Frequently we observe vehicles passing a cyclist riding to the far right of the lane road. There is double danger in this situation because: (1) Some drivers believe they have primacy over cyclist. (2) Some cyclists believe they are safer at the far right of the road. Wrong. Both are vehicles under Florida Law. The driver might swing out and pass too closely to the cyclist who created a space too narrow for the motorist to pass safely.
It is problematic that many cyclists have heard that “riding to the far right of the lane” is the safest place, which is not always the case. Florida Law, S. 316.2065, requires bicyclists to “ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.” “Practicable” means “as safe as possible.” For safety, bicyclists must know what is going on around them and apply sound riding judgement. Bicyclists can leave the right side of the roadway to avoid any unsafe condition.
One such condition is when a lane is “substandard-width.” S. 316.2065 defines “substandard width lanes” as “a lane too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.” Most Florida roadways are less than 14 feet wide, including The Villages. Fortunately, we have some alternatives like cart paths with defined lanes that separate motor vehicles from bikes, as well as multimodal paths.
The burden for safety in passing bicycles lies entirely on the motor vehicle operator, as is the case with all passing situations with other vehicles. Drivers may not pass a bicyclist within the lane if it is unsafe. They must provide the minimum of three feet of separation. If the adjacent lane is not clear, motorists must wait. Educated and experienced bicyclists know that riding far right encourages unsafe and illegal passing within the substandard-width lane, so they “take the lane” as allowed and encouraged for both their safety as well as the motorist.
The photo above shows lane positioning options. The cyclist riding in Lane B has taken the lane, the safest and most visible section of the road. The rider has options to maneuver and avoid danger or make turns.
Riding in the “L” lane, invites close calls from passing motorists. The “A” lane is the transition lane for a Left turn or lane change.
The “C” lane is the transition for a Right turn. The “R” lane poses danger from drivers opening car doors or pulling into traffic unexpectedly.
Remember, ride with situational awareness, always signal and be visible!
by Jim Dodson, Bicycle Attorney
Gerry Lachnicht, Principal at Sabal Trust