Is riding to the right the right thing to do?

May 13, 2015

Both cyclists and motorists are responsible for keeping our roadways safe. The roads are meant to be shared and it’s important to pay close attention to Florida Statute 316.2065 which governs bicycle regulations. All bicyclists on the roadway have all the rights and responsibilities as the other motor vehicles. Although a bicyclist is following the same rules as the cars, it can be difficult for cyclists to keep up with the normal flow of traffic. Therefore, cyclists should ride in the lane marked for bicycles. However, if no lane exists then as close to the right curb as practicable.

There are certain instances when the statute allows for the cyclist to ride at a lesser speed and not on the right side of the lane. The more obvious situations include, “when overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction” and “when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.” A third situation involves a catch-all and permits a cyclist to ride outside of the right hand side when “reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict.”

One scenario this includes, that is particularly important and not as obvious, is if there is a “substandard- width” lane, shared by both cyclists and motorists, which would make it unsafe for the cyclist to travel as close to the right curb as practicable. A substandard-width lane as defined by the statute “is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side- by- side within the lane.” In order for a lane to be considered proper width, it must be able to fit a bicycle and a motor vehicle side- by- side with at least three feet to spare. Depending on the size of the vehicle this is usually around 14 feet.  In a substandard- width lane, the cyclist should travel in the lane in such a way that notifies motorists that the cyclist is present. Traveling closer to the center of the lane will let the motorist know that the cyclist is overtaking the lane; the motorist will either have to slow down or find a safe way to pass. The danger of riding to the right in a substandard- width lane is the cyclist getting pushed off the road as the motorist tries to approach the cyclist in the lane. By riding to the right, the cyclist could be sending a message to the motorist that it is safe to pass when it actually is not.  South Florida roads are constantly under construction and it’s important for both cyclists and motorists to know the laws to prevent a dangerous situation when there is a lane that cannot fit both a cyclist and a motorist.

Motorists need to be aware of Florida Statute 316.083 which governs overtaking a bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle. According to the statute, “the driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other nonmotorized vehicle.” This means it is illegal for a motorist to pass a bicycle with less than three feet of clearance. In the case of a substandard- width lane, the law allows bicyclists to ride with traffic at a lesser speed instead of to the right, in order to prevent these dangerous passing scenarios.

In the unfortunate case of a bicycle accident, an attorney can protect your rights and help you recover for your medical bills and pain and suffering. Attorneys can help assess if a lane is substandard-width and if a law was violated. Even if you are unsure of who was at fault, it’s important to contact an attorney to make sure your case is properly reviewed and your rights are protected.