties as pedestrians under “the same circumstances”.

(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.

Pedestrians must comply with applicable traffic control devices.

s. 316.130Pedestrians; Traffic Regulations

(1) A pedestrian shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device specifically applicable to the pedestrian ….

I am not aware of any requirement imposed by statute applicable to a pedestrian to stop or yield for a stop sign.

There is a requirement for operators of all vehicles to obey stop signs.

s. 316.123Vehicle Entering Stop or Yield Intersection

(2)(a)…. every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop intersection indicated by a stop sign shall stop ….

Therefore, the circumstances referred to above are different for pedestrians and cyclists facing a stop sign.

s. 316.2065Bicycle Regulations

(1) Every person propelling a vehicle by human power has all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle under this chapter, except as to special regulations in this chapter ….

The statute requiring drivers of vehicles to stop at stop signs applies to all drivers of all vehicles, no matter where they are located. Even on a wide sidewalk adjacent to the roadway that would qualify as a shared-use path, the requirement to stop at a stop sign applies to cyclists.

Posted in Ask Geo, Bike Paths, Sidewalks & Crosswalks
12 comments on “Stop Signs on Shared-Use Paths
  1. Keithmj says:

    Common sense. Is it going to hurt to stop and look before crossing. If they don’t put stop signs up someone will get hit by a car and then sue the city or country. Don’t stop if you don’t want too,

  2. HarryB says:

    Geo:

    You wrote: “I don’t agree with your characterization of shared-use paths as sidewalks unless they are immediately adjacent to the roadway and are, in fact, wide sidewalks.”

    In my first sentence I specifically limited the type of shared-use paths I’m discussing to those “that run parallel to the road and are located within the highway’s right-of-way”. An example of such a path can be seen at this location: https://goo.gl/maps/o1BK8yHjouC2

    Notice that the “sidewalk” on the north side of the road as well as the “shared-use path” on the south meet both of the requirements to be legally classified as sidewalks: 1) Location (because both are located between the road and the property lines), and 2) Intended use (because pedestrians are among the intended users of both facilities).

    The statute places no other restrictions or criteria such as distance from the road or the width of the facility in order for the way to meet the definition of a sidewalk.

    You wrote: “A shared-use path is not an ‘alley, building, private road or driveway'”.

    I did not write it was.

    My reference to those facilities was in the context of § 316.125(2) which requires drivers who are emerging from an alley, building, private road or driveway to stop immediately before driving upon the sidewalk and then yield to any traffic which is approaching on the sidewalk.

    This language can not be more clear or absolute: Traffic (pedestrians and bicyclists) on the sidewalk has the right-of-way over drivers emerging from these facilities, and drivers must respect that right-of-way by always yielding to them.

    And agencies must also respect that statutorily granted right-of-way by not attempting to require pedestrians and bicyclists on the sidewalk/shared-use path/sidepath/multi-use path/bicycle trail/trail, etc, to yield to crossing traffic by erecting STOP or YIELD signs facing the sidewalk/shared-use path.

  3. Keithmj says:

    I don’t know about GEO but I would say that if the signs bother you then take them to court, fight it out with them, that is your right. The signs are for the good of the many. Good luck with that.

  4. HarryB says:

    Geo:

    When I was discussing this issue with the county engineer we were looking at the engineering plans for a specific section of this shared-use path. On different sheets the facility under discussion was given different labels such as path, walkway, bicycle trail and, as I seem to recall, sidewalk.

    I pointed out that regardless of the labels the designer had placed on the sheets, the physical location and intended use met the statutory definition of sidewalk. The engineer countered that regardless of what labels anyone places on the facility, it functions as a frontage road and that is why he defended the decision to specify STOP signs at the driveway we were discussing.

    If this facility is not a sidewalk, nor an alley, building, private road or driveway as you wrote, do you agree with the engineer that this shared-use path is essentially a (frontage) road and that is why the STOP signs are appropriate?

    I am trying to understand the legal status of this facility. If a bicyclist is injured or killed while riding his or her bicycle on this facility, a critical question will be its legal status. If this is not legally a sidewalk, what is it?

  5. Geo says:

    HarryB,

    The location you mentioned does seem to be crossed by driveways in some instances. In those cases, it would appear your mention that drivers entering the roadway from a driveway would be required to yield to pedestrians and cyclists if this is a sidewalk. I don’t think that in itself prohibits installation of stop signs.

    This is the only definition I can find of “frontage road”.

    Florida Greenbook
    FRONTAGE ROAD
    A street or highway constructed adjacent to a higher classification street or other roadway network for the purpose of serving adjacent property or control access.

    HIGHWAY, STREET, OR ROAD
    General terms, denoting a public way for purposes of traffic, both vehicular and
    pedestrian, including the entire area within the right of way. The term street is generally used for urban or suburban areas.

    I don’t know if this is a frontage road or a sidewalk. However, I don’t think it matters since the stop signs would still apply. See the statutes in the latter part of my original post. Pedestrians would not be affected but cyclists, as drivers of vehicles, would.

    It may be that the engineer is relying on this general definition to support the claim that it is a “road” and not just a sidewalk.

    s. 334.03 – Definitions
    When used in the Florida Transportation Code, the term:
    (22) “Road” means a way open to travel by the public, including, but not limited to, a street, highway, or alley. The term includes associated sidewalks, the roadbed, the right-of-way ….

    Regarding the actual installation of stop signs, you might want to check to see if the stop signs in that location are legally supported as required by the MUTCD.

    MUTCD
    Section 1A.08 – Authority for Placement of Traffic Control Devices
    Traffic control devices …. shall be placed only as authorized by a public authority or the official having jurisdiction …. for the purpose of regulating, warning, or guiding traffic.
    All regulatory traffic control devices shall be supported by laws, ordinances, or regulations.

    As is often the case with laws and regulations about bicycling, they are not always clearly defined in the statutes and must be determined after the fact, as you mentioned, through the courts as case law resulting from litigation over incidents.

    • HarryB says:

      Geo:

      You wrote: “I don’t know if this is a frontage road or a sidewalk.”

      This facility can not possibly be a road (frontage or otherwise) because it does not meet the statutory definition of a road: “ROADWAY.—That portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel…” § 316.003(64)

      The facility is not designed for vehicular traffic for many reasons such as: In some places the asphalt is only 1.5″ thick; at each road crossing there are islands, the purpose of which is to prevent motorized vehicles from driving on it; at each place where it crosses a road there is a marked crosswalk; at each signalized intersection there are pedestrian control signals facing the facility. It is clearly designed for non-motorized traffic and does not function like a frontage road (with which I am quite familiar).

      The location and function of the facility is identical to the statutory definition of sidewalk, and trying to define it as a road leads to absurd results. For example, does anyone who uses this facility really think that pedestrians are not permitted to walk on the pavement but must rather walk on the left shoulder? And is there any road in America where the drivers face pedestrian control signals at road crossings? This way is a typical highway with a road in the middle and a sidewalk on each side.

      You wrote: “Regarding the actual installation of stop signs, you might want to check to see if the stop signs in that location are legally supported as required by the MUTCD.” Glad you asked…

      The MUTCD discusses STOP signs in three sections: At intersections, at railroad crossings, and on shared-use paths. But the Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law only requires the drivers of vehicles approaching certain *intersections*, and nowhere else, to obey STOP signs: “Vehicle entering stop or yield intersection.” § 316.123

      Intersections are only formed where two or more roads join: “INTERSECTION.—(a) The area embraced within the prolongation or connection of the lateral curblines or, if none, then the lateral boundary lines of the roadways of two highways which join one another at, or approximately at, right angles; or the area within which vehicles traveling upon different highways joining at any other angle may come in conflict.” § 316.003(31)

      The location where a sidewalk and road meet is defined as a crosswalk: “CROSSWALK.—(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.” § 316.003(15)

      A crosswalk is located at, but outside of, an intersection, and a person traveling upon a sidewalk/shared-use path never approaches an intersection. FHWA has an excellent diagram (Figure 1) which shows this: http://tinyurl.com/mg8p5u5

      Consequently, I have reached the conclusion that STOP signs on sidewalks/shared-use paths do not require a user to stop, and are an attempt to deprive users of their statutory right to continue on their travels in preference to drivers who are crossing said sidewalk/shared-use path.

  6. Geo says:

    HarryB,

    You are using the words ”road” and roadway” interchangeably. They are not the same. Roadway is, as you state, a term from traffic law. “Road” is a term from the Transportation Code as defined above.

    You seem intent on convincing us of your position, that the signs are not lawfully installed. If your goal is to have them removed, it doesn’t matter if you convince us. You will need to convince the authorities that installed them.

    If you are serious about that endeavor, there are a number of courses of action that I have found helpful in other cases.

    You might want to present your case to your local Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee and ask them to intervene.

    You may want to approach local authorities and ask their assistance. I was successful in helping bicycle advocates in Palm Beach County have signs posted to advise cyclists and motorists of the laws. You can see that information at this post:

    http://flbikelaw.org/2010/01/riderightdrive-right-campaign/

    Lacking success in those efforts, you may want to initiate litigation to resolve the issue. In a dispute by cyclists with the Department of Transportation about their discretionary powers and installation of bike facilities in Palm Beach County, with the help of pro bono attorneys from a large law firm, after five years we were successful at the Court of Appeal. I have since used that statewide precedent in other situations to resolve problems. Those circumstances are described here.

    http://flbikelaw.org/2012/06/bike-lanes-required/

    I have provided all the information that I believe is relevant. I don’t have anything further to add. Possibly our readers have additional contributions which are always welcome.

    I wish you good fortune in your pursuits. Please provide us the results of your inquiries.

    • HarryB says:

      Geo:

      You wrote: “If your goal is to have (the STOP signs on this particular shared-use path) removed…”

      My goal is much broader: I believe that all STOP (and YIELD) signs facing shared-use paths users defy state law and are an attempt by auto-centric DOTs and their design firms to strip pedestrians and bicyclists of their statutory rights vis–à–vis motorists.

      These STOP signs also violate the established rules of right-of-way because they require bicyclists to stop before entering crosswalks where they have the right-of-way. Imagine an intersection where a vehicle has the right-of-way, yet a STOP sign is facing the driver which requires him or her to come to a stop before entering said intersection. The very idea is absurd because STOP signs inform drivers approaching an intersection that cross traffic has the right-of-way. This dangerous aberration on shared-use paths leads to the type of conflicts which users of these facilities experience on a regular basis.

      Bicyclists on these shared-use paths ignore these STOP signs, and not a single LEO with whom I’ve discussed this has said he would cite a bicyclist who failed to stop unless the cyclist blew the STOP sign at a dangerous rate of speed. Each officer admitted that they viewed the STOP signs as essentially “slow down and look before crossing” warning signs.

      Furthermore, the Greenbook, AASHTO and FHWA all recommend against STOP signs if traffic on the parallel road is not required to stop, and FDOT Dist. 7’s latest 5.5 mile long shared-use path on SR 50 does not have a single STOP sign facing users. There is no evidence that STOP signs facing shared-path users provide any safety benefit.

      To date I have succeeded in getting two sets of STOP signs removed on a popular shared-use path I ride, and am working on getting two additional sets removed from the same path. It also looks like I will succeed in getting two sets removed from the facility which we’ve been discussing and am trying to convince the county to change its plans for two new sets on the same path.

  7. Keithmj says:

    They had to put a warning that a cup of McDonalds coffee is hot because some idiot burned themselves, they should not need the warning but there it is on the cup. So you have had two stop signs removed, someone is very likely is going to hit by a car or truck and killed just because you think these signs don’t belong there. People see the signs and ride right through without stopping, that is their choice and they are responsible for what happens. What about the person that is riding and there is no stop sign or yield sign and is not paying attention and gets hit by a vehicle? I know, I know, they had the right of way but what good is that going to do them when they are dead?
    I would be spending more time on improving the safety of bicyclists instead of making it more dangerous. I deal with people ten hours a day and some are doing good to just know how to get out of bed in the morning and I don’t see any sense to make it harder or make it more dangerous for people because of your dislike for a stop sign.

    If Geo keeps letting you post and comment and argue about anything they post or questions that are asked, telling people that they don’t need to yield or stop, because it is in violations of their rights, no matter what the laws are is dangerous for the new riders and young ones. I’ll stop coming here and tell others to stay away from the site because some guy is posting comments that might get someone hurt or killed if they listen to him.
    It is against the constitution for me to need a fishing license, a driving license or a hunting license but I need one, it is against the Constitution for me to have to pay taxes too, but we pay them. We have rights but don’t always get them. I just hope someone never gets killed or hurt because someone has a vendetta against signs and doesn’t want to obey the laws.
    Geo can delete this but people need to be warned. Take your fight somewhere else, this site is not a platform for your agenda..

  8. Geo says:

    Keithmj,

    I have already started deleting a reader’s comments about free travel.

  9. Keithmj says:

    Good too hear that. Parents tell their kids to look both ways before crossing the street and he is saying that our rights say that we don’t need to. I see his point but this is the real world.
    I would just delete this whole post as it adds nothing to the site. Then ban the guy. And I am for free speech but there is a limit.

    • HarryB says:

      Keithmj:

      You wrote: “So you have had two stop signs removed, someone is very likely is going to hit by a car or truck and killed just because you think these signs don’t belong there.”

      It appears you think that an all knowing deity specified these STOP signs, but I have determined that they were specified by designers and vetted by engineers who do not understand how shared-use paths function, or they just don’t care.

      The STOP signs that I had removed, and the ones I’m attempting to get removed do not comply with national standards as published in the MUTCD and/or AASHTO; nor in the Florida Greenbook [1]. My goal is to bring all of these crossings into compliance with these national standards. So, if you believe the success of my efforts will very likely lead to someone getting hit by a car or truck and killed, you are in fact claiming that these national standards create dangerous conditions for bicyclists on shared-use paths.

      You also wrote: “I just hope someone never gets killed or hurt because (you have) a vendetta against signs and doesn’t want to obey the laws.”

      STOP signs do not prevent collisions, and the installation of unwarranted STOP signs breeds disrespect for these important traffic control devices. If you spend any amount of time cycling on shared-use paths you will discover that almost each and every bicyclist ignores these unwarranted STOP signs. This leads to the dangerous situation that someone who is unfamiliar with a particular crossing where a properly placed STOP sign has been posted will most likely not stop there either.

      That is part of the reason why I want all unwarranted STOP signs removed from shared-use paths because they create far more dangers than they prevent. My goal is to enhance the safety of the users of shared-use paths.

      Part of what this discussion has revealed is that not even the FBA really understands what type of facilities these are. I submit that if bicyclists who use these facilities, and the drivers of multi-ton motorized vehicles who cross them do not know what the laws are when they come into conflict with each other, something is seriously wrong.

      [1] I am not saying that I agree with all of these standards—I don’t. In fact, at some point in the future I plan to ask the Bicycle Technical Committee of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD BTC) to investigate a couple of my concerns about traffic control devices which are not addressed by the MUTCD.

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