Wednesday, November 18, 2009

SWFBUD Urges Tampa Police Chief Castor To Advise Officers On When It's OK For Bicyclists To Be In The Lane

I recently received an email from a bicyclist who was cited by Tampa police for not bicycling to the far right edge of a roadway. While law requires bicyclists to bike to the far right as "practicable," there are several circumstances under which a bicyclist can bike in the lane and not at the edge.

One of which is when a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and a car to travel safely side by side. That happens a lot in Tampa, where lanes are sub-standard in width and less than 14 feet wide.

In response, I sent this email to new Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor in hopes SWFBUD can help educate Tampa police and the motoring public about a bicyclist's right to be in the lane under certain circumstances.

* * *

Dear Chief Castor,

I hope your new assignment is working out well for you. Congratulations on being named police chief.

As director of SWFBUD, I am writing to forward you an email I received from a bicyclist who was cited by a Tampa police officer who apparently believed that bicyclists must stay as close as possible to the far right edge or curb of a roadway -- even in the event of road lanes that are sub-standard in width.

However, Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide cites 316.2065 that explains several situations under which bicyclists do not have to ride as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge, including "when a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side." The guide goes on to say: "A cyclist should maintain at least two feet of clearance from a curb or pavement edge. Since the mininum clearance for passing a bicyclist is three feet and the total width of larger motor vehicles is commonly eight feet or more, a lane with less than 14 feet of usable width is usually too narrow for motor traffic to pass."

In this bicyclist's case in the forwarded email, it's clear that his lane was too narrow, and, thus, he had a right to be in the lane to assure his safety.

My purpose of this email is not to argue his case but to use this example as an opportunity for Tampa city police to be advised on the laws for bicyclists on roads and traffic lanes in Tampa, many of which are sub-standard and less than 14 feet in width.

I know you're an experienced cyclist and are aware of the hazards of cycling too close to the right edge of a roadway. And I'm also sure you're aware of the laws for bicyclists regarding their position in the roadway as stated in the Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide.

I am respectfully asking you to please advise your law enforcement staff regarding the rights of bicyclists to be in roadways and the circumstances under which they do not have to ride as close to the roadway's right edge. As you know, many of the roads in Tampa are sub-standard in width and I believe as a veteran bicyclist that the safest place to be is not straddling the roadway's right edge but to be in the lane.

I am requesting that we can meet and discuss the issue so that your police staff and the public can be better informed about this issue.

In addition, the Florida Bicycle Association has staff who can help guide police on bicycle laws. On Nov. 14 in Clermont, I was lucky to hear a presentation by the Florida Bicycle Association that included George Martin, FBA's bicycle laws program director. I am sure Mr. Martin would be responsive to a request to help educate police officers regarding the rights of bicyclists in the roadways. His contact information is and 904-392-1193.

Thank you for your time.


Alan Snel
Director of nationally-recognized SWFBUD -- South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers
Nine Tampa Bay bicycle stores and two lawyers united behind bicycle advocacy

Home of the Bicycle Bash by the Bay festival

For the record, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor responded within an hour to my email request and said, in part: "I will look into this issue. I agree that officers need to be made aware of bicycle laws. Our streets are unfriendly enough to cyclists without the added burden."

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