Complete Streets Design
Dennis asked: We have a lot of current road “improvement” projects planned or underway in downtown Fort Lauderdale under the Complete Streets program. There is a push to remove vehicle travel lanes in favor of bicycle lanes and in some cases on-street parking. I am, of course, in favor of bicycle lanes but in some cases they will make bike safety worse because the car lanes are very narrow and bike lanes too close. In the case of NE 13th Street between NE 4th Ave and the railroad tracks they intend to install on-street parking in addition to bicycle lanes. I do not believe the street is wide enough to allow all that and a 3-foot space for bicycles. In this case the shared bike lane option would be better suited as has been done in other parts of the city. Can they be legally prevented from installing bicycle lanes if it does not allow the 3-foot space?
The three-foot law doesn’t apply to the roadway itself, but the driver that must comply and leave at least three feet when passing a bicyclist.
s. 316.083 – Overtaking and Passing a Vehicle
The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions, and special rules hereinafter stated:
(1) …. The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle.
Streets should be designed to permit that action. I recommend going directly to the agency having jurisdiction and asking them to see the plans. That would be either the Florida Department of Transportation for state roadways or the county or municipality. FDOT publishes their plans online, so it is a matter of finding the plans for this project. It may be more difficult if it is a county or city street, but you can ask the appropriate agency road department.
Three feet is not wide enough for a bike lane in any of the directives. You can see the design guidelines for state roadways here,
and those for cities and counties in Chapter 9 of the Greenbook here:
You may also want to contact the Broward County Complete Streets Program Manager or the Metro Planning Organization Bike/Ped Coordinator.