Lane Use and Cyclist Safety for OPD

The following is the text provided for the OPD Bulletin. If you would like to duplicate it for your local department, contact me and I will send you the text and illustrations. Many thanks to Officer Edgar for his assistance on this!

(Page 1)

It may not look right because you don’t see it very often, but this is legal and it’s the safest position for a bicycle driver

But don’t cyclists have to ride as far right as practicable?

316.2065(5)(a)(3) states that a cyclist does NOT have to stay right: “When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition, including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, or substandard-width lane, that makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge. For the purposes of this subsection, a “substandard-width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.”

FDOT has determined that 14ft is the minimum width which allows most motor vehicles to pass cyclists within the travel lane. (See second page for diagram.)

The lane pictured above is 13ft wide. Most of the lanes in Orlando are 10-12ft wide. Bicycle drivers are not required to keep right, and are encouraged, for their safety, to occupy enough lane that motorists recognize they must change lanes to pass. By riding this way, cyclists can avoid road hazards, operate more predictably, encourage overtaking motorists to pass safely and discourage common motorist mistakes that result in crashes.

What about traffic flow?

It is rare for a bicycle driver to cause a significant disruption in traffic flow. It’s important to recognize the many causes of delay and congestion on the road. Traffic lights cause tightly-packed platoons of cars. If a cyclist is unfortunate enough to be stopped near the front of the platoon at a red light, it may take a few seconds for traffic to shuffle around him after the light changes. Most likely, all of those cars will be stopping again at the next red light. Bicycles are as normal and necessary a part of the traffic mix as Lynx buses, school buses, garbage trucks, freight trains and traffic lights. Even I-4, which has none of those things, has long delays just from cars and trucks.

Each of these crashes can be prevented by riding farther left

This is an important safety issue!

A significant contributor in crashes between cars and bikes is poor lane positioning by the cyclist. Riding too far right makes the cyclist hard to see and encourages motorists to squeeze past—dangerously close—in narrow lanes. In an effort to increase cycling safety and decrease crashes between bikes and cars, cycling educators are teaching cyclists to ride assertively on our roads.

They need our help.

If you see a cyclist riding in the middle of the lane, it is likely that cyclist is educated about the law and how to ride safely. If a motorist complains about a cyclist riding assertively, take the opportunity to educate that motorist. Making our roads safer and more hospitable to bicycle drivers will make our community healthier and more livable.

(Page 2)

Bicycles are Vehicles

  • Bicycle drivers have the same rights and responsibilities as other drivers.
  • Bicycle drivers must operate with the flow of traffic and obey traffic control devices.
  • 316.2065 (5)(a)(3) applies to MOST roads in Orlando — A cyclist is entitled to the full lane when the lane is “substandard”  (not wide enough to share).
  • 316.151 (1)(b) gives a left-turning bicyclist the right to the full use of the lane from which the turn may legally be made (regardless of lane width).
  • 316.183 Unlawful speed (5) only applies to MOTOR vehicles. 316.2065 (6) Two abreast only creates an unnecessary impediment if the lane is wide enough to share with a car when single file. If the lane is substandard, a single rider is entitled to the full lane so a second rider creates no additional impact.
  • Cyclists are NOT required to ride in any place that would jeopardize their safety, this includes, but is not limited to, the door zone of parked cars, hazardous pavement, shoulders, safety zones, areas with poor sight-lines for crossing traffic, a part of the lane that would invite motorists to squeeze past them.
  • Cyclists are NOT required to ride in empty parking spaces (a parking space is a traffic control device — a designated area for parked cars, NOT moving traffic).

For more information about Florida Bicycle Statutes, visit www.flbikelaw.org


14 replies
  1. John Schubert
    John Schubert says:

    Well done, Keri.
    Hey Eric — most people don’t let go of their preconceptions the first time they hear something. But you gotta start the process.
    It’s amazing what will persuade people. Yes, the science, the facts, the accident analysis are all on our side. But many people you deal with will be as much as, or more, affected by persistence, politeness, personality and by seeing that other people are buying into the concept.

  2. Dan Gutierrez
    Dan Gutierrez says:

    Keri,
    Nice post. One suggestion: The last section mixes vehicles and people. I sugggest the following re-write to make it consistent (and applicable across the entire US for similar state laws):

    Cyclists are Drivers

    ■Bicycle drivers have the same rights and responsibilities as other drivers.
    ■Bicycle drivers must operate with the flow of traffic and obey traffic control devices.
    ■316.2065 (5)(a)(3) applies to MOST roads in Orlando — A cyclist is entitled to the full lane when the lane is “substandard” (not wide enough to share).
    ■316.151 (1)(b) gives a left-turning bicyclist the right to the full use of the lane from which the turn may legally be made (regardless of lane width).
    ■316.183 Unlawful speed (5) only applies to drivers of MOTOR vehicles. 316.2065 (6) Two abreast only creates an unnecessary impediment if the lane is wide enough to share with a car driver when single file. If the lane is substandard, a single bicycle driver is entitled to the full lane so a second bicycle driver creates no additional impact.
    ■Cyclists are NOT required to ride in any place that would jeopardize their safety, this includes, but is not limited to, the door zone of parked cars, hazardous pavement, shoulders, safety zones, areas with poor sight-lines for crossing traffic, a part of the lane that would invite motorists to squeeze past them.
    ■Cyclists are NOT required to ride in empty parking spaces (a parking space is a traffic control device — a designated area for parked cars, NOT moving traffic).

  3. foley1983
    foley1983 says:

    As I cyclist then, its my duty to measure the width of a lane to determine if I can take the lane? How do I know if the lane is 12 feet or 14 feet?

    This is dangerous advice, period and will lead to even more restrictions on us once everyone starts taking the lane. Youre actually of the belief that I need a minimum of four feet to ride?

    A typical sedan is 7 feet wide, plus three for passing leaves me four feet…plenty thank you very much. Pass me please, thats much better than hearing motors grumbling behind me.

    Further, the onus of all those measurements are on us, the cyclists, since all these statutes are speifically mentioned under the cycling laws.

    Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

    • ChipSeal
      ChipSeal says:

      It’s not as hard as you make it out to be!

      Yes I have, in the past, deployed a tape measure to determine the width of the streets nearby. It was an eye opening exercise- The lanes were often much narrower than I had estimated!

      But I have a rule of thumb that works better for me, and you have alluded to it.

      A medium sized car is 6 and a half feet wide. Looking ahead at the traffic you are following, can two medium sized cars fit side-to-side in the travel lane, including mirrors? If they cannot, that travel lane is too narrow to safely share side-to-side with traffic.

      Semi-trailers are 9 and a half feet wide, and they make a good standard to check your estimate with as well.

      Lately, I have found a tape measure a good thing to have with me when stopped by police enforcing the informal “maximum through-put” codes.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      I don’t mind sharing a 12′ road with a car, it’s the SUV or the “bulked up” pickup pulling a maximum width trailer behind it that causes me trouble.

      People driving SUVs and trucks that used to need commercial tags and licenses (before the laws were changed) drive these things like a Corolla.

      So, because I don’t want to keep weaving back and forth, everybody has to be treated pretty much the same way.

    • rodney
      rodney says:

      A typical sedan is 7 feet wide, plus three for passing leaves me four feet…plenty thank you very much.

      Assuming you measured the lane to be 14 feet wide, that would be acceptable. Experience dictates judgment of lane widths, and if in doubt, whip it out! Then you will truly know.

      I was once a lilly-livered, chicken cyclist, who was afraid to drive my bicycle on the roads. Check this out: http://commuteorlando.com/wordpress/2009/05/20/myownignorance/

      If you don’t stand for anything, you fall for everything. Ride On! Ride Big!

    • Eli Damon
      Eli Damon says:

      Foley1983: I don’t claim to know exactly what you are thinking but my best guess is that you are making some false assumptions.

      Assumption 1: You will not encounter anything unexpected or irregular.

      Assumption 2: Other drivers will position themselves in the way that you consider ideal.

      Assumption 3: Three feet of clearance is always sufficient.

  4. Ed W
    Ed W says:

    People learn in different ways. Some of us respond well to visual instruction whether it’s text or video. Others have the ability to listen well, and some few (like me, at times) have to do it the hard way – through experience. I once talked with a co-worker about taking the lane, and he went out that evening to try it for himself. He was pleasantly surprised to discover that motorists on a two-lane road waited to pass safely, and on a 4 lane arterial, they simply changed lanes and ‘flowed’ around him. It was easy and not at all like the nerve wracking experience he’d had when hugging the fog line.

    There’s a wonderful line from an old Firesign Theatre comedy piece in which they were making fun of Eric Von Daniken and his book, Chariots of the Gods. “Everything you know is wrong!” It can be a wrenching experience to find that what we believe about bicycling safety is often so much mush. Take that next step into a larger world of bicycling opportunity by learning some of the principles Keri and others teach. It’s not a big step, but it requires an inquiring mind – one that is willing to separate fact from fantasy.

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