Cycling Groups at Stop Signs and Red Lights
Linda Asked: My husband and son ride in a large group and wondered how the stop signs should apply when riding. Should cyclists as a group be treated the same as one vehicle? Or would they instead, one rider at a time, roll up to the stop sign, unclip, put their foot down, stop, and then proceed.
According to the Florida Bicycle Association, the Lead Rider is supposed to stop for the group. Then the group can proceed through the intersection.
“Lead riders should stop at all stop signs and red lights—always respecting the right-of-way of others.”
There is no provision in the statutes that allows a group of cyclists to act as a single entity. Each bicycle is a vehicle and each cyclist is responsible for compliance with the laws and must act accordingly.
I believe the quote above from the FBA Group Riding article is not implying that ONLY the lead rider must stop. Rather, it is saying that the lead rider must stop, thereby encouraging the rest in the group to stop.
s. 316.075 – Traffic Control Signal Devices
(c) Steady red indication
1. Vehicular traffic facing a steady red signal shall stop …. and shall remain standing until a green indication is shown.
(Right turns and left turns from a one-way street onto another one-way street are permitted after yielding to all other traffic.)
s. 316.123 – Vehicle Entering Stop or Yield Intersection
(2)(a) ….every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop intersection indicated by a stop sign shall stop …. After having stopped, the driver shall yield the right-of way (as required)
There is no stated requirement in the statutes to unclip and put one foot down. The purpose of the stop sign is to assure safety and designate respective right-of-way. With a little practice, a cyclist approaching a stop sign can stay on the pedals and come to a stop momentarily, then proceed if clear and otherwise safe. Some cyclists can remain stationary indefinitely while standing on the pedals in a track-stand. Simply coming to a stop, even if only for a second, would seem to meet the intent of the statute, if the cyclist otherwise yields as required.
Be cautioned that in some jurisdictions (Not in Florida that I know of), a case has been successfully made that the intent of the law cannot be met without the foot-down stop.
Stopping at a red light or a stop sign becomes much more complex when in a group. We need to consider not only traffic in the other lanes, but the cyclists around us. Extra caution is warranted.
As a municipal law attorney, this is a question I have been asked about, usually in a more general context. The question itself presumes that riding a bicycle in a group or paceline makes it impossible, impractical, or dangerous for each individual cyclist to obey a traffic control device in the normal way he or she would if riding alone. If this is, indeed, the case, then simply riding in such a manner violates the law. It is, by definition, a race, parade, or special event, because these are defined in most municipal codes as activities where the proposed use of the roadway cannot conform to the normal rules of the road. A permit is almost always required, and a police escort and roadway closure and other public works assistance is typical.
Therefore, I would recommend that this is probably not the best choice of topics for an open discussion, as I can assure you that I have been asked by police departments and city officials “what can we do about those annoying wolfpacks of cyclists?” In admitting that pacelines and group rides are inherently incompatible with the existing black letter of the law, you have already answered the question: “no special legislation is necessary–the activity is already an enforceable violation, i.e. holding a race or parade on the roadway without a required permit.”
Bruce raises some excellent points.
Cyclists and others should always be aware of local ordinances and their definitions. Florida statutes do not prevent local authorities from regulating certain activities within their jurisdictions, including:
FS 316.008 – Powers of Local Authorities
(1)(c) Regulating or prohibiting processions or assemblages on the streets and highways….
However, they cannot conflict with the requirement to maintain uniformity throughout the state.
FS 316.007 –Provisions Uniform Throughout the State
The provisions of this chapter shall be applicable and uniform throughout the state …. And no local authority shall enact or enforce any ordinance on a matter covered in this chapter unless expressly authorized ….
Please keep in mind that this site is FLbikelaw.org, and is to discuss Florida statutes. It would be impractical to try to cover all the ordinances in all the municipalities.
FS 316.191 – Racing on Highways, only addresses “motor vehicles” and does not apply to bicyclists. I am not aware of a reference to “parades” in state statutes. If anyone is, please let me know.
There are many counties and municipalities that recognize the health, economic and other benefits of cycling and solicit and encourage cycling activities. I just attended the Mt. Dora Bicycle Festival in which 1000 cyclists from around the state participated. Lake County derives considerable economic benefit from the cyclists that stay in hotels and partake in restaurants for that weekend.
There are many other cycling activities such as the 2000 riders of the recent St. Augustine to Daytona MS Ride. They not only contribute to the local economies, but generate millions of dollars for charity.
The nature of cyclists is to ride in groups for a lot of reasons, their own safety being one. It would seem to be counterproductive for those jurisdictions to impose and strictly enforce onerous regulations against cyclists. The “race or parade” regulations might also prevent the gathering of operators of other legal vehicles on the roadways, such as motorcycles and groups of cars, with similar implications.
Bruce also indicated he had been asked by police departments and city officials “What can we do about those annoying wolfpacks of cyclists?” I am also frequently asked the same question. My answer is always “Know and Enforce the laws!” The purpose of the site is to assist officers in understanding those laws.
I must take issue with some of the other comments.
Bruce stated: “The question itself presumes that riding a bicycle in a group or paceline makes it impossible, impractical, or dangerous for each individual cyclist to obey a traffic control device in the normal way he or she would if riding alone. If this is, indeed, the case, then simply riding in such a manner violates the law.”
Asking the question does not necessarily produce a valid presumption. It is simply a question. To then try to conclude that “If this is, indeed, the case”, cyclists are violating traffic laws, is not logically supportable.
More specifically, I do not agree that cyclists in groups cannot obey the laws. As I stated, each individual has the responsibility act as a separate entity. There is no reason all the cyclists in a group cannot stop at a red light. It is not “impossible, impractical, or dangerous for each individual cyclist to obey a traffic control device”.
Bruce also stated “In admitting that pacelines and group rides are inherently incompatible with the existing black letter of the law, you have already answered the question.”
I don’t believe I admitted to your version, that groups are “inherently incompatible” with the law. Cyclists in groups can easily comply with the strict letter of the law. They can line up single file at red lights one behind the other, and wait their turn to cross the intersection. That would result in inefficient traffic backlogs and might encourage illegal and dangerous behavior of others. Groups of conscientious cyclists will do what is necessary for polite and efficient roadway use, when to do otherwise would contradict common sense and unnecessarily delay other roadway users.
Too frequently, some assume that actions of cyclists, whether alone or in groups, by simply being in the roadway, are illegal and dangerous. It is not the actions of a cyclist or even a small or large group riding legally that creates the unsafe condition. The hazardous conditions arise when impatient drivers pass too closely, pass illegally within substandard-width lanes, and illegally cross the center line to pass with oncoming traffic, blind curves and bridges ahead.
Fortunately, cycling is quite safe and enjoyable and is made even moreso when cyclists understand the laws and operate their vehicles as they would any other vehicle on the roadways, whether alone or in a group.
If there is case law or statewide legal precedent that contradicts what I have said, I welcome the reference.
I wholeheartedly agree with Geo that the typical “club ride” pace line or group can be conducted without any of its individual participants violating any of the provisions of the state vehicle code. However, many cyclists who inquire about this subject seem to assume the opposite, asking, in essence, “well, it’s absolutely impossible to ride in a rapid paceline or in a high-performance group and fullfill every requirement of the law, so the only rational conclusion is that some of the technical provisions of law HAVE to be excused. Which ones? My point is this: that logic is delusional. If performance riding cannot be made compatible with the law, then there is a general consensus outside our tight little circle that performance cycling must be discontinued.
I agree wholeheartedly about the racing groups that seem to think the roads are their race tracks, and disregard the laws and the rights of others.
There was a recent high profile case in Palm Beach County in which a motorist and a racing group had a serious conflict. Apparently, both sides at fault, but bad press for the cycling community in general. Most non-cyclists don’t know the difference, and we all get the bad rep. One very influential cycling group has taken action and is trying to put the pressure on the the other aggressive groups to “be nice” and obey the laws. The law enforcement community seems to be taking action as well. We will see how that plays out.
“What can we do about those annoying wolfpacks of cyclists?”
Here’s a question:
What can we do about those annoying motorists who get so impatient about the extra few seconds they ought to wait for a group of vulnerable humans to safely pass through an intersection?
On the one hand, in theory, everyone obeying each rule of the road to a T would be wonderful and ideal. On the other hand, if obeying the law to a T results in some illogical scenarios that, in all actuality, ends up making a situation worse, we have to consider stepping back from the overall picture, stop nitpicking at the details, and start using our brains and being logical.
After all, Monet didn’t create his works of art for all of us to step right up within inches of the canvas, whip out our magnifying glasses, and point out all the flaws. You have to step back and think about the overall picture.
At the end of the day, when you’re stopped at a stop sign and you see there is a group of human beings approaching that intersection, what kind of person are you going to choose to be in that moment?
One who can spare a few more seconds for their fellow man?
Or one who can’t?
Try as we might, we’re never going to be able to create laws that are 100% blemish-free for every party. That’s when common sense should be allowed to step in. Not to mention basic humanitarianism.