Bicyclists Must Ride the Edge Line?
Yaroslav asked: I had encountered a furious driver, an unproductive argument (with crazy cussing from him) led to calling the police. In short, cops asked me if I rode this road before and where in particular I was on the roadway. I confidently replied that I was riding almost in the center of the lane to be visible and safe. The speed limit in the neighborhood is 35mph. So the sheriff told me I was the wrong one in the situation. He pointed out that the roadway (two-way) is very narrow where a car can barely fit in and also quoted the bike law that I must ride at the rightmost side — and directly showed with his foot where – exactly on the white divider line (there is no shoulder) or on the sidewalk.
I just checked out the law, it states “Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway”
IMHO I didn’t do anything wrong and was trying to be seen, I don’t think what the officer said was practicable, because drivers will often try to squeeze in between me and another lane. And yes bike is my main transportation here in Pensacola, and now I became anxious about it, because cops said if I get hit riding couple inches to the left from the divider line it will be totally me fault.
The law is as you stated, but you didn’t quote the entire the statute. There is an exception that allows leaving the right side of the roadway under certain circumstances. One of those defined in the statute is when the lane is too narrow for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to safely travel side-by-side, a substandard-width lane.
s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations
(5)(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
3. When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict, including, but not limited to, …. substandard-width lane, which makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge or within a bicycle lane. For the purposes of this subsection, a “substandard-width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
The Florida Department of Transportation describes a lane that is too narrow for most motor vehicles to safely pass a bicycle while staying in the lane is fourteen feet. Most lanes in Florida are 10-12 feet wide, and FDOT says that is too narrow for safe passing.
A full discussion of a substandard-width lane is here:
Unfortunately, many police officers aren’t aware of the substandard-width exception and have cited bicyclists for not keeping right when it is clearly not safe to do so. Courts have also upheld some of those tickets.
Traffic courts are busy and sometimes you might not receive full attention to your case. If you are cited for that, we recommend filing a written motion to dismiss, including the information above, prior to the court date. Doing so requires the full attention of a judge, a thorough review of the case and a written response. Although an attorney is not required, retaining one is recommended. A number of bicyclists have been successful in having such citations dismissed in a number of jurisdictions using a boilerplate motion to dismiss prepared by one of our readers that we can provide.
You may also want to consider writing a letter to the applicable police chief or Sheriff and ask that they include this information in their training programs.