Bicyclists Must Ride the Edge Line?

Question

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.

Answer

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. 316.2065Bicycle 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:

http://flbikelaw.org/2010/01/substandard-width-lanes-updated/

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.

Posted in Ask Geo, Lane Width & Sharing
17 comments on “Bicyclists Must Ride the Edge Line?
  1. Jay says:

    Welcome to Florida. The most bicycle unfriendly place in America .

  2. I experienced many more close passes (and was hit once) when I used to try to ride close to the white edge line, or curb. As noted by Geo, the law allows an exception to the “as close as practicable” rule when the lane is too narrow for a cyclist and motor vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane. I will try to avoid or minimize my use of a two-way, two-lane roadway with 35 mph speed limit and fairly steady traffic, but in some places there is no decent alternative.

    • Yaroslav says:

      Yes, that’s exactly what I was trying to tell the officer. But the cop who explained me the “right laws” (currently working as K-9) is a former bicycle policeman according to his words, he obviously knows better than “some random kid on the bike”.
      Also the roadway mentioned in my question here had a heavy traffic with about 2 cars per minute total. So instead of giving the crazy driver a ticket for violating the 3ft passing rule and for multiple verbal insults captured on camera, they made me guilty. Haha!

  3. Ronald Thompson says:

    I cycle too..and for me to ride in the center lane that undoubtedly holds up traffic is obnoxious and arrogant. I move to the right and let them pass when they can. They should be held to the 3 foot rule but if you stick to the center that is not going to work. I am absolutely appalled that there are cyclists that think they own the public roads.

    • On a narrow 2-lane, 2-way road, there simply isn’t room to pass a cyclist within the same lane and still comply with the requirement for 3 ft passing clearance, even if the cyclist rides along the edge, unless the overtaking motorist is riding a single-track vehicle.

      In recent years about two thirds of US auto sales have been light trucks–pickups, SUVs, vans, and minivans. Total vehicle widths (including mirrors) of 6-7 ft are common. Most drivers can’t precision-pass with 3.0 ft of clearance, and need to allow another foot or so to be sure of allowing at least 3 ft.

      On roads with good forward visibility and ample gaps in oncoming traffic, most overtaking drivers just move into the oncoming lane to pass me. Delay may become significant if oncoming traffic has few gaps sufficient to allow passing. Simply moving close to the edge doesn’t help, because drivers of larger vehicles still need to use some of the oncoming lane to pass a cyclist with at least 3 ft of clearance.

      A cyclist with a mirror who notices vehicles beginning to queue behind them may be able to find a place to pull off to allow the queue to pass, although the law doesn’t require this.

      • Ron says:

        I ride on Jupiter Island which is a narrow two lane road with no shoulder. Keeping to the right makes it an easy pass. Yes the cars need to move left of the center line, but much less so than if they were in the middle of the road. What I see are packs of bikes three or four deep that are hard to get around. They give cyclists a bad name and I do not want to be any part of it.

    • Keithmj says:

      “I am absolutely appalled that there are car drivers that think they own the public roads”. Maybe slow moving trucks or vehicles needs to move over or get off the road if they are going slower than me when I am in a hurry to get to work? If the lane is not wide enough for a vehicle and a bicycle to pass side by side, safely, then it is legal for the cyclist to use the full lane. If you don’t like it then change the laws.
      Really, it is not what we think but what the laws say what we can or can not do. How you ride your bike on the road is up to you. I won’t tell you where to ride and I’ll do the same.

      • Ronald Thompson says:

        I don’t buy the slow moving truck argument. They are usually traveling at the posted speed limit. Cyclists are much slower. The law says to stay to the right when a bike lane does not exist. Motorists can only pass if they give you 3 feet. The burden is on them if they hit you. I don’t see anything in the law that defines a substandard width lane so that is open to anyone’s interpretation. I also don’t see anything that provides the right for cyclists to use the full lane and thus make it harder for vehicles to pass. I certainly don’t see anything that allows packs of cyclists to ride 3 and 4 deep to purposely block traffic. And I see this almost every day.

  4. alan decosta says:

    I WILL NOT PUT MYSELF IN A DANGEROUS POSITION BY TRUSTING MOTORISTS TO PASS ME IN SAFE MANNER , THERE ARE DRIVERS THAT THINK
    BICYCLISTS MUST MOVE OVER FOR THEM , SO THEY CAN PASS AT UNSAFE SPEEDS , 40 MPH , I WILL TAKE THE LANE EVERY TIME , AND IF YOU MOTORISTS CANT FIGURE OUT HOW TO PASS SAFELY WITHOUT HAVING A HEAD ON COLLISION MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T BE OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE ! YOU DRIVERS MANAGE TO GET AROUND MAIL TRUCKS DELIVERY TRUCKS CONSTRUCTION TRUCKS ,MOVING TRUCKS , DONT CRY ABOUT US BICYCLISTS WE ARE 3 FT WIDE NOTE AFTER YOUR MOTORVEHICLE SLOWS DOWN FOR ME , BECAUSE I AM IN YOUR WAY MOST OF THE TIME I WILL MOVE OVER AND WAVE YOU TO PASS ME , BECAUSE YOU WILL BE TRAVELING ALLOT SLOWER AND ITS SAFER TO PASS ,,

  5. Ronald Thompson says:

    What is missing from this discussion is how the three foot rule applies to cyclist. I stopped riding my bike because of the dangers and started running. Every morning I run in the opposite direction of traffic as required by law as a pedestrian. I often encounter bike packs of 10-40 cyclists. Most are polite and try to avoid me. But there are some that absolutely try to bully me off the road. You would think that the cyclists understand that they are considered a vehicle so the 3 feet of clearance also applies to them. But no, they have an agenda to rule the roads for their convenience and convey an attitude that my safety does not matter. Would I be wrong to defend my 3 feet when they charge towards me instead of slowing down and going around?

    • Keithmj says:

      I would say, depending on the State you live in applies. But in Florida you are not allowed to run in a bike lane or walk in a bike lane. Also if there are sidewalk you are not allowed to walk or run in the road. The cyclist are considered a vehicle and they follow laws too.If you attack a person on a bike and they have video you could be the one charged. You should not be in a bike lane or in the road if there are sidewalks.

      • Ronald Thompson says:

        On the other hand if the cyclist hits me they would be charged with reckless driving.

        § 316.192. Reckless driving
        (1)(a) Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.

        c) Who, by reason of such operation, causes:
        1. Damage to the property or person of another commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083 .
        2. Serious bodily injury to another commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 , s. 775.083 , or s. 775.084 .  The term “serious bodily injury” means an injury to another person, which consists of a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

        Applicability to cyclists as drivers:

        § 316.2065.
        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, and except as to provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application.

        In my view I have a right to defend myself against a lawless reckless driver.

  6. Geo says:

    Ronald,

    You are correct that bicyclists are not allowed to ride more than two abreast in the roadway unless in a marked bike lane. They are violating the laws and should be cited.

    The three foot law does not apply to bicycles passing pedestrians. It applies to drivers of vehicles overtaking and passing bicycles traveling in the same direction.

    s. 316.083 – Overtaking and Passing a Vehicle

    The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction

    (1) …. The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle.

    Pedestrians are not permitted to walk or run in the roadway. They may use the shoulder, which is not part of the roadway.

    s. 316.130 – Pedestrians; Traffic Regulations
    (3) Where sidewalks are provided, no pedestrian shall, unless required by other circumstances, walk along and upon the portion of a roadway paved for vehicular traffic.
    (4) Where sidewalks are not provided, any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall, when practicable, walk only on the shoulder on the left side of the roadway in relation to the pedestrian’s direction of travel, facing traffic which may approach from the opposite direction.

    s. 316.003 – Definitions
    (68) Roadway – That portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the berm or shoulder.

    With regard to your other comment, I recommend reading the post entitled “substandard-width lanes updated” linked in the original post.

    • Ronald Thompson says:

      According to what I am reading here a cyclist takes 3 feet each and the bike lanes are 4-5 feet. Thus, a bike lane cannot accommodate two abreast and certainly not three or more abreast. I agree they should be cited but there is more to this issue.

      It is not practical to run in “the shoulder” without tearing your knees apart on rough surfaces. Further, have you ever tried to run on a crowded sidewalk? People are walking dogs on leashes, unloading surf boards and a host of other reasons that obstruct the pathway. In Juno Beach they have built decorative bricks into the sidewalks that are tripping hazards.

      If that is the law that pedestrians are not allowed on the roadway it is not being enforced. There are dozens of runners from the Palm Beach Runners Club every Saturday morning running the stretch of Jupiter Beach in the bike lanes.

      There are other laws that you are not quoting that say a vehicle has to avoid hitting a pedestrian. Reason must be brought into this discussion that no one owns the roadways so everyone has an obligation to share them.

      I have never seen a runner misbehave but I personally have been screamed at, harassed, threatened and even asked if I wanted to go duke it out on the beach. They are aggressive and just like aggressive drivers need to be dealt with. They are ruining what should be a peaceful beach life. I pay more than my fair share in taxes and I do not accept that I am not allowed to do an activity like running to maintain a healthy life style because of these thugs.

  7. Keithmj says:

    Ronald. I would say that you need to take your concerns to your Senators or Representatives that make the laws or to the ones on your city council and ask them to enforce the laws and have them changed. Bikes might not be allowed on the walkways on the beach so they have to ride in the road. If your local law enforcement refuses to uphold the laws then talk to them or sue the city over it.
    Bike riders are not required to stay in the bike lanes but they do have laws about runners in bike lanes, they are there for bikes. Fight to change the laws if you know they are wrong or do like others and just ignore them.

    • Ronald Thompson says:

      There are laws about cyclists staying in the bike lane on the roadways. They just ignore it. Today I saw several packs out of their lanes, and one in particular of 30 or so only one rider was in the bike lane. There were cars behind them and they made no move whatsoever to move over to let them go by.

      A little more sensitivity on their part would go a long way. One example is the draw bridge on Jupiter Inlet going south. When the bridge is down the cyclists sneak around the cars to the front of the line and then forming a pack holding back every car that has also been waiting. They need to make a left hand turn coming up so they take up both lanes. There is something missing today in manners i.e. waiting your turn. Just butt your way ahead and hell with anyone else. This is the mentality of the cycle packs today.

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