Exclusive or Preferential
Jeff asked: I’m having a technical discussion with someone over who may use a bicycle lane. I believe a bicycle lane is a preferential lane for bicycles as opposed to an exclusive lane for bicycles. The definition is important.
Two practical examples of why this is important are:
a. When there is a bicycle lane to the right of an optional right turn/through lane, should the motorist clear the bicycle lane and then move to the right side of the roadway (including the bicycle lane) to begin a proper right turn? May the turn be started from the general traffic lane instead?
b. When there is room to safely pass (with 3′ clearance) a cyclist on the right by using the paved surface including the bicycle lane, is this legal?
You will find most of the answers to both questions in these posts. Although the post on Right Turns is about stopped vehicles at an intersection, the same principles apply to those that are moving. Please note Dwight Kingsbury’s comment about passing on the right.
That leaves the question of “exclusive’ or “preferential” not fully answered. Further information is in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
Section 1A.13 Definitions of Headings, Words, and Phrases in this Manual
153. Preferential Lane—A highway lane reserved for the exclusive use of one or more specific types of vehicles or vehicles with at least a specific number of occupants.
As we see, the MUTCD does not make a distinction between the two terms for bicycle lanes. Preferential is exclusive.
These are the two statutes that mention “exclusive” in relation to bicycle lanes.
s. 316.1945 – Stopping, Standing, or Parking Prohibited in Specified Places
6. On an exclusive bicycle lane.
s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations
(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.
Obviously, “exclusive” as it applies to bicycle lanes does not mean total exclusion, as the Webster’s definition states:
Not admitting of something else, incompatible
Lacking a statutory definition of “exclusive” as is applies to bicycle lanes, we must consider bicycle lanes to be primarily for the use of bicyclists, but due to their location between the main traveled roadway and all destinations, we must accept the many circumstances in which motor vehicles will be legally present in bike lanes. Bicyclists will always have priority over other traffic when in bike lanes though.
S. 316.151 requires that “Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway”. Preparing a right turn in this manner has three advantages:
(1) it puts the turning driver to the right of through traffic on the roadway, eliminating or greatly reducing risk that the driver’s turn might cut off an overtaking driver who was traveling through; (2) it helps convey the driver’s intent to turn right (even if they neglect to activate their right-turn indicator); (3) it maximizes the unobstructed roadway width available for same-direction travel, reducing risk of a rear-end collision with an overtaking through driver as the turning driver slows to turn.
So at not to discourage right-turning drivers from entering a bike lane that runs to the right of a through-right lane, Florida design standards for bike lane markings indicate that the bike lane in this situation (bike lane next to curb or flush shoulder) is to use a dashed (“skip”) pattern for at least 50 ft on the final approach.
Regardless of whether a bike lane or other (wide) lane space is available, turning drivers in a through-right lane typically do not begin entering the space closest to the curb or traveled-way edge more than 50-60 ft from the intersection, because doing so would inconveniently break their turn into two maneuvers: an initial movement into the space close to the curb or edge, followed by a tight (slower) turn at the corner. Drivers on an approach with a through-right lane can (typically) turn off the roadway faster by initiating a single (wider) turning maneuver as they approach the corner, using 50 ft or less of the longitudinal length of any bike lane space.
Large (long) vehicles such as combination (tractor-semitrailer) trucks need to make wider turns, because their wheels off-track (turn on paths inside the paths of the front wheels). If drivers of long vehicles approached the right curb as they approached a corner to turn right, the rear wheels would run over the corner when they turned, damaging curbs, curb ramps, sidewalk pavement, etc., and endangering pedestrians. As it is not “practicable” for them to move toward the curb to turn, turning long vehicles in through-right lanes do not ordinarily enter bike lanes on the approaches.