Our original mission was to work with Brad’s friend Katherine, who wants to use her bike for transportation but has been fearful of Orlando traffic. A secondary mission was to get video of the transition from lane control all the way from downtown to the bike lane south of Pineloch, and the dramatic decrease in comfort we had experienced when entering the bike lane the previous week.
In the meantime, Mr. Simpson was putting together a story on HB971 and called for an interview. So we invited him to ride along. I have more to write about the ride and a video to share in a forthcoming post, but first I want to talk more about HB971.
You can listen to Mr. Simpson’s story here or read the transcript here. Keep in mind, that when you are interviewed for 10 minutes, it typically results in a snipped soundbite that doesn’t completely convey the context. Such is the nature of time slots. But Aubuchon’s statements are quite telling:
The Cape Coral republican says he inserted the bike lane mandate after a fellow lawmaker brought a south Florida cycling problem to his attention, “along A1A they were having some challenges with cyclists who were choosing not to ride in that lane and causing backups and traffic. In that case it will give law enforcement the ability to require cyclists to move over and stay in the bike lane rather than to simply choose to ride in the road instead.”
There you have it. A representative using the legislature to change a statewide law (to the detriment of cyclists all over the state) in order so solve a local problem with one pack of riders on one road.
Aubuchon wonders if taxpayers should continue paying to build bike lanes if cyclists aren’t going to use them, “I think at the end by the governor signing this bill he will actually give us the tools, the ammunition if you will to make the case for more cycling lanes in our state.”
First of all, what if the riders in question didn’t want those bike lanes and didn’t ask the taxpayers to spend money on them? Who are the bike lanes for, since the rub seems to be cyclists getting in the way of motorists? This seems kinda like complaining about spending money on a garden hose out back when all them colored people want to drink out of the white water fountain.
Oh but wait! Forcing cyclists to ride in bike lanes will give “us” more political support for building more bike lanes that cyclists don’t want!
The results of Aubuchon’s politics will be felt on the street.
Here are 5 examples of the need to avoid or leave a bike lane which will not be covered by the exceptions to the FTR law:
- A case where a bike lane should often be avoided entirely is the door zone. The law says you can avoid an obstacle or parked car. It does not specify the hazard zone 5 feet from the parked car, where a suddenly-appearing obstacle can kill a cyclist. If you ride in Baldwin Park, you have to ride entirely outside the bike lane because the entire thing is in the door zone. In some cases, you then have to control the travel lane to prevent being brush-passed back into the door zone. I have worked with police on bicycling issues for 3 years, I can tell you unequivocally that they will not interpret this law in our favor without the exception being spelled out.
- Another type of bike lane which should be ignored is on a downhill (this would apply in a place like Tallahassee more than here). It is extremely dangerous to descend a hill in a bike lane. While the bike’s speed may be may be slower than the speed of traffic, it is too fast for a bicyclist to react to the conflicts (which are exacerbated by the cyclist being in a bike lane!). For more on this, I recommend Wayne Pein’s paper on High Speed cycling.
- High-conflict areas should also be avoided. When I used to use Edgewater Drive every day, I learned (after being hit once and almost hit countless times) that the safest and easiest way to ride north was to leave the bike lane before Yale and control the general travel lane all the way to Vassar (where I turned right). The crossing and turning conflicts through that area are so bad, it’s just not worth running that gauntlet in the bike lane. Especially since you have to be in a lane control position before the bike lane ends at Princeton anyway.
There are several roads that have narrow minimum-width bike lanes shoehorned next to narrow travel lanes. Most of these configurations occur on multilane roads. It is far more comfortable to ignore the bike lane and control the lane. If the space is 14ft, I would have to defend the practice under the FTR law. However, under the MBL law, it would be specifically illegal. And worse, there are many places where the DOTs have striped space to the right of the travel lane that is so substandard, it cannot be designated as a bike lane. Yet, to the untrained eye, it looks like one. The MBL, creates more opportunities for harassment by motorists and law enforcement for avoiding these bike-lane-like deathtraps.
- Following your instinct and reading the environment is more important that following the paint or adhering a discriminatory law. This post contains a personal story where leaving a properly-designed bike lane saved my life. In no uncertain terms, I would not be alive today if I had followed the paint instead of my instinct. I have to wonder how many instances where I may need to follow my instinct will be illegal under the new law.
As if we don’t have enough trouble with misinterpretation of 316.2065, this bill (which I’m still praying Crist will veto) will add another obstacle for cyclists trying to stay safe. Aside from being a nuisance to those of us who are educated and are not going to change our riding practices, this language is one more inhibiting factor in empowering new cyclists to ride safely. It’s hard enough to teach people to outsmart the bike lane without having them fear a ticket. These are the people I fear for most. People like Tracey Sparling and Bret Jarolimek, who died in mandatory bike lanes because they were led to believe they had to stay there and that other drivers would ensure their safety.
This law does nothing to promote safety. It is a misuse of traffic statutes to control and discriminate against one segment of the cycling community which is considered a nuisance to motorists.