It was a beautiful Friday morning in April. Sgt. Troy Williamson, Community Relations Officer with the University of Central Florida Police Department was on his way to work when he saw something unusual – a squad of bicyclists, traveling two-abreast, spinning their way up University Boulevard.
A veteran officer, Sgt. Williamson was absolutely certain that bicycles were to ride as far to the right as possible – to stay out of the path of cars. And riding two abreast? Well that was just looking for trouble. He bided his time, waiting for the group to cross into his jurisdiction, then hit the lights.
The leaders of the group – Kitzzy Aviles and Jason Buckner tried to explain that the group was part of a regularly scheduled “Bike Bus” that ran a route from Downtown Orlando to UCF twice a week. They tried to explain that they were operating safely and lawfully, but Sgt. Williamson held firm in his conviction that riding two-abreast during rush hour on University Boulevard was a dangerous activity that impeded the flow of traffic. He issued two citations, one each, to Jason and Kitzzy, for impeding traffic.
Florida Statutes are clear. Section 316.2065(5), the law governing cyclist position on the roadway, states:
A cyclist on a roadway who is not traveling as fast as the “normal speed of traffic” must ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except in the following situations:
- When passing another vehicle;
- When preparing for a left turn;
- When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or surface hazard;
- When a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side.
- A cyclist operating on a one-way street with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as close to the left-hand edge of theroadway as practicable.
The Florida Department of Transportation’s Manual of Uniform Minimum Standards recommends an outside lane width of 14 feet as the “minimum width that will allow passenger cars to safely pass bicyclists within a single lane,” i.e., without the need for passing motorists to change lanes.
The lane in which the Bike Bus was traveling measures 11 feet, and is by law “unshareable.”
Section of 316.2065(6) of the Florida Statutes goes on to say that:
- Cyclists may ride two abreast only within a single lane and when not impeding traffic.
- Cyclists may not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
In a lane “too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side,” the law requires drivers to cross over into the next lane. In this case, cyclists riding two abreast cause no additional impediment to traffic.
Jason and Kitzzy shared this information with the officer, but Sgt. Williamson was firm. The cyclists were polite, and didn’t argue. Instead, they got the officer’s information and called Bike/Walk Central Florida.
When we first contacted Sgt. Williamson he refused to rescind the tickets, even when we escalated the matter to the chief and deputy chief. Officer Williamson was not an unreasonable man. Law enforcement is a tough job and everybody has a ready excuse to justify their behavior. He was just doing his job.
Fortunately, Jason and Kitzzy not only knew the rules of the road, but also had rear-facing high-definition video to back their assertion that they were not impeding traffic. Jason customarily runs front and back video on his bicycle. The Bike Bus had been pulled over before, by officers from other jurisdictions, and Jason and Kitzzy knew it was important to document their ride. The video clearly showed that, other than Sgt. Williamson, who chose to follow the group, other traffic routinely changed lanes and passed without even slowing down.
After reviewing the video, and the Florida Statutes, Sgt. Williamson contacted the Florida Department of Transportation to verify our claims. After several weeks of back and forth, he contacted Jason and Kitzzy to let them know he would be rescinding the tickets.
With all the laws officers need to enforce it’s only natural that they might miss or misinterpret some of the finer details, especially when it comes to rarely enforced laws, such as those governing bicycles operating in traffic.
Let’s be honest, most bicyclists don’t know the laws either.
Jason and Kitzzy did everything right: they knew the law, they documented their ride, and they were polite and respectful to the officer in the field. All of these factors ultimately contributed to the reversal of the tickets.
Bike/Walk Central Florida is happy to have helped keep the Bike Bus rolling and we wish Jason, Kitzzy and their “passengers” safe travels.