Crossing in Front of Stopped Vehicle
Rob asked: If there is a bike path and there is a SUV blocking the path to turn right on a main road and its front bumper is inches from main road. Does the cyclist wait for the SUV to turn or go in front of the SUV or should go around the back of the SUV? The cyclist is wearing all black with little light and no street lights are on.
The motorist may be in violation of this statute:
s. 316.1945 – Stopping, 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:
1. On a sidewalk
2. Within an intersection.
3. On a crosswalk
9. On a bicycle path.
Although there is no statute that prohibits riding in front of vehicles stopped in a bike path, crosswalk or sidewalk waiting to enter the intersection, extreme caution is recommended. Drivers are not necessarily expecting or looking for a bicyclist. That is particularly true if the cyclist is approaching from the right on a bike path or sidewalk, a paved shoulder or unlawfully riding against the required flow of traffic in the roadway.
It appears that the bicyclist may not have the required lights.
s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations
(7) Every bicycle in use between sunset and sunrise shall be equipped with a lamp on the front exhibiting a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and a lamp and reflector on the rear each exhibiting a red light visible from a distance of 600 feet to the rear. A bicycle or its rider may be equipped with lights or reflectors in addition to those required by this section.
Either wait or go behind the vehicle. That is what I would do. Just make sure you use your lights at night.
for a motorist, sometimes it is necessary to pull forward enough to see around obstructions, like a row of signs and poles that are in direct line of sight to see approaching vehicles. the same for bushes and low canopy trees. i have run into this many times. the vehicle blocking the path is not necessarily violating any laws, it is just necessary to get a clear view. depending on the speeds of the roadway itself, pulling out can be critical to anyone.
The law is seldom enforced in cases like this even with a law enforcement officer sitting right next to the incident. I fight this issue every day and have had motorists threaten to “kick my ass” and “blow my f#$%^n head off” because I tell them it’s illegal to block a crosswalk. A little law enforcement would be appreciated (in Pinellas county).
S. 316.19459(1) includes in important qualification: “Except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic…” At many stop-controlled minor-street approaches to major streets, a stopped driver’s view of traffic approaching from the left is too limited to be confident of avoiding conflict (i.e., after turning onto the major road) if the driver has stopped before a stop line (of, if no stop line is marked, before the crosswalk)
The 85th percentile speed on a major street in a Florida urban area can easily be 45 mph or greater. If so, a driver on a minor-street approach needs to be able to see traffic approaching from the left for a distance of several hundred feet. Because of shrubbery, foliage, or other sight obstructions, this sight distance may not be available unless the driver, having stopped at the legally required location, creeps forward to get a better view.
This is a problem created by designers who think it is perfectly acceptable for motorists to block the travels of inferior bicyclists so the superior motorist can go on his or her way.
Sections 316.123 and 316.125 grant vehicles (including bicycles) traveling upon a through highway (not just the roadway) the superior right to continue on their travels in preference to those drivers who wish to enter or cross said highway from a minor highway, a driveway, alley, etc.
If the motorist needs to “creep forward to get a better view” and obstructs the bicyclist who is traveling on the through highway (whether on the sidewalk, bike path, shared-use path, or the bike lane), he or she has violated the bicyclist’s right-of-way.
If the driver on the minor street is unable to see approaching traffic because of obstructions and needs to block a sidewalk, bicycle path or lane in order to safely enter or cross the highway, the design speed of the highway is too high. We need organizations that claim to advocate for bicyclists to challenge these dangerous auto-centric designs, not defend them.
I submit that § 316.1945(1) is intended to deal with temporary conditions that arise unexpectedly, not permanent situations that have been created by our auto-centric DOTs.
At many locations (including many commercial driveways), it’s also necessary for a stopped driver to move forward to be able to see any cyclist who might be approaching on the sidewalk. There are many such side streets and driveways where I live (Tallahassee).
At side road crossings in the Netherlands, bike paths are often set far enough back from the parallel major road that a side road motorist preparing to turn onto the major road can remain stopped, if necessary, between the bike path and the major road, without obstructing the bike path crossing. Most sidewalks in Florida have not been designed as bike paths, and such offsets are usually not available.
At locations where Dutch bike paths cross side roads close to (less than a Dutch car length from) a parallel higher-volume roadway, Dutch cyclists also sometimes experience conflicts with side road motorists waiting to turn onto the busier roadway who block the bike path crossing.
As a runner who uses sidewalks, I often encounter motorists obstructing my crossing of a side street or business driveway. Sometimes the motorists notice me approaching from their right and back up to let me cross in the crosswalk or sidewalk crossing area, but most don’t, or can’t back up because another motorist has already pulled up behind them.
The legislature grants bicyclists the right to use the sidewalk (subject to local laws to the contrary), so from a legal perspective they are shared-use paths. But FDOT (which sets state-wide standards for the design of highways) thumbs its proverbial nose at the legislature and designs sidewalks only for pedestrians, even going so far as to blatantly contradict the law by officially claiming: “Sidewalks are NOT a bike facility!” (emphasis by FDOT) 
And when local jurisdictions through which a state highway runs want a shared-use path instead of a sidewalk, FDOT does everything within its power to thwart what the legislature has decreed and the local people want by various shameful tactics.
As Dwight noted, the Dutch have demonstrated that it is possible to design facilities that meet the needs of motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities far better than our auto-centric designs. And consequently their serious injury and fatality rates for all highway users are dramatically lower than here in the US.
If FDOT’s design standards for sidewalks complied with the mandate from the legislature, there is good reason to believe that our serious injury and fatality rates among pedestrians and bicyclists would be dramatically lower. But we refuse to learn from the Dutch, as FDOT’s (and other state DOTs’) standards so clearly reveal.
Just to clarify, “shared-use path” is not defined in Florida Statutes, and “sidewalk” is defined simply as “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” (s. 316.003(74))–nothing about cyclists in there.
A cyclist does have a right to travel on a sidewalk, unless prohibited by the owning jurisdiction, inasmuch as no state law prohibits such use. Nothing in Statutes expresses a “mandate” to design sidewalks in any road or street project to shared-use path criteria, however.
I used the term “shared-use path” to describe that part of a highway which may legally be used by pedestrians and bicyclists in the same manner as the term “shared lane” is used to describe that part of a highway which may legally be used by motor vehicles and bicycles. The fact that the terms are not defined in the statutes has no bearing on how they legally function.
If the legislature had not codified §§ 316.2065(9) and 316.2065(10), bicyclists could still legally ride upon sidewalks (subject to local laws to the contrary), although their legal status might be weak. But the legislature specifically granted bicyclists the right to use the sidewalk, and even went so far as to make that right *as strong* as that of pedestrians.
The situation is analogous to that of bicyclists who ride on the roadway. Even if § 316.2065 did not exist, bicyclists could still legally ride on roadways (subject to local laws to the contrary), but with the codification of that section their right to do so became *as strong* as that of the drivers of other vehicles.
In fact, notice that the wording of the two sections is *essentially identical*: “A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk . . . has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances” [§ 316.2065(9)], and “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 . . .” [§ 316.2065(1)]
The state of Florida not only permits bicyclists to ride upon its sidewalks and roadways, it has specifically *invited* them to do so through the legislative process by granting them the same legal protections and placing upon them the same legal duties as the other users of the respective ways.
I submit that this invitation creates a legal responsibility upon FDOT to design standards that meet the needs of bicyclists who share the roadway with motorists…and bicyclists who share the sidewalk with pedestrians. By officially disfavoring the one it has illegally discriminated against them.
Okay, some history.
The intent of the 1983 legislative amendments concerned with cyclist use of sidewalks (in the subsection now numbered s. 316.2065(9)) was not to establish a right for cyclists to use sidewalks in Florida. Cyclists who considered it preferable to do so had been riding on sidewalks for decades; it was a well established practice, and nothing prohibited it.
The intent was actually to release cyclists from a heretofore widely perceived >requirement< to use sidewalks or sidepaths where available, as well as to establish that a cyclist's rights and duties on sidewalk were not those of a driver, but those of a pedestrian–and that a sidewalk rider had to yield to pedestrian sidewalk user.
Prior to adoption of the 1983 amendments, s. 316.2065 contained a requirement that
"Wherever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway."
Problems were numerous. "Usable" was variously interpreted, and most parallel bike paths did not meet contemporary published design guidelines for bike paths (although designated with bike path signs, they often didn't differ very much from sidewalks); in fact, AASHTO guidance warned about the problems likely to arise with provision of a sidepath. This led to lawsuits filed by sidepath riders injured in collisions. Where sidepaths crossed side streets, stop signs were usually posted for path traffic, although this did not reliably prevent conflicts. Technically, cyclists only had to use designated sidepaths, but motorists tended to interpret any sidewalk along a road as "the bike path" and to expect cyclists to keep off the roadway.
With the rescission of the "usable path" requirement in 1983, bike path signing was removed from most sidepaths, and cyclist use of sidewalks was more clearly recognized as purely optional. The new provision re "human power" vehicle use of sidewalk that was added at this time ("A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk . . . has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances") implicitly recognized pedestrians as the design users of sidewalks.
You wrote: “The intent of the 1983 legislative amendments concerned with cyclist use of sidewalks (in the subsection now numbered s. 316.2065(9)) was not to establish a right for cyclists to use sidewalks in Florida.”
It is a well established principal of American law that the legislature meant what it wrote unless the language is ambiguous or contradicts other laws. The actual language of § 316.2065(9) is unambiguous: people have the right to ride bicycles upon sidewalks, and that right is a strong as that of pedestrians who are traveling upon the same way. Of course, that is not to say that there may not be implications the legislature may, or may not, have anticipated, but that does not change the law itself.
Are you saying this section does *not* establish a right for people to ride bicycles upon sidewalks, or that the legislature did not intend to grant that right? I really do not understand what you are saying, and your next paragraph is even less clear: how does this law “release” bicyclists from some perceived non-legal requirement? Please be so kind as to provide some documentation such as a court ruling or the opinion of the Attorney General that supports your claim that the legislature’s intent was something other than what it wrote.
However, I agree that this section established “that a cyclist’s rights and duties on sidewalk were not those of a driver”, something I wish FBA could understand.
Regarding § 316.1995 you wrote: “The new provision re ‘human power’ vehicle use of sidewalk that was added at this time . . . implicitly recognized pedestrians as the design users of sidewalks.”
If the legislature felt the need to recognize pedestrians as the “design user” (an engineering, not legal, term) of sidewalks, why didn’t it say so in plain language? Well, it did…in § 316.003(74): “SIDEWALK-That portion of a street . . . intended for use by pedestrians.” Considering the fact that this definition had been codified way back in the 1930’s, and has remained unchanged since, it is highly unlikely that the legislature felt the need to imply what it had already very clearly stated.
Prior to 1983, § 316.1995 read: “Driving upon a sidewalk.-No person shall drive any vehicle upon a sidewalk or sidewalk area except upon a permanent or duly authorized temporary driveway.” At that time a bicycle was defined as “Any device propelled by human power . . .”, so this section did not forbid bicyclists from riding upon sidewalks. But in 1983 the definition of bicycle was changed to: “Every vehicle propelled solely by human power . . .” and § 316.1995 was changed to: “Driving upon a sidewalk.-No person shall drive any vehicle other than by human power upon a sidewalk . . ”
Pedestrians are not mentioned nor even alluded to in this statute—its scope is strictly limited to vehicles, including bicycles. Permit me to draw your attention to the Traffic Laws Annotated, 1979 (pg 299) which contains this Historical Note regarding § 11-1103 of the Uniform Vehicle Code (the same language as § 316.1995, Fla. Stat.): “The section was revised in 1975 to make perfectly clear that it does not, and was never intended to, apply to bicycles and other devices moved solely by human power. See also, UVC § 11-1209, infra.” And § 11-1209(c) reads: “A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.”
I don’t know what the legislators’ intent was, but it doesn’t matter because the language unambiguously deals with what types of vehicles may be driven upon sidewalks, and has absolutely nothing to do with pedestrians because they are not vehicles.
The fact remains that the legislature has made it abundantly clear that pedestrians and bicyclists (who are propelling their bicycles solely by human power) have an equal right to travel upon sidewalks. Sadly, this right to share the *highway* has been drowned out by those who those who demand that bicyclists must “share the road”.
There was nothing wrong with what became known as the “mandatory sidepath law”—the problem is the failure of our auto-centric transportation designers and their defenders in the bicycle advocacy world to create standards for relatively safe sidepaths, that is, ways that are safer than “sharing the road” with deadly, high speed motorized traffic. The Dutch have clearly demonstrated that it can be done, but instead of AASHTO and DOTs like FDOT tackling the design problems, they were content to sit back and harp against them…and continue to do so to this very day.
Thankfully NACTO is coming to the rescue by attempting to deal with these shameful tactics, but they are years behind the Dutch, so we have a lot of catching up to do. I don’t recommend that anyone hold their breath waiting for FDOT to move out of the dark ages anytime soon.
Harry, if the provision adopted in 1983 and now numbered s. 316.2065(9) granted the right of cyclists to ride on sidewalks, then were all the cyclists riding on sidewalks before 1983 doing so illegally?
Of course not; it was a right already established in custom.
S. 316.2065(9) does >notalready< an established customary practice, and need not be specifically authorized.
Similarly, chapter 316 nowhere says that a person driving a vehicle has the right to drive on streets and highways. It refers to "right to travel" in a few places, but takes for granted that such right already exists, albeit is one that is subject to the various (and numerous) qualifications and restrictions spelled out in chapter 316 and in other chapters of the Motor Vehicles Code.
As you've observed, the definition of "Bicycle" was changed from "device" to "vehicle" in 1983, the same year that the provision now numbered s. 316.2065(9) was added. This made it necessary to change the prohibition of driving on a sidewalk in s. 316.1995 to include the "other than by human power" exception. However, by providing in s. 316.2065(9) that a sidewalk cyclist had the rights and duties of "a pedestrian", the 1983 changes helped make more clear that a sidewalk cyclist did not have the rights and duties of a driver, and that pedestrians were (still) the priority users on sidewalks. Prior to 1983, although "Sidewalk" was defined as "…intended for the use of pedestrians", the Statutes didn't say anything about what rules a cyclist riding on a sidewalk was to observe.
Third paragraph above is garbled for some reason. It was supposed to read:
“S. 316.2065(9) does not say that cyclists have the right to ride on sidewalks; it says that a cyclist (“person propelling a vehicle by human power”) riding on sidewalk has the rights and duties of a pedestrian, and must yield to a pedestrian. The wording implicitly recognizes that cycling on the sidewalk was >already< an established customary practice, and need not be specifically authorized.
The OP described a situation in which a motor vehicle was blocking a “bike path” upon which a bicyclist was traveling, and I surmised said path met the definition of “sidewalk” where bicyclists have the same rights and duties as pedestrians as codified in § 316.2065(9). If the path were somehow signed as being something other than a sidewalk, my comments would have been different.
I submit this subsection does more than define bicyclists’ rights vis-à-vis other highway users because prior to the codification of that subsection, people riding bicycles upon a sidewalk were permitted users (“licensees”) because they were traveling on a public way upon which they were not forbidden to ride. Consequently, the owning jurisdiction’s duty of care would not have exceeded its responsibility to the intended users (“invitees”) of the sidewalk, namely pedestrians.
However, once the legislature defined the rights of bicyclists who are riding upon a sidewalk as being the same as those of pedestrians under the same circumstances, bicyclists also became intended users of the sidewalk. Consequently, the jurisdiction now owes the bicyclist the same duty of care as the pedestrian, and its failure to design and maintain sidewalks for both users would, I submit, be evidence it breached its duty of care if a bicyclist were injured because the sidewalk was not designed for bicyclists.
This legal concept should not be foreign to people who have advocated for the right of bicyclists to share the roadway with motorized traffic. Prior to the codification of that right in 1963, I do not believe there was any legal responsibility for a jurisdiction to take the unique needs of people riding bicycles into account because they were licensees (permitted users). For example, longitudinal gaps in the roadway’s pavement or grates with drainage slots that run parallel to the direction of travel that might trap bicyclists’ wheels would not have created any liability for the jurisdiction because they did not constitute a hazard for the intended users, namely motorists, for whom the roadway had been designed and maintained.
However, after § 317.0105, Fla. Stat. (1963) and subsequent revisions were codified, jurisdictions could no longer ignore the unique operating characteristics of bicycles that were riding upon its roadways because they were now invitees (intended users). For example, FDOT was found negligent for injuries that were a direct result of a bicyclist’s wheel dropping into a bridge counterweight slot and the rider then being thrown over the handlebars onto the bridge’s grating: “(FDOT) had a duty to maintain and operate a safe road for all users”, and “Highway professionals are charged to design, operate, and maintain highways for the reasonably prudent traveler.”  Undoubtedly thousands of other intended users of that bridge, namely motorists, had driven over the same slot without a problem, but it constituted a hazard for the other intended user, namely the bicyclist, which FDOT had ignored.
I see no difference between the liabilities that jurisdictions incur when they neglect the needs of bicyclists who are riding on sidewalks and when they are riding on the roadway. Bicyclists have the same right to ride upon the sidewalk as they do the roadway, so why would the responsibility to design and maintain the respective facilities be different? I can find no evidence that the legislature has even implied that one facility is preferred above the other, so why do we permit FDOT to favor one over the other with its design standards?
 FHWA Course on Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation, pg 8-7
The OP isn’t concerned with sidewalks, but with the conflicts that can occur at a side-street connection (to a “main road”) when a motorist is blocking the crosswalk and a cyclist wants to cross.
OP didn’t say whether the location was signal- or stop-controlled. Most (not all) side-street connections to state in urban areas are signalized. At signalized locations, a motorist waiting to proceed through or turn left has no need to creep forward into the crosswalk for a better view; they can and should wait for their green signal.
A motorist who wants to turn right (after stopping on red) may need to advance across the crosswalk (after yielding to a pedestrian or cyclist crossing in it) to get a better view of approaching traffic (e.g., because their view of traffic approaching from the left has been blocked by a stopped vehicle on their left). In this case, they might temporarily block some portion of the crosswalk for a pedestrian or cyclist who has just arrived at the corner (still in time to cross with the Walk indication) and wants to cross.
At some stop-controlled connections to major roads (state, county, or city), where sight distance is limited, a motorist does need to move forward to obtain a better view, possibly blocking the crosswalk. As long as they’ve (1) made the initial stop and (2) yielded to a pedestrian or cyclist in the crosswalk before moving forward, this is not illegal, and doesn’t pose a risk of injury to a cyclist approaching on the sidewalk, unless the cyclist continues at speed into the crosswalk.
Your last two paragraphs return us to the heart of our disagreement because you claim that in many situations motorists may legally impede bicyclists (and I assume pedestrians) who are traveling upon the sidewalk and are about to enter the crosswalk. In other words, you claim that the motorists’ “need to move forward to obtain a better view, possibly blocking the crosswalk” is superior to the right of the pedestrian or bicyclist who is traveling on the through highway on the sidewalk to proceed without having to yield.
Permit me to continue your line of reasoning by moving the point of conflict a little closer to the center of the highway: “At some connections to major roads (state, county, or city), where sight distance is limited, a motorist does need to move forward to obtain a better view, possibly blocking the bike lane and/or travel lane. As long as they’ve (1) made the initial stop and (2) yielded to vehicles in the bike lane or travel lane before moving forward, this is not illegal, and doesn’t pose a risk of collision with a vehicle approaching on said bike lane or travel lane, unless the driver of the vehicle continues at speed into the intersection.”
I suspect you would not defend this similar scenario, but even if you did, I maintain both are illegal.
The right of a person traveling upon a through highway, whether on the roadway or the sidewalk/crosswalk, is superior to the desire of a driver to enter or cross said highway (unless priority is assigned by traffic signals) as codified in § 316.121 and § 316.130(7) respectively. And I can find no statute that grants an impatient driver on the minor highway the right to muscle his or her way forward by blocking traffic upon the sidewalk/crosswalk or the roadway/intersection, nor have I found any case law to support that claim.
But, in practical terms, I doubt one would be able to find an example of the hypothetical situation I described while there are undoubtedly thousands of the ones you described. The reason is simple: No jurisdiction would design and construct an intersection where the sight lines are so constrained that motorists need to creep forward into the intersection to obtain a better view of conflicting traffic, thereby forcing traffic on the through highway to have to yield to them. This would lead to thousands of crashes and expose the jurisdiction to legal liabilities because of the hazardous design.
But designing the approaches to intersections and driveways with sight lines that are so constrained that motorists need to creep forward and block the crosswalk in order to gain a better view of conflicting traffic is commonplace, revealing the deeply ingrained auto-centric bias that is alive and well within FDOT.
I am nearing the culmination of a three and a half year battle with FDOT over the design of a crossing on a shared-use path that involves this same bias, including a right turn on red situation. In our discussions it become clear that the convenience of motorists trumps the rights and safety of bicyclists who just need to learn to stay out of the way because they have the most to loose. Your comments reminded me of that fight.
On a positive note, I recently won a battle against that same bias when FDOT finally agreed to my request to signalize a crosswalk at a “Y” shaped intersection. It had claimed that the right of motorists to continue through the intersection was superior to the right of pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the roadway, even going so far to prove its point by ripping out the existing ADA mats, curb ramps, and the pedestrian refuge island in an effort to force them to detour some 550 feet to cross at a “nearby” signalized driveway. But after I appealed to the district secretary the DOT agreed to my request to signalize the crosswalk, and will now also need to replace the curb ramps and refuge island it recently tore out.
Harry, moving across a crosswalk and stopping part way into the intersection to get a better view of approaching traffic before proceeding is, almost always, both illegal and unnecessary. Stopping in an intersection is prohibited by s. 316.1945(1)(a), “Except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic…”
Timely view of traffic approaching from the left is occasionally obstructed by a vehicle parked illegally close to the intersection along the approach side of the crossing roadway, or in a bicycle lane (also illegal). If the intersection is signalized, though, a motorist approaching the crossing roadway should have no need to move forward for a better view, unless they want to make a right turn (as we’ve discussed).
At unsignalized intersections, it’s extremely rare, in my experience, to have to stop part way into the intersection to get a better view. If sight distance is this poor, presumably no sidewalk is even present; in any case, if sight distance is (ordinarily) this poor, and measures to improve it have been deemed impractical, the managing jurisdiction would ordinarily signalize the intersection.
Re unsignalized locations, nothing in §§316.121 or 316.130 says a sidewalk user approaching a crosswalk has a right to enter the crosswalk and cross that is superior to the right of a driver who has initially stopped before the crosswalk to move forward and prepare to cross or turn into the crossing roadway. Neither such “right” is even mentioned.
If the driver doesn’t need to stop in the crosswalk to get an adequate view of approaching traffic (and then wait for an adequate gap), it is indeed illegal to stop in the crosswalk. If it’s necessary to get an adequate view, though, it’s a case of first come, first served; the driver arrived first. If the sidewalk user arrived at the crosswalk first, the driver should wait for them to cross before moving forward.
Dwight wrote: “If the driver doesn’t need to stop in the crosswalk to get an adequate view of approaching traffic (and then wait for an adequate gap), it is indeed illegal to stop in the crosswalk. If it’s necessary to get an adequate view, though, it’s a case of first come, first served; the driver arrived first. If the sidewalk user arrived at the crosswalk first, the driver should wait for them to cross before moving forward.”
Not only is there no legal support for this claim of “first come, first served” in this type of situation, it ignores the history of the catastrophic failure of this concept to safely resolve conflicts between deadly motor vehicles and pedestrians—Geo’s answer noted the danger this situation created for the bicyclist. During the first half of the 20th century the courts grappled with this problem to no avail, so finally the legislature addressed it by assigning right-of-way based on location rather than arrival time.
This radical change was accomplished by dividing the roadway into three distinct sections or zones: 1) crosswalks at unsignalized intersections or mid-block where motorists are always required to yield to pedestrians crossing the roadway, 2) crosswalks at signalized intersections or mid-block where priority is alternately assigned by traffic control signals, and 3) the roadway between crosswalks where pedestrians are always required to yield to motorists.
No longer are the rights and duties of motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists on the highway equal and reciprocal in these types of situations because the legislature has designated one user as the favored one by requiring the other user to yield depending on the location of the conflict. By reviewing the relevant statutes I hope to show that the concept of “first come, first served” is contrary to state law in this situation.
A STOP sign undoubtedly faced the motorist as he or she approached the intersection, so the motorist’s responsibility was defined in § 316.123(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 . . ..”
How about the person traveling upon the sidewalk who is approaching, or is already on this unsignalized crosswalk? Section 316.130(2) states that “pedestrians shall be subject to traffic control signals at intersections . . ., but at all other places pedestrians shall be accorded the privileges and be subject to the restrictions stated in this chapter.” The legislature chose not to place any restriction upon a person who is approaching, or is on, this crosswalk, so he or she does not need to slow down or stop. Or, to put it another way, the pedestrian or bicyclist is the privileged or favored user of this section of the roadway.
Contrast this with “first come, first served” rules at, let’s say, intersections: “At a four-way stop intersection, the driver of the first vehicle to stop at the intersection shall be the first to proceed.” [§ 316.123(2)(b)] In this situation, the favored user is the one who arrived first. The rules of right-of-way at an unsignalized crosswalk at an intersection or mid-block, and a four-way stop controlled intersection are dramatically different.
Once the motorist had stopped, he or she became subject to § 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.” This law forbids the motorist from starting the stopped vehicle until no one who is in the crosswalk or who might enter the crosswalk would be endangered by the vehicle because a) as we saw, there is no law that requires sidewalk users to slow down or stop before entering a crosswalk, and b) § 316.130(7)(c) requires motorists to yield to pedestrians (or bicyclists) who are in the crosswalk: “When traffic control signals are not in place . . 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 . . ..”
Once the motorist has made sure that no one who is in the crosswalk or about to enter it will be endangered by starting his stopped vehicle, he or she may begin to pay attention to traffic on the conflicting roadway in accordance with the second part of § 316.123(2)(a): “After having stopped, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle . . ..” But, all the while, the motorist is still required to continue to yield to any person who might be entering the crosswalk, regardless of how long it takes for traffic in the intersection to clear—blocking the path of the pedestrian or bicyclist is prima facie evidence of the failure to yield to the favored user of this section of the roadway.