Cycling Groups and Bike Lanes


Traci asked:  We had a large group (about 30) traveling north on A1A in South Palm Beach last Saturday, cycling about 19-20 mph. We were riding 2 abreast, where the riders closest to the curbs were fully in the marked bike lane and the riders closest to the cars were skirting the bike lane line. An officer tailed the group, continuously hitting his siren, then said through his loudspeaker, “If you don’t get inside that white line, I’m going to ticket you.” One of the front riders was riding wide (I’m not sure if we was rotating off the front of the line), and the officer pulled him over and presumably gave him a ticket, because it was a good 15 minutes from then that we picked the rider back up on the return south.

So, what statute says we can get a ticket for not being inside a bike lane? We weren’t impeding traffic…we ride this route every weekend. I can see giving a warning to the guy that was out in the center of the lane…no question, that’s not where he should be.


The statutes do not take into consideration that bicyclists like to ride as a group.  A single bicyclist is operating a single vehicle and the laws are written accordingly.  Cyclists operating as a group do not have any special rights, and their rights and duties apply as operators of single vehicles.

s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations

(1) 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 ….

That statute requires the use of bike lanes under some circumstances.  There are many exceptions.

(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 ….

Bicyclists may ride two or more abreast within a bike lane.  If not in a bike lane, there are limitations. See other posts for a discussion of those limitations.

(6) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway may not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Persons riding two abreast may not impede traffic when traveling at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing and shall ride within a single lane.

One of the many exceptions to the “bike lane” requirement is:

(5)(a) …. except under any of the following situations:

1.  When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

Bicyclists may leave a bike lane to pass another vehicle, including another bicycle.

Cyclists riding in groups typically ride in pace lines and rotate off the front regularly, allowing the front rider who is pulling the group (doing the most work) to cycle to the back to draft and rest, thereby spreading the work evenly through the group.  That is usually done with the front rider dropping off to the left and the group passing on his/her right within the bike lane when present.  Bicycle lanes are usually four feet wide, which does not comfortably accommodate that practice within the lane, so the rider dropping back is usually outside the bike lane.

Note that the subsection above states that bicyclists may leave the bike lane to overtake and pass another bicycle.  It does not allow for the single cyclist to drop back on the left outside the bike lane.

To fully comply with the statute, the group would leave the bike lane to overtake and pass on the left of the cyclist that is dropping back in the bike lane.  While that may be technically correct, it would mean that the group would be outside the bike lane almost always when there is continuous rotation off the pull.

Although legal, that would probably interfere with other traffic and draw the attention of the police, evidence that the laws are not written with cycling groups in mind.

9 Comments on “Cycling Groups and Bike Lanes

  1. It’s also worth noting that to be a bike lane it must be marked as one. Unless signs and markings have been added since Google’s May 2011 Street View photos, South Palm Beach appears to have only a paved shoulder.

  2. Only pavement markings are required for it to be a bike lane.. Signs are optional. See the other posts about bike lanes.

    I thought that was the case. That was one of the communities that was involved in Rosensweig v. FDOT about bike lanes when it was repaved in 2004(?) The cyclists won it at the Court of Appeal, but they would not require FDOT to redo it due to a technicality.

    Traci specifically said they were in an area where it is marked. Also that there was a curb, so it wasn’t paved flush shoulder. That is why I answered as I did.

    Please let me know if it is only a paved shoulder and I will give another answer.

    • People sometimes call any pavement to the right of an edge line a “marked bike lane”, I think because they view the edge line as a bike lane stripe. In Florida, a bicycle lane is present only if bicyclist symbol markings are marked on the pavement. The shared lane marking (“sharrow”) looks somewhat similar to the bicycle lane marking, but uses a bicycle symbol instead of a bicyclist symbol and also includes chevrons (both markings are shown at ). As George mentioned, supplemental use of Bike Lane signs is optional.

      The 2012 AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities describes the minimum operating width of the design bicyclist as 48 in (1.2 m). The design occupancy of a 5 ft bike lane is one line of bicycle traffic.

      • Dwight,

        I can attest to the fact that to many people wrongly interpret any space to the right of a white line on the right edge of the road as being a bike lane even when there isn’t a bike lane icon painted within that space.

        Sadly, some of these people feel so strongly about this that they are more than willing to use their cars to intimidate/force “errant” cyclists “back” into what they perceive to be a “bike lane,” and/or are willing to get out of their cars and actually get into a physical altercation with said cyclists.

  3. Thanks Dwight. I’m waiting for Traci to get back to us and confirm the curb and bike lane markings. If it is a flush shoulder, we will answer accordingly.

  4. It’s also worth noting that if the bike lane is not marked or is marked but occupied by a slower cyclist or other obstruction, it’s perfectly legal to be “out in the center of the lane” (assuming the lane is not super-wide).

  5. There are many circumstances, including passing, that may require a bicyclist to legally use the full lane or otherwise not keep right or in a bicycle lane.

    s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations
    (5)(a)3 …. except under any of the following situations:
    1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
    2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
    3. 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.

    This language will change on October 1, 2012 (corrected as per Dwight’s comment below) when the updated statutes go into effect. See:

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