Passing on the Right


Doc asked: If car traffic is traveling slower than I am on my bicycle, may I pass those vehicles on their right? The road is quite wide, with a three to four foot paved shoulder marked by a solid white line, but not marked as a bike lane. Traffic often is at a near standstill at rush hour. I presume on the streets where there is an official and marked bike lane I would be able to continue in the bike lane and pass these slower vehicles on their right.


You are correct about the bike lane, which is part of the roadway.  Watch out when in a bike lane or paved shoulder approaching the intersection due to right-turning motor vehicles.  See this post:

There is no statute that prohibits driving a bicycle on a paved shoulder. The statute that applies to passing on the right is this:

s. 316.084When Overtaking on the Right is Permitted

(1) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass on the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions:

(a) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn;

(b) Upon a street or highway with unobstructed pavement not occupied by parked vehicles of sufficient width for two or more lines of moving traffic in each direction;

(c) Upon a one-way street, or upon any roadway on which traffic is restricted to one direction of movement, where the roadway is free from obstructions and of sufficient width for two or more lines of moving vehicles.

(2) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle on the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety. In no event shall such movement be made by driving off the pavement or main-traveled portion of the roadway.

Strictly speaking, a bicyclist leaving the roadway to pass other vehicles on the right on a paved shoulder, then moving back into the “main-traveled portion of the roadway”, could be construed as violating subsection (2) above. In such a case, it might be argued that the cyclist never left the “pavement”. You will need to seek legal advice, which we don’t do here, to resolve that.

That same bicyclist would be lawful if always remaining on the paved shoulder. Approaching an intersection might make that difficult though, since many undesignated paved shoulders disappear at intersections.

1 Comment on “Passing on the Right

  1. Monitoring and preparing for potential conflicts while passing traffic that is “at a near standstill” on the right on a shoulder can be tricky if there is a commercial driveway somewhere downstream.

    Stopped or stopping drivers in the travel lanes will sometimes leave a gap just ahead of them so as to let an oncoming driver make a left turn into a commercial driveway. If queued vehicles mostly screen the movement from the cyclist’s view, the cyclist may not notice anything amiss until the turning vehicle suddenly emerges into the cyclist’s path.

    Also, if a cyclist riding on the shoulder wants to stay on the same road at a downstream intersection where drivers can turn right, the cyclist needs to find a safe gap to enter the outside lane carrying through traffic, or will arrive at the near corner of the intersection on the shoulder. In the latter case, the most practical way forward may be to use the crosswalk, subject to pedestrian rules.

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