For about a month, Florida bike blogs have been awash in calls to request the veto of Highway Bill 971 (HB971) by Gov. Crist. I was one of them. When I first saw the post come through Twitter, I immediately retweeted it to all my followers and posted about it here at Transit Miami.

Thing is, I’m not entirely sure WHAT about the bill is it that we’re raising a ruckus about. I assure you, I’m not being facetious or outright annoying; I just really want to know.

The call to arms centers around the changes to the state law dealing with bicycle lanes. Here is the actual text found on HB971 (PDF link) (strikethrough are deletions, underlined are additions):

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, 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.
(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.
(20) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a pedestrian violation as provided in chapter 318. A law enforcement officer may issue traffic citations for a violation of subsection (3) or subsection (16) only if the violation occurs on a bicycle path or road, as defined in s. 334.03. However, a law enforcement officer they may not issue citations to persons on private property, except any part thereof which is open to the use of the public for purposes of  vehicular traffic.

I don’t see what is wrong with the information above. Yes, it mandates that bicycles must use bike lanes when present, but it does not take away a bicycle’s right to the regular road use under circumstances which make the use of the bike lane impracticable. The call to attention is centered on the “must ride in the bicycle lane” part, but isn’t that the point of why we ask and advocate for bicycle lanes, so we can use them while we ride?

(The bill also raises other issues which I’ve always seen listed as secondary, like allowing for a process where a person convicted of 4 or more DUI can reapply to have their driving privileges reinstated after meeting a series of requirements. I’m all for second chances, but 4+ DUI convictions seems troublesome to me. But again, I always see this listed as a secondary reason for the request of a veto.)

So, I honestly ask, what exactly about that wording is it why we’re asking for a veto?

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19 Responses to What Exactly IS the Issue with HB971?

  1. Here’s hoping I don’t get crucified. ;-)

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  2. Prem says:

    The law gives us an option to use the road when a bicycle lane is not present, but what of the situation where the bike lane is unreasonable for proper use?

    Potholes, debris, and other obstructions spread over portions of some bike ways can be quite annoying. (Some parts of the venetian bike lane are horrendous, with pipes protruding from the ground, storm drains taking up half a lane, roots making for a bumpy ride, cars parked on what they imagine is a shoulder.

    This law does now leave it up to the bicyclist to decide which bike lanes are reasonable for riding on, but instead put it into the hands of police officers to decide when a bicyclist is not using an otherwise mandatory bike lane.

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  3. recreational cyclist says:

    I think this stems from cyclist mostly in large packs not obeying traffic laws, and cyclist almost taunting cars by riding the middle of the lane alone. We all live together and must ride the same roads. A little common courtesy both ways would help cars-bikes.

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  4. Mrs. Slow Bike Miami says:

    Prem: Take a look at #3 in the body of the law. “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: …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.”

    Obviously we are allowed to cycle outside the bike lane if it is unsafe, if there is anything in the lane (including potholes, protruding pipes and parked cars). We can also still take over narrow lanes where a car could not safely pass us.

    I think this is “much ado about nothing”-there is nothing at all really new in this law as it pertains to cyclists. It says: we *should* use the bike lane, or ride as far right as is practicable (which is already the law)-but we can move farther into the lane or even take it over when the situation warrants it. We WANT bike lanes. Why would we then proceed to not use them? And there are plenty of terrible, uneducated cyclists who do NOT use them or even ride on the correct side of the road. If a cop stops them and tells them they are riding illegally, do you think maybe that will help increase awareness on these cyclists’ part?

    Recreational Cyclist: I agree we all need to be more courteous on the road. Still, I don’t think this should come down to a “blame game”-cyclists who aren’t courteous and don’t abide by the law don’t do us any favors, but I don’t know that this proposed law is anyone’s “fault”-the question was why we are asking people to demand that the governor veto this bill.

    I for one don’t see what the hubbub is about. If we complain every single time, we will become like the boy who cried wolf. I believe we must pick our battles. Why don’t we advocate for more bike lanes, safer bike lanes and more police enforcement of our laws (which include stopping and possibly even ticketing careless cyclists) instead of trying to get this law which really makes almost no changes to the existing Miami-Dade law vetoed?

    Just my $.02
    Y.

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  5. Yaniel says:

    I don’t see it in the excerpt you posted but I could’ve sworn that I saw a part that said scooters would also have to use the bike lane. Also something about a 15 mph speed limit in the bike lane which is ridiculously low. Maybe those parts were changed or it was a different bill but I could’ve sworn I read those things last month.

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  6. kaelsie says:

    the problem is that the law shouldn’t make cyclists ride as close to the curb as possible. that is dangerous- cars in that situation tend to drive close too the cyclist. cyclists don’t take the full lane to be annoying- we do it to encourage cars to give us enough space when passing us. a car traveling at 45 mph not changing lanes when passing a cyclist going 15 mph is a dangerous situation.

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  7. Yaniel says:

    Kaelsie,

    it says as far right as practical and also says the lane can be taken when it’s not practical to ride to the right. Isn’t that what the law says now?

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  8. Eddie Suarez says:

    “Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic”

    I thought cyclists were traffic. So we will never be riding at less than the normal speed of traffic since we ourselves are traffic… no?

    If this passes I foresee several things happening.

    1) Bike lanes vs bike paths. Public and police don’t know the difference. I will use a bike lane when possible but will not use a bike path. Most road bikes can’t handle a bike path.

    2) We will be run off the road by cars because “the law says you must use the bike lane or ride way over to the right” This is not what the law says but it’s how the public and police will interpret it. Yes you can go to court and argue your case but what if your dead because a car hit you?

    3) A bike lane could be good in some sections and unusable in others. It could be too narrow and the possibility of getting door’d could exist. So if the bike lane is good for 5 feet bad for 5 feet good for 5 feet, and on and on… can we just take over the regular travel lanes? or do we need to weave in and out of the bike lane and into the travel lanes?

    4) Public and police don’t understand what a good and bad bike lane is. It’s a judgment call. A roadie can tell you that the smallest bumps or pebbles can cause some bone jarring hits while a fat tire rider won’t mind it at all. Unfortunately, when my life is at stake, I don’t want to give a car driver any more fuel to “force” me to move over because there’s a bike lane (or path) and I should use it! I will always lose against a two ton vehicle.

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  9. kaelsie says:

    yaniel,
    its my understanding that the law now says cyclists may take full lane..

    the problem with this hb971 is that it is starting to take cyclists rights away …little things here and there that will only make riding conditions less safe.

    even with the laws we have now, it is difficult to share the road.

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  10. @Kaelsie
    Here is what the law currently states (from the Florida Bicycle Assoc website - http://www.floridabicycle.org/rules/bikelaw.html)
    * A bicyclist operating on a one-way street with two or more traffic lanes may ride as close to the left-hand edge of the roadway as practicable.
    * Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Persons riding two abreast shall not impede traffic when traveling at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions existing, and shall ride within a single lane.

    Bikes cannot take a full lane just cause, either under current law or the proposed changes. The only situation where that can happen does not change between the current and proposed wordings: on a one-way street with two or more lanes, you ride on the rightmost lane, but can ride as close to the left edge of the lane as practicable. They’re not taking anything away with the new wording.

    The only main difference I see is that the new wording states that bikes must use a bike lane when present, though they are allowed to leave it if the conditions are not practicable.

    Frankly, the biggest issue with all these bike laws is the word “practicable” as that is a subjective term that can/will mean different things to different people, as Eddie Suarez points out. But fixing that word, if it can be fixed at all, is not in the scope of this bill.

    My main issue is this: the furor seems centered on the “must use the bike lane when present” part. If we’re gonna fight about that, then why are we fighting bureaucratic and legal battles in order to put bike lanes on roads in the first place?!

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  11. @Eddie Suarez
    The statement “Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic” is already in the current wording of the law, so that would not be an alteration.

    The points you raise are valid, and these are things that will have to be addressed, but I see those more as a matter of education of the law enforcement agencies than the striking of an entire bill (I am putting aside the fact that the bill has other thorny issues).

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  12. Yaniel says:

    @Daniel
    “My main issue is this: the furor seems centered on the “must use the bike lane when present” part. If we’re gonna fight about that, then why are we fighting bureaucratic and legal battles in order to put bike lanes on roads in the first place?!”

    Bike lanes are good, but should not be mandatory. When they get put up, dog walkers will take to it, families riding the full width of the bike lane will ride on it, cares will surely park on it. Many people won’t ride on the road without a bike lane, thats why we need the bike lanes. It will get many more people riding a bike that would’ve been too scared before. Some cyclists feel comfortable on the road, or ride at a pace that would be a hazard to pedestrians and children in the bike lane, they should be on the road.

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  13. Amy says:

    Kaelsie,

    it says as far right as practical and also says the lane can be taken when it’s not practical to ride to the right. Isn’t that what the law says now?

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  14. Steve Schwinn says:

    My main issue is this: the furor seems centered on the “must use the bike lane when present” part. If we’re gonna fight about that, then why are we fighting bureaucratic and legal battles in order to put bike lanes on roads in the first place?!

    DING DING DING I think this was a setup by someone who hates bike lanes. The Florida Bicycle Association is now on record AGAINST bike lanes. Anytime there is a conflict, this is possibly going to be used against us in the form of wider sidewalks, more landscaping, etc…

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  15. fred_dot_u says:

    As one who has been subjected to law enforcement interpretation of the law in its current form, I suggest that the proposed law only makes things more difficult for riders who know where to ride on a roadway.

    It’s not what the law says, it’s what the uninformed uniformed law enforcement officer wants to think it says.

    As Keri Caffrey suggests, it’s not up to the rider to educate the uninformed uniformed law enforcement officer, so the end result is getting written up and having to go through the hoops of dealing with a citation.

    It’s far better to not have the citation in the first place. The new wording makes it easier for the uninformed uniformed law enforcement officer to write the ticket, in his alleged mind and in my opinion.

    I can ride safely in the center of a sub-standard width lane, that might have a bike lane alongside, in which it would be more dangerous to ride. If the sub-standard width lane is adjacent to a bike lane, the motor vehicle operator is less likely to provide safe clearance when passing and in some cases, none at all.

    Controlling the lane on these roadways prevents dangerous passing, but the new wording would mean a citation.

    That’s my opinion, of course. Your mileage may vary.

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  16. John says:

    ”reasonable” thats arbitrary folks

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  17. Eddie Suarez says:

    The law, even as it is now, is also vague. This new bill keeps the law vague but then adds the must use the bike lane part.

    The interpretation of the law ultimately falls on the hands of a judge but that will be months after the infraction or even death of the cyclist. Car drivers will see a bike lane and “force” us into it but not giving use the 3 feet required by law because that law doesn’t benefit drivers and actually takes away their right to the full lane.

    However, this law gives the car driver back the lane forcing us to the bike lane. So a car driver will force us off the road. They do it now without the law. Unfortunately the cyclist will always lose in this case even if they have the right to be on the full lane because the bike lane is not safe to ride on.

    If you get pulled over by law enforcement for riding in the full lane then it’s up to the officer to make the call and decide to give you a ticket or not. If given a ticket, then you must take it upon yourself to take pics, court, judge, miss work, blah blah blah blah…

    The law needs to define exactly what is reasonable or, mark the bike lanes in advance to signify what’s not “reasonable”

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  18. J says:

    I’ve made a couple of routes during the last two weeks. I’m planning more routes right now!

    Check this out:

    Route #1 [10 Miles]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXfte0JzG-8

    Route #2 [35 Miles]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdfAEwEz_Ek

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