I believe cycling is better governed by principles and by social contract than by laws, but of course that’s just wishful thinking. Cyclists and motorists will inevitably violate both, so we need the law (and law enforcers) to protect us.
Take queue-jumping; the practice of passing stopped traffic (motorists). In most situations it’s probably a bad idea, but there are some in which it can be done both safely and ethically.
The two things you want to avoid when considering queue-jumping are getting right-hooked or squeezed, and making motorists pass you a second time in a narrow lane. But before I get into the specifics of those, let’s be clear; passing on the right is permitted by law.
FS 316.084: When overtaking on the right is permitted
The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass on the right of another vehicle … When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn … 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 … Upon a one-way street …. 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.
While safety should always be your first concern, whether or not to queue-jump, courtesy carries at least as much weight. If my queue-jumping is going to cause a motorist to pass me a second time and in a narrow lane I won’t do it. I queue-jump on US 17/92 between Rollins Street in Orlando and Gay Street in Winter Park because the curb lane is 15-feet wide (wide enough for an 11-foot general use lane and a 4-foot bike lane) and motorists can pass me with ease. During morning commutes I queue-jump on South Street approaching Rosalind Avenue because I turn right at Rosalind, which has a bike lane.
My more “controversial” queue-jump is on Summerlin Avenue between Central Boulevard and South Street. Most of the south-bound traffic is turning left onto Anderson; maybe 10% continue south on Summerlin. I’m only on Summerlin for a single block south of Anderson.
During evening rush hour, traffic often backs up on Summerlin from Anderson all the way up to Central. Were I to adhere strictly to the “first come, first served” principle, it would add about 10 minutes to my trip, nearly doubling it. So I squeeze through down to the signal at South Street. (I’ll address the safety aspect in a bit.)
As Keri noted in her “Smart Moves” post, learning the signals and traffic flow can show you some opportunities. If I can, I try to make the Anderson light just before it turns red. That way, I don’t impede anyone, as I turn left off of Summerlin one block later. If I don’t manage to do that, I might impede one or two motorists for a block; about 10 seconds. I justify it this way; the average driver is going to be sitting at another half-dozen traffic signals, and any delay I cause him is really just lost in the normal variation of red lights and green lights, while I saved myself 10 minutes. (And those drivers could just as easily get stuck behind a motorist turning left onto one of the cross streets.)
It is possible to queue-jump safely. You have to constantly ask yourself two questions. First: “Is it possible that that car can turn across my path or squeeze towards the curb?” A stopped vehicle cannot do either. A moving vehicle won’t turn right unless there’s a driveway or cross-street, but could squeeze you into the curb. I prefer to cue-jump on the roadway. Being on the sidewalk reduces your view of potential conflicts. When the cars around me start moving I stop and merge back in with a gap if possible; when they stop I continue passing. South Street presents very few opportunities for right hooks; Summerlin presents a few more.
Second: “Could an on-coming vehicle turn left across my path?” This could be a problem on any two-way street, including those with bike lanes and wide curb lanes. South Street is one-way, so no problem there. Keep an eye out for gaps on-coming motorists could turn into and assume somebody will. (The one time you don’t, somebody will surprise you!)
Other vehicular cyclists will probably disagree with my tactics, but I’m comfortable with them. Yes, I’ve had a few close calls (each one a learning experience!), but no crashes. I am not running red lights or stop signs. I am merely taking advantage of being on a narrow, highly maneuverable vehicle and improving my mobility to the full extent allowable by law.