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Pedestrians, bike lanes, and the law

Marco Island Sun -Times: Pedestrians, bike lanes, and the law

BY SCOTT H. SHOOK • MARCH 4, 2010

As Marco Island grows richer in bicycle lanes, a new concern has arisen.

It seems pedestrians love to use bicycle lanes for walking and jogging.

The other day an exasperated bicyclist told me about a near-accident.

"I was riding in the bicycle lane and almost had a head-on collision with a jogger," he said.

It seems the jogger, who was in the bicycle lane jogging toward traffic, stood his ground as the bicyclist approached in the same lane.

"I looked back several times as I approached the jogger, and there was a long line of traffic behind me," the bicyclist explained. "The (jogger) wouldn't get out of the way."

You can see the potential for problems with bicyclists and pedestrians trying to share a 4-foot-wide swath of pavement adjacent to motor vehicle traffic.

Right of way?

The question is, who has the right to be in the bicycle lane?

According to Florida bicycle law and law enforcement, in most situations, the bicyclist is the only person who has the right to be in the bicycle lane.

The Florida Department of Transportation defines a bicycle lane as "a portion of the roadway (either with curb and gutter or a flush shoulder) which has been designated by striping, special pavement markings, and signing for the preferential use by bicyclists."

It also defines the roadway as "that portion of a highway improved, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel."

FDOT defines a bicycle as a vehicle.

FDOT defines sidewalks as "that portion of a street between the curbline, or the lateral line, of a roadway and the adjacent property lines, intended for use by pedestrians. Pedestrians are defined as "any person afoot."

FDOT goes on to state that "where sidewalks are provided, no pedestrian shall, unless required by other circumstances, walk along and upon the portion of a roadway paved for vehicular travel."

Sidewalks

Most roads on Marco Island that have bicycle lanes also have sidewalks.

There is an exception, however.

The eastern stretch of San Marco Road, for instance, has bicycle lanes but no sidewalks.

FDOT addresses that situation, too, stating "where sidewalks are not provided, any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway shall, when practicable, walk only on the shoulder on the left of of the roadway."

A note to bicyclists: As a vehicle on our roadways, you are required to follow all of the laws that apply to vehicles.

When using bicycle lanes, ride with traffic, not against it.

A note to pedestrians: Unless there is no sidewalk available, you are required to confine your activities to the sidewalk, where you have the right of way.

FDOT addresses pedestrian-bicycle issues when it comes to sidewalks, too.

"A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk ... has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian."

But, the bicyclist "shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian."

- Scott H. Shook is a member of the Marco Island Bike Pathways Committee. He also commutes by bicycle to his job as assistant resort manager at The Charter Club of Marco Beach.