When Can a Cyclist Control the Entire Lane in Florida?

Cyclist Riding in a Car LaneA cyclist’s main concern should always be safety. Wearing bright colored clothing and outfitting bicycles with the proper lights and riding in the bike lane can definitely help. But what if no bike lane is available? Ride in the middle of the lane! Doing something thought to be dangerous is actually one of the most effective ways to ensure being seen. This has helped many cyclists protect themselves against some of the most common motorist-caused crashes such as sideswipes, right hooks, and left crosses.

Many drivers on Florida roadways aren’t even aware that there are circumstances when a cyclist can control the entire lane. Some may have heard that Florida State Law says bicyclists must ride as far to the right as practicable but still are unaware of what that truly means.

Cyclist Roadway Position Clarified

Florida Statute 316.2065-5:
(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 or potential conflict, including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, turn lane, or substandard-width lane, which makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge or within a bicycle lane. 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.

With that said, there needs to be an understanding that “practicable” is not the same thing as “possible.” Practicable means capable of being done within the means and circumstances present. Riding practicably allows a cyclist to maintain no less than 2 feet of clearance from the edge of usable pavement to have room to maneuver around obstructions and to be more visible to crossing traffic.

Florida law states that when a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and a car to share safely, the cyclist is entitled to the use of the entire lane. The term “substandard” is used to describe a lane that is not wide enough to share. Any lane that is less than 14 feet wide is considered as “substandard” However, these narrow lane-widths make up most of our roads (about 90%!). Within this lane, the cyclist usually rides on the right half to provide visibility for overtaking motorists, but should ride far enough left to discourage motorists from trying to squeeze past within the lane.

Riding your bicycle on the streets of Florida is not dangerous when motorists and cyclists are both aware of each other and follow the rules of the road. However, that is not always the case. If you have questions on how to protect yourself before an accident, order your free copy of the Florida Bicycle Accident Handbook. If you have been injured and would like to set up a free consultation to discuss your case, call Jim Dodson at 888-207-0905.