A Department Bulletin to Help Officers Understand Cyclist Safety and Lane Use
The following text was created for the Orlando Police Department Bulletin. This was an initiative by Officer Bill Edgar, a member of our officer advisory panel. If you would like to duplicate it for distribution in your department, please contact us and we will send you the text and illustrations.
But don’t cyclists have to ride as far right as practicable?
316.2065(5)(a)(3) states that a cyclist does NOT have to stay right: “When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition, including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, or substandard-width lane, that makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge. 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.”
FDOT has determined that 14ft is the minimum width which allows most motor vehicles to pass cyclists within the travel lane. (See second page for diagram.)
The lane pictured above is 13ft wide. Most of the lanes in Orlando are 10-12ft wide. Bicycle drivers are not required to keep right, and are encouraged, for their safety, to occupy enough lane that motorists recognize they must change lanes to pass. By riding this way, cyclists can avoid road hazards, operate more predictably, encourage overtaking motorists to pass safely and discourage common motorist mistakes that result in crashes.
What about traffic flow?
It is rare for a bicycle driver to cause a significant disruption in traffic flow. It’s important to recognize the many causes of delay and congestion on the road. Traffic lights cause tightly-packed platoons of cars. If a cyclist is unfortunate enough to be stopped near the front of the platoon at a red light, it may take a few seconds for traffic to shuffle around him after the light changes. Most likely, all of those cars will be stopping again at the next red light. Bicycles are as normal and necessary a part of the traffic mix as Lynx buses, school buses, garbage trucks, freight trains and traffic lights. Even I-4, which has none of those things, has long delays just from cars and trucks.
This is an important safety issue!
A significant contributor in crashes between cars and bikes is poor lane positioning by the cyclist. Riding too far right makes the cyclist hard to see and encourages motorists to squeeze past—dangerously close—in narrow lanes. In an effort to increase cycling safety and decrease crashes between bikes and cars, cycling educators are teaching cyclists to ride assertively on our roads.
They need our help.
If you see a cyclist riding in the middle of the lane, it is likely that cyclist is educated about the law and how to ride safely. If a motorist complains about a cyclist riding assertively, take the opportunity to educate that motorist. Making our roads safer and more hospitable to bicycle drivers will make our community healthier and more livable.
Bicycles are Vehicles
- Bicycle drivers have the same rights and responsibilities as other drivers.
- Bicycle drivers must operate with the flow of traffic and obey traffic control devices.
- 316.2065 (5)(a)(3) applies to MOST roads in Orlando — A cyclist is entitled to the full lane when the lane is “substandard” (not wide enough to share).
- 316.151 (1)(b) gives a left-turning bicyclist the right to the full use of the lane from which the turn may legally be made (regardless of lane width).
- 316.183 Unlawful speed (5) only applies to MOTOR vehicles. 316.2065 (6) Two abreast only creates an unnecessary impediment if the lane is wide enough to share with a car when single file. If the lane is substandard, a single rider is entitled to the full lane so a second rider creates no additional impact.
- Cyclists are NOT required to ride in any place that would jeopardize their safety, this includes, but is not limited to, the door zone of parked cars, hazardous pavement, shoulders, safety zones, areas with poor sight-lines for crossing traffic, a part of the lane that would invite motorists to squeeze past them.
- Cyclists are NOT required to ride in empty parking spaces (a parking space is a traffic control device — a designated area for parked cars, NOT moving traffic).
For more information about Florida Bicycle Statutes, visit www.flbikelaw.org