Part of our firm’s practices is representing people who suffer injuries as
bicycle riders. We see a large number of preventable accidents in these cases. Unfortunately,
many people make tragic mistakes because they don’t understand the
rights and responsibilities of bike riders and drivers. Here are a few
Bicycle riders using a road must ride on or outside the white lane at the
edge of the road. Actually, the area on or outside the white lane isn’t considered
part of the roadway at all. This area is actually the shoulder. Bike riders
are required to ride as close to the right side of the road as practical
(more on that below), but they aren’t required to ride on the white
line or the shoulder itself.
Many bike riders will use the shoulder when it’s wide enough. However,
on many roads the shoulder is too narrow to be used safely. Other shoulders
are unfit for use because they contain ruts, holes, or debris, or because
they slope down too sharply. It would be dangerous for people on bikes
to try to ride on those types of shoulders, and our traffic rules don’t
require them to try.
Bicycles must always stick to the right side of the road. It’s true that bike riders are required to stay to the right as much
as is practical. What many people don’t realize is that this general rule is subject
to a large number of exceptions. Bike riders may use other parts of the
road for many reasons, such as when they are making a left turn, overtaking
another bike, or using a one-way street.
Perhaps the most critical exception is that bikes don’t need to hug
the right side “when reasonably necessary to avoid any condition.”
Under the law, “condition” can mean many things, including
surface hazards such as broken glass, sand, or debris; animals (either
alive or road kill); parked or moving vehicles; or fixed or moving objects.
There are a lot of conditions on Florida’s roads, and bikes can
be forced into the road by surface hazards motorists don’t even see.
Bikes also don’t have to stay to the right when they are in a “sub-standard
width lane.” A sub-standard width lane is any lane which is too
narrow for a bike and another vehicle to travel safely side-by-side. In
other words, when the road’s too narrow, a bicyclist isn’t
required to move to the right and allow a car to try and make a tight
pass. Motorists are supposed to give bikes three feet of clearance when
passing. If that’s not possible, a person on a bike isn’t
required to put themselves in danger of being clipped to accommodate a motorist.
Bicycle riders don’t have to follow traffic laws. Motorists aren’t the only ones who don’t understand or follow
the rules. Some people on bikes run stop signs, or cross intersections
against red lights. Others ride at night without lights on their bikes.
Bikes aren’t immune from traffic rules, and these types of violations
can get you a ticket just as surely as things you do in a car.
Ultimately, motorists need to change their thinking about bikes. Bikes
aren’t annoyances which interfere with traffic. They
are traffic. For their part, people on bikes need to understand that the privilege
of being in traffic carries the responsibility to follow traffic rules.
In the long run, everyone needs to do their part to make our roads safer.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a preventable traffic crash,
contact Roman & Gaynor to discuss your rights and what we can do to help.