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Taking the Lane

Everyone’s familiar with the rules for bicyclists riding on the road in Florida, right? OK, check the Florida Statutes section 316.2065 for a quick refresher. I’m especially thinking of part 5(a), which spells out when a bicyclist is allowed to “take the lane.” Commute by Bike and Carectomy had some discussion of this issue recently, and their respective posts are worth checking out. My preference is along the lines of Carectomy’s stance, taking the lane when needed. I’m not going to go into all the benefits of taking the lane that they mention, but I wanted to focus on the legality.

From part 5(a), the third situation where bicyclists are not required to ride “as close as practicable to the right” is:

3.  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.

So you can take the lane when you have a narrow lane, right? As a roadway designer, the first thing that comes to mind for a standard lane width is 12 feet. But that last sentence in the law makes the difference. It is not referring to a 12-foot lane, but a lane wide enough for bicycles and cars to share. I used to believe this included 12 foot lanes, as they seem fairly wide; but I have been enlightened.

Last week I attended classes in bicycle and pedestrian facility design taught by Michael Moule, president of the engineering firm Livable Streets, Inc. He clarified that a substandard-width lane for the purposes of this statute meant anything less than 14 feet wide. Agencies only build 14-foot wide lanes when they are specifically trying to accommodate bicycles and the road cannot be widened enough for a 4-foot bicycle lane. FDOT does not really even do that any more, preferring to stripe out a 3-foot “urban shoulder” next to an 11-foot lane if a bicycle lane cannot be built. (Unless it’s District 6 building Alton Road…) Most roads have lanes narrower than 14 feet. So bicyclists are legally entitled to take the entire lane if they so choose.

Think about the reasoning behind the 14 feet. You need at least 8 feet of lane width for a car. (That’s the narrowest parking lane width allowed, so it should be 9 feet for a moving vehicle—but we’ll say 8.) Florida Statute 316.083 states that motorists must pass bicycles at least 3 feet away. It’s safe to assume we need another 3 feet for the bicycle with a rider. Add it up and you need a 14-foot lane for bicyclists and automobiles to safely travel side by side. 

Tell that to the next cop who tries to tell you to ride farther right! Someone even recommended carrying a pocket copy of the Florida statutes to show them. Anyone know where to find those?

Photo by Flickr user richardmasoner.

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Florida Lawmakers are at it again, ensuring our biggest needs are taken care of with due diligence. No, not our lagging education system, nor is it our highly inadequate transportation initiatives, or anything else we might deem to be important. Under a new Bill, the Florida legislature is about to ensure that your loveable pooch gets the proper socializing skills it deserves. Thanks to the measures of Republican Representative Sheri McInvale of Orlando, you may soon be able to dine in outdoor seated areas with your dog at your feet. Apparently both House Republicans and Democrats have nothing better to do considering the alleged bipartisan support the measure has received. But don’t panic yet, the Bill would clearly define which outdoor areas would qualify and would require servers to wash their hands after petting any dogs (Maybe we’ll get to see more of those great bathroom diagrams pop-up in out door seating areas as well.) I’ll have the prime rib and bring Fifi a Perrier and a can of Alpo…

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