Direction of Travel on a Sidewalk

Question

Sharon asked: I live in Manatee County. I have to turn right onto a fairly high trafficked road when exiting my neighborhood. That road has both bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides. There is a stop sign where I make my turn. 3 times now I have almost hit the same guy who is riding his bike on the far left side of the sidewalk, on the left side of the road. In other words, he is riding against the flow of traffic. When I pull up to the stop sign and check for vehicles on the road, he is so far to the left that he’s not in my line of sight, but when I pull out to make my right turn, he is there and has not even slowed down for the cross street. This morning he started yelling at me, even though I apologized. But shouldn’t he be riding on the other side of the road, going with the flow of traffic? And doesn’t he have some responsibility for his own safety? I certainly don’t want to run into him; I don’t want to be the cause of anyone getting hurt, but I’m also not going to be screamed at by someone who is not following the rules of the road.

Answer

A bicyclist on the sidewalk has the same rights and duties as a pedestrian. Unlike a bicyclist in the roadway, there is no requirement that the bicyclist (with the same duties as a pedestrian) travel in a particular direction.

s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations

(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.

A driver at a stop sign must stop and yield to traffic on the highway.

s. 316.123 – Vehicle Entering Stop or Yield Intersection

(1) The right-of-way at an intersection may be indicated by stop signs or yield signs ….

(2)(a) …. every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop intersection indicated by a stop sign shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering the intersection. After having stopped, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle which has entered the intersection from another highway or which is approaching so closely on said highway as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when the driver is moving across or within the intersection.

The highway includes the sidewalk.

s. 316.003 – Definitions

(81) Street or Highway

(a) 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 …

Pedestrians (or bicyclists with the same rights) have the right of way when in a crosswalk.

s. 316.130 Pedestrians; Traffic Regulations

(7)(b) The driver of a vehicle at any crosswalk where signage so indicates shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross a roadway when the pedestrian is in the crosswalk ….

or,

…. steps into the crosswalk and 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.

Simply being in the crosswalk does not necessarily impart right of way. One cannot dart in front of an oncoming vehicle into a crosswalk or otherwise and expect the driver to be able to stop in time.

(8) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.

Another requirement is that a motorist may not stop in a crosswalk to wait for traffic in the roadway to clear.

s. 316.1945Stopping, Standing, or Parking Prohibited in Specified Places

(1) Except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic, or in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer or official traffic control device, no person shall:

(a) Stop, stand, or park a vehicle:

4. On a crosswalk.

Posted in Ask Geo, Rights & Duties, Sidewalks & Crosswalks, Stop Signs & Red Lights
5 comments on “Direction of Travel on a Sidewalk
  1. Phil Leinbach says:

    You need to look to the left AND RIGHT before you pull out. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bicycle, a pedestrian or a motorized (or non-motorized) wheelchair, they can all be coming from the right.

  2. The statutory wording and a practical difficulty make this situation not entirely clear cut at many stop-controlled approaches. The basic problem is that sidewalks are not designed for travel at any particular design speed, as roadways are.

    The legal difficulty is that s. 316.123 requires driver facing a stop sign to yield “to any vehicle…which is approaching so closely on said highway as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when the driver is moving across or within the intersection.”

    Although a cyclist approaching from the driver’s right on a sidewalk is traveling on the “highway”, their entrance into the crosswalk wouldn’t pose an immediate hazard during the time when the driver moved “across or within” the intersection, because the crosswalk isn’t part of the “intersection”, as that term is defined in s. 316.003(32), and s. 316.123 says nothing about a driver’s yielding obligation before this time.

    Thus, the driver’s yielding obligation depends on s. 316.130(7)(b), which requires driver to yield if and when the “pedestrian” (a cyclist approaching on sidewalk, in this case) actually enters the crosswalk. As a practical matter, it would indeed be prudent (i.e., part of the driver’s “due care”) for the driver to wait and yield if they noticed a sidewalk user (runner, cyclist, or other user) approaching the crosswalk and likely to reach it before the driver could clear the crosswalk. However, nothing in the law explicitly requires the driver waiting at a stop sign to wait for and yield to an approaching sidewalk user.

    The practical difficulty is that, at many stop-controlled approaches of minor streets to major roadways in Florida, the eyeballs of a driver who stops at the marked stop line can be 15-20 ft–or more–from the edge of the major roadway, and shrubbery, foliage, fencing or other sight obstructions block the driver’s view of the sidewalk to their right beyond a distance of around 50-60 ft, sometimes not even that much.

    Sidewalk cyclists travel at various speeds; if the cyclist is riding at 12 mph (not unusual), they cover 18 ft per second. At that speed, a driver stopped at the stop line and with sight distance limited as described above has only around 3 seconds max to notice the cyclist, if the cyclist does not reduce speed. This is very little time for a motorist who has already started to move forward to react; they must decide very quickly whether to brake and wait for the cyclist, or to accelerate quickly and make their turn so as to clear the crosswalk.

  3. HarryB says:

    Geo wrote: “A driver at a stop sign must stop and yield to traffic on the highway. s. 316.123 – Vehicle Entering Stop or Yield Intersection . . .”

    The STOP sign only assigns priority (who must yield to whom) to vehicles that are entering the intersection. The bicyclist who is riding on the sidewalk and is approaching the crosswalk will never enter the intersection (except under very rare situations where a crosswalk is marked diagonally across an intersection). This statute does not address the OP’s situation.

    Geo wrote: “Pedestrians (or bicyclists with the same rights) have the right of way when in a crosswalk. s. 316.130 Pedestrians; Traffic Regulations (7)(b) The driver of a vehicle at any crosswalk where signage so indicates shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross a roadway when the pedestrian is in the crosswalk ….”

    I would be surprised if this statute applies to the OP because it only addresses situations in which there is some type of specific signage requiring drivers to stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicyclist to cross the roadway. I do not recall ever seeing such a sign at an intersection, although I have seen a few at mid-block crosswalks.

    The statute that places full responsibility on the OP to yield to the bicyclist is § 316.130(7)(c): “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.”

    Geo wrote: “Simply being in the crosswalk does not necessarily impart right of way. One cannot dart in front of an oncoming vehicle into a crosswalk or otherwise and expect the driver to be able to stop in time.”

    I don’t see the relevance of this statement. The OP wrote that she was facing a STOP sign, although she did not write whether the stop line was before the crosswalk or beyond it. If it is before the crosswalk, § 316.123(2)(a) required her to come to a stop behind the stop line (“. . . every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop intersection indicated by a stop sign shall stop at a clearly marked stop line . . .”), so she would have come to a stop some distance from the crosswalk. The idea that the bicyclist could somehow dart in front of her stopped vehicle and that she could not stop in time makes no sense whatsoever—she was already stopped!

    The only way in which a collision could occur in this situation would be if, after having stopped, the driver pulled forward into the crosswalk as the approaching bicyclist entered the crosswalk. In that case she would be in violation of a number of statutes including § 316.154: “No person shall start a vehicle which is stopped, standing, or parked, unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety”; and § 316.130(7)(c) which I quoted above.

    And it is possible that the driver would also be in violation of § 316.2061 because it forbids a driver from entering “a marked crosswalk unless there is sufficient space on the other side of the . . . crosswalk to accommodate the vehicle the driver is operating without obstructing the passage of . . . pedestrians . . .”

    If the stop bar is beyond the crosswalk (less common), the speed of her vehicle would already be low because she would need to stop soon after driving across the crosswalk. In this case, § 316.130(7)(c) required her to control her speed in such a manner that when the bicyclist entered the crosswalk she would be able to yield to him by slowing or stopping. If her entry into the crosswalk required the bicyclist to take defensive actions such as having to slow down or swerve in order to avoid colliding with her vehicle, she would have violated the bicyclist’s right-of-way.

    Again, the idea that the bicyclist could illegally dart in front of the stopped or almost stopped vehicle in such a manner that the driver could not slow or stop in time is implausible at best.

  4. Geo says:

    Dwight’s comments reminded me that I should have pointed out a responsibility of the cyclist, due care and appropriate speed.

    s. 316.183 – Unlawful Speed
    (1) No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. In every event, speed shall be controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle, or other conveyance or object on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.

    A further consideration is the full wording of the statute that imparts to the bicyclist on the sidewalk the rights and duties of a pedestrian.

    s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations
    (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.

    Note that those rights and duties of a pedestrian are applicable to the bicyclist “under the same circumstances”. Dwight refers to a common speed of a bicyclist as 12 miles per hour. Is a bicyclist at that speed under the same circumstances as a pedestrian? It is possible but uncommon for a pedestrian to be traveling at 12 mph. How about a bicyclist going 20 mph on the sidewalk? Not common, but possible on some sidewalks. Should that be the “same circumstances” as a pedestrian? What should be the rights and duties of a bicyclist traveling at 20 mph on the sidewalk if not entitled to the rights and duties of a pedestrian?

    • HarryB says:

      Surely the legislators know that some people can travel rather quickly on foot—12 mph is not beyond the capability of people who are reasonably fit. Does a pedestrian loose their statutory priority to cross the roadway in a crosswalk if they’re traveling at 12 mph? What about 10 mph, 6 mph, …? The MUTCD recommends that engineers consider the walking speed of pedestrians to be 3.5 feet per second for the purposes of traffic control. Are bicyclists who enter a crosswalk at a speed greater than 2.4 mph in violation of § 316.183 – Unlawful Speed?

      If the legislators trust motorists to safely enter or cross highways with 60 mph traffic, why do we think they are not capable of being able to judge a safe gap in pedestrian or bicycle traffic that is traveling much slower upon the sidewalk, let’s say at 15 mph?

      And what about the motorist’s due care responsibility toward the bicyclist, which you did not mention, as codified in § 316.130(15): “Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian or any person propelling a human-powered vehicle . . .” In other words, even if the bicyclist is “speeding”, the motorist still has a greater responsibility to avoid a collision than does the bicyclist.

      J. Steele Olmstead provided an interesting “insiders” comment a few months ago: “I have defended several of my clients and sued successfully on this issue many times. The speed of my bicyclist client and the priority of a car on a sidewalk were never brought up by anybody in court, least of all the judged.” ( http://flbikelaw.org/2018/02/collision-with-bike-on-a-sidewalk/ ) While his comments were written in the context of civil suits, if there is a statute that restricts the bicyclist’s speed as he or she approaches a crosswalk, I’m sure it would have been raised during the trials.

      Maybe there are mitigating circumstances such as restricted sight lines, but that does not not shift the responsibility to yield from the motorist to the bicyclist. If that is the case, the OP should have been advised to report the hazardous condition to the appropriate authority because she is driving the vehicle that has the potential to seriously harm or even kill the bicyclist, while the chance the latter can seriously injure or kill the OP approaches zero.

      The law is very clear: motorists SHALL yield the right-of-way to bicyclists who are in the crosswalk, which by her own admission, the OP did not.

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