Pages Menu
RssFacebook
Categories Menu

Posted by on Jan 3, 2013 in General, Safety | 19 comments

Florida Bicycle Lane Law Changes Again

Further loosening of the lane use requirement. Underlining is what was added.

HB-1223 which took effect on 1/1/2013

316.2065  Bicycle regulations.—

(5)(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall 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 under any of the following situations:

(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict, including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, turn lane, or substandard-width lane, which that makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge or within a bicycle lane. 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.

(b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a one-way highway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of such roadway as practicable.

http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2012/1223/BillText/er/PDF

http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2012/1223

19 Comments

  1. I thought that had taken effect already.

    They added “potential conflict” to the exceptions — this should cover every approach to an intersection or driveway, every parked car and any time a cyclist is traveling too fast to respond to any potential hazard (eg when going down hill). Theoretically. But you’ll still have to defend defensive driving in court because the law is still discriminatory at its core and it’s still your “opinion” about what is safe against society’s prejudice against you being “in the way.”

    They also eliminated the requirement to keep one hand on the handlebars.

  2. I was aware that this statute did not take effect until 1 Jan 2013, although a LEO read today’s text to me last year, curiously enough. Unfortunately, Keri is spot-on about the problem it represents. There’s no solid reference, no solid definition for potential conflict, even though the Motorcycle Safety Foundation recognizes the same considerations that we do as bicyclists.

    There’s new roadway in a good portion of Daytona Beach area that is now striped with bike lanes and signs. Until or unless someone finds a solid defense (and I don’t want it to be me), I will avoid those segments of road as much as possible.

    The exclusionary portion of “at less than the normal speed of traffic” can cover downhill speeds, as I have experienced with one of the many traffic stops. Many riders will be at or above the normal speed of traffic while traveling downhill.

    I’ve had too much time in court to embrace the idea of returning because of a bike lane.

    • Even if the normal speed of traffic is faster than a bicyclist going downhill, the bicyclist’s safety is at serious risk when traveling faster than ~18mph in a bike lane. I can easily go 30 downhill. It doesn’t matter if the speed limit is 30 or 50, it’s still extremely dangerous to ride that speed in a narrow space on the edge of the road.

      The exceptions to this law do not protect us, they protect the discriminatory law. If it did not pretend to make exceptions for our safety, it might be easier to get rid of it.

  3. Also changed as of Jan. 1; it’s now legal to use a flashing tail-light or head-light on your bicycle.

  4. It certainly tries to “appear” to make meaningful added exceptions in cases that never get prosecuted anyway. Regardless, since I don’t know the bill author’s motivation, I can’t think of any way it’ll make cyclists subject to prosecution that they are not now at risk – and the handlebar and light changes are real even if minor and were not enforced anyway.

    If I look back on history, I don’t see that making bad laws appear reasonable to protect discrimination works very often.

  5. In 5(a), since there is no comma after the last use of the word “roadway”, has anyone argued that the exceptions enumerated in (1), (2), and (3) only apply to roads without bike lanes. Or do all the exceptions also apply to bike lane use?

  6. “When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict,”

    It seems to me that this would be any time a motor vehicle is approaching from the rear, which is the last bastion of motorist road ‘ownership’. Effectively, the law appears to grant cyclists the full use of the lane under any circumstances.

    Could it be that the lawmakers are trying to acknowledge cyclists’ rights under the law while also attempting (by way of making the law ridiculously complicated) to placate those motorists who view the road as their personal property?

    • The language was written by advocates in an attempt to mitigate the damage of the MBL. “Potential conflict” is as good an exception as I can imagine. It does, in theory, make full lane use the default under most circumstances. It will probably help a cyclist win in court.

      It doesn’t prevent the humiliation, delay and cost of an unwarranted traffic stop or citation. Cyclists have no recourse for the cost of their legal fees or the time they have to take off to go to court — to defend their right to drive defensively. That is unjust. The only thing that will change it is getting rid of the law and educating law enforcement.

      My fear is the exceptions make the discriminatory law seem reasonable, and that makes it harder to convince lawmakers to get rid of it.

      • I’m not sure that’s the case. I think it might make it a bit easier to argue that there’s no point in a law whose exceptions make the law meaningless.

        Unless there are no other vehicles or pedestrians around (in which case there’s no point in using a bike lane or riding far right), there’s always potential conflict. So the law may as well simply be deleted altogether.

        But the question now becomes, ‘Is it in our best interest to work to remove the law’? The good thing about the law as it is, is that with this admittedly stupid and meaningless law in place, it’s less likely that the motorist road rage lobby will come along proposing a law to get cyclists off ‘their’ roads. The law already exists, albeit in ridiculously useless and watered-down form.

        The only problem, as you rightly say, is that police will still attempt to cite cyclists for fictional violations. But they do that with all sorts of laws – not just the vague and stupid ones. Even if the law was struck entirely from the books, some ‘Dirty Harry’ wannabe who has slept through whatever police training there is will still hand out citations for whatever he fancies the law ought to be.

        • Ian Brett Cooper, because I operate a velomobile, I’m a bit more visible to law enforcement than other cyclists. As such, I’ve also been stopped an inordinate number of times and cited seven times, all dismissed. I’ve been avoiding roadways with bike lanes because of the danger they represent to a low profile vehicle such as a velomobile and because the law, until recently required me to operate in the bike lane.

          With the new exception added, I would expect to yet attract another traffic stop and don’t want to deal with another citation. Some of the roads are in excellent condition, recently repaved yet have “must-avoid” bike lanes striped in place.

          I like your statement “Unless there are no other vehicles or pedestrians around, there’s always potential conflict.” How would one defend that statement and the specific exception in the FL statutes to a law enforcement officer to get the best chance of avoiding a citation?

          I agree that if there’s a motor vehicle on the roadway behind me or ahead of me or alongside, there’s a potential conflict, and that potential is increased, in my opinion, if I’m operating in a bike lane. I believe that such positioning has diminished my presence to other traffic and that in itself is unsafe. It’s one thing to maintain such an opinion and another to convince a law enforcement officer to not write a citation.

          Is there legal precedent or legal terminology or traffic references that can be brought to bear in this type of situation?

          • “How would one defend that statement and the specific exception in the FL statutes to a law enforcement officer to get the best chance of avoiding a citation?”

            Once a police officer stops you, I don’t think there’s much hope of avoiding a citation. Defending oneself in the presence of the LEO is probably not a great idea. I reckon the best course of action is to happily accept the citation and fight it in court, where a police officer’s prejudices and rage (they are just as prone to road rage as any other motorist) are far less likely to play a role.

            I agree that operating in a bike lane for any reason is stupid. In my opinion, bike lanes are death traps. The new Florida law, it seems to me, at least permits cyclists to operate in the road in any circumstance due to the ‘potential conflict’ exception. I wish as much could be said in my state of Maryland, where I must avoid roads with bike lanes altogether if I want to cycle both legally and safely.

  7. With a similar law having been in place in California for over a generation, I can say that the problems are much worse than that of police citations. The problem is the reinforcement of the FTR mindset in society through educational materials, schools, and even among cyclists themselves. So it is definitely in our best interest to work to remove such laws. Let the motorist road rage lobby propose some law to kick cyclists off the roads. Educated cycling advocates can deal with that, and even cyclists who normally wouldn’t be involved would come out of the woodwork to fight the fight.

  8. I’m no fan of FTR or MBL laws, and the Florida combined FTR/MBL law is a linguistic mess that is difficult to parse for coherent meaning in the best of circumstances, where a person has some clue about safe bicycle operation. Those who are prejudiced or just clueless about low risk bicycle operation are all but guaranteed to interpret the law in a way that requires bicyclists to engage in behavior counter to lowering crash risk, as other have already noted in this thread.

    let’s look at why the law is an example of horrid lawcraft, now made even more confusing by recent changes:

    “(5)(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride in the lane marked for bicycle use…”

    Is a travel lane with sharrows a “lane marked for bicycle use”? I would say yes, so that would mean that a bicyclist could legally ride in any lateral position within a wide lane with a sharrow 4′ from the edge! The law writers didn’t use the phrasing “bicycle lane”, so I would argue that they in fact broadened the definition (whether knowingly or not). In other words, this phrasing essentially exempts any lane with Sharrows from the provisions of the FTR portion of this law! This means that you FL advocates should push for sharrows in as many places as possible!

    “…or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:…”

    Note that the wording says, or if no lane is marked for bicycle use, again exempting sharrow marked lanes from the provisions of the law! This is a good, but likely unintended facet of the law. The way this passage law is phrased, it is not clear if the exceptions only apply to the second or-clause or both. Muddy!

    Now for the exceptions:

    “(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

    2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.”

    Both exceptions are clear, whether in a bike lane, sharrow route, or regular travel lane.

    This exceptions is a real mess:

    “(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict”

    At any time I am on a roadway, I am in a “potential” conflict, so this exception is so broad as to be meaningless. Why have a law that has an exception for potential conflicts? This is laughably illogical, except this strange wording is actual law. SMH…

    “…, including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, turn lane,”

    Are vehicles not also objects? This is more bad lawcraft! Would it have killed them to have written “a fixed or moving object including vehicles”. And the “including but not limited to” phrasing allows for even more wiggle room. if the law has so many exceptions, like a leaky boat with multiple holes, why is it on the books?

    “…, including, but not limited to,… or substandard-width lane, which that makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge or within a bicycle lane. 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.”"

    Here the logic completely breaks down. Let me lay out the logic as it reads: What is “a substandard-width lane, which that makes it unsafe to continue
    - along the right-hand curb
    - or edge
    - or within a bicycle lane

    What is “continue edge”? And why does an adjacent substandard width lane make it unsafe to to continue within a bicycle lane?

    If the intent was to group “curb or edge” with “along the right hand”, and identify a substandard width bicycle lane, then they would had to have used wording more like this:

    [including, but not limited to,..., substandard-width travel lane, which that makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, or a substandard width bicycle lane that makes it unsafe to continue within said bicycle lane.] And then they would also have to define what is meant by a substandard width bicycle lane, since I have no idea what is meant by the term as used by the FL contingent.

    Worse still since the definition of substandard width lane is tied to the idea that it is not wide enough for a bicycle and another vehicle to operate side by side, so by definition, a minimum standard bicycle lane is not wide enough for a bicycle and another vehicle (even another bicycle)to travel safely side by side! What a logically horrendous kludge of gobbeldygook! Do the advocates even have a clue as to what kind of Frenkenlaw’s Monster they have created?

    Section b) is also of interest:

    “(b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a one-way highway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of such roadway as practicable.”

    Even if there is a left side bicycle lane? Does that mean that if the left side bicycle lane (which is part of the roadway) is wide, that a bicyclist still has to ride close to the curb or edge? SMH again…

    The bottom line is that we should be working to repeal these bad laws rather than refining the hostility to lessen the effects.

  9. In this news story, the reporter doesn’t even get the fact that a bike lane law was already on the books, so she completely missed the new exception and reports that cyclists are now require to ride in a bike lane. The way she interprets the law is pretty much what we can expect from the general public.

  10. My understanding from motorists is that the whole point to bike lanes is to get bicyclists out of the way of real traffic. From this perspective, Fred’s experience makes perfect sense – he may have rights on paper, but they will cost dearly if he expects any police to let him exercise them.

    I think Ian’s comments about the exceptions making the law meaningless and easier to remove are naive based on my experience. Motorists and individual police make the (normally logical) assumption that legislators would not waste everyone’s time refining and passing laws with no impact – it’s like telling police that DZBLs are always dangerous and should never be used when traffic and parked cars are present. It may be true, but the presence of the bike lane demonstrates that legislators and planners believe bike lanes are useful and bicylcists that won’t use it are impeding traffic and riding dangerously.

    The facilities I’ve seen in Baltimore make this abundantly clear. The sharrows were partly covered by parked cars (in the wheel track of parked cars – this would explain why the Hopkins study found no benefit to sharrows) and a representative from MD SHA said others were painted in the door zone because the contractor could not believe it would be safe to put bicyclists in the middle of narrow lanes.

    Ian has more recent experience riding in MD than I have. My understanding is that the MD MBL laws do not allow the typical exceptions for speed found elsewhere – if there is a DZBL you are required to use it in 10mph rush hour traffic. Is this actually enforced by police or motorists? Can you still find alternate routes without bike lanes to avoid these bike lanes? If you are required to use bike lanes or bike paths if they are paved, are you required to use them if the pavement is covered by snow?

    In short, I don’t see motorists, police or judges believing that since the exceptions remove all applicability of the law it can be ignored – they believe common knowledge that it is too dangerous to ride in the middle of 10mph rush hour traffic and holds up traffic, and that intelligent legislators would not waste their time on laws that never apply. Your view assumes they are open to facts and care about bicyclists’ safety; this is far from my experience.

    • Angelo,

      I think the idea that I’m suggesting that legislators would waste everyone’s time refining and passing laws with no impact is a straw man. The laws passed have always had an impact. My point is that the exceptions have the effect of watering down what has proven to be a bad law. The next logical step is removing this bad law altogether.

      I don’t believe that it would be difficult to point out the danger of door zone bike lanes to police officers, unless the police officers were particularly stupid. Some undoubtedly are particularly stupid, but most of them are surely not. I think the problem here may be that cyclists often attempt to point out these things during the issuance of a citation – not a good time to try to educate a police officer, since his/her training emphasizes maintaining complete control during such a situation. Sure, this often leads to police officers acting completely stupidly, but it does not necessarily mean the police officer is stupid – he/she is merely being inflexible due to following what is essentially a ‘script’.

      As I understand them, Maryland bike lane laws are indeed mandatory no matter what speed the cyclist is traveling – this is why I avoid roads with such lanes. It is quite easy to avoid such lanes where I live, and I suspect the same is true of Baltimore. Though I have never cycled there, when I’ve been there I have not noticed all that many bike lanes. Even if Baltimore had as many lanes as DC (which has a lot), my experience cycling in DC (I am careful to avoid roads with bike lanes there too) has shown me that it is quite easy to avoid bike lanes in that city.

      Your final paragraph appears to be self-contradictory. You say that police, judges and motorists believe it is too dangerous to ride in the middle of 10mph rush hour traffic. I agree. Yet you go on to say that, in your experience they do not care for bicyclists’ safety. If your first sentence is correct, your second sentence must be flawed.

      I think motorists, police and judges care very much about cyclist safety – often for their own selfish reasons, yes. But they do care. I think motorists care because they are afraid that their bad driving will harm a cyclist and potentially get them into jail. I think police and judges have the same fear – they are motorists too. But in their professional capacities, they care because it’s their job to care. True, their fears may bias their judgement so that they are not open to facts, but it’s not because they don’t care.

      • Or to put it most simply — they care; they just don’t understand.

        • Where is the “like” button for this? Good one Mighk!