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
8 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.

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