Florida Bicyclist Wins Right to Ride in Full Lane

The vitriol against bicyclists by motorists is such that even when they abide by the law, they still may be targets of harassment, road rage and, all too often, hit-and-runs.
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However, one South Florida man who commutes to work on his bicycle, didn’t expect to be ticketed by police while he operated his bicycle defensively – and lawfully. Yet that’s reportedly what happened recently in Lee County.

The cyclist was ticketed last fall for “slow bike, failure to ride to right curb.” At the time, the rider was cycling in the full lane as he biked to his office in North Fort Myers. That was the first time he received a ticket, though he revealed on at least four previous occasions, deputies had stopped to order him to move over to the right.

It’s an important case in a state where not only cycling is increasing, but also where it remains one of the most dangerous activities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association reported a six percent increase of pedalcyclist fatalities from 2011 to 2012, with Florida having the highest rate of cycling deaths in the country.

Our Fort Lauderdale bicycle injury attorneys understand there were 122 cycling deaths reported in 2012, which comprised 5 percent of the total motor vehicle fatalities for the year.

By comparison, California reported 124 bicycling deaths, which amounted to 4.3 percent of the total. When population was factored in, cyclists had a fatality rate of 6.32 per million – by far the highest of anywhere in the country. The second-highest was Louisiana, which reported a rate of 5.22 per 1 million.

In the recent Lee County case, the cyclist at the center of the controversy has two instructor-level bicycle safety certifications. He pointed out that while it’s true Florida law requires cyclists to hug the right, it also grants them allowance to use the full lane in certain circumstances – namely, when staying to the right is unsafe.

At the hearing to fight his ticket, he noted the roadway was less than 14 feet wide. He opined the road was too narrow to safely ride next to large vehicles towing boats or wide pick-up trucks.

Advocates with the League of American Bicyclists posit in order to be visible to drivers, riders have to be clear of obstacles on the right edge. That includes debris and grates, as well as being straight in the path of parked cars (to avoid being “doored”). In general, bicyclists need at least three feet on either side in order to operate safely.

Law enforcement officials are concerned, however, that bicyclists slow the pace of traffic, and thus put other cyclist and motorists in jeopardy.

A representative with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office stated that while some might disagree with cyclists, there is usually little evidence to refute a cyclist’s assertion that he or she needs the entire lane. State law does bar impeding traffic, but that is only applicable to those driving motor vehicles.

Following more than two hours of testimony, the hearing officer agreed to dismiss the ticket. The move ultimately saved the cyclist about $62, but he says it was never about the money. Rather, he wanted officers – and the public – to realize that his actions were legal, and that he too has a right to share the road.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:
Cyclist fights for right to ride in full lane, and wins, Jan. 29, 2015, By Janine Zeitlin, USA Today
More Blog Entries:
Auto Owners Ins. Co. v. Foster – Vehicle Ownership Key in Injury Action, Nov. 5, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog