One of the provisions in the new law is that bicyclists riding on substandard-width roads, ones without designated bike lanes, must ride single file except when passing each other. Renderings provided by Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency
Seeking consistency in enforcement, chiefs ask state for clarity
By Joe Capozzi
Police chiefs in Palm Beach County’s coastal communities are seeking clarification on how changes to state law affect bicyclists on State Road A1A.
The law that took effect July 1, following the passage of Senate Bill 950, has a host of new regulations for bicyclists and motorists, including a requirement for bicyclists to ride single file in substandard-width lanes, such as those found along most of State Road A1A, and no more than two abreast in wider lanes.
“We want to make sure everybody is on the same sheet of music,’’ said Ocean Ridge Police Chief Hal Hutchins.
“Everybody wants to do it [enforcement] in the same manner so there is consistency and there is no confusion. Once we nail everything down, we will start to get our officers involved with it and do some public service campaigns.’’
When the legislation went into effect July 1, the chiefs reached out to the Florida Department of Transportation for an explanation of how it affects their enforcement.
“We told them. ‘It’s a state road and how do you want this enforced? What’s the message? What’s the law if the law is modified?’’’ said Highland Beach Police Chief Craig Hartmann. “We all deal with the same FDOT roadway that runs through our towns. We are trying to get some response from FDOT and how they assist us — because it’s not a one-municipality issue. It’s a state road issue from Broward County on up.’’
Ocean Ridge, Manalapan and Highland Beach are among the police departments planning to attend a virtual meeting Aug. 11 with the FDOT and the offices of Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, who co-sponsored the legislation.
“Our hope is that a productive conversation can be facilitated to help everyone come to a mutual understanding of the current laws,’’ Angel Gonzalez, a legislative assistant to Book, wrote July 14 in an email to Manalapan Police Chief Carmen Mattox.
The new legislation “makes it clear that bicycles shall ride in a single file while traveling on substandard roads’’ like the stretches of A1A in Manalapan, Ocean Ridge and Highland Beach, Mattox said July 16 in a report to the Town Commission. A1A in Gulf Stream also fits the definition of substandard.
Mattox said he asked FDOT to post new signs “mandating single-file travel” but the agency would not. He then reached out to Book’s office for help.
“This issue affects many more towns than Manalapan. I have reached out to other coastal communities to request their involvement to help me find a solution,’’ he said in his report.
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,’’ according to the law. The FDOT design manual lists 4 feet as the minimum width for a designated bike lane.
On substandard-width lanes, “persons riding bicycles may temporarily ride two abreast only to avoid hazards in the roadway or to overtake another person riding a bicycle,’’ the statute says.
Mattox sent Book’s office a series of photographs, taken on a Saturday morning in July from town cameras along A1A, showing packs of bicyclists in the vehicular travel lanes.
“My goal is to have FDOT install signage informing the bicyclist to travel in single-file lanes,’’ he said in his report.
“This is a multi-jurisdictional issue occurring on a state roadway. I believe it requires the assistance of the state police to address and enforce the new law. Enforcement is difficult due to the large number of bicyclists overwhelming the number of officers enforcing the law.’’
A unified message from FDOT will help coastal towns educate the public, the chiefs say.
“The bicycle clubs ride legally and correctly. It’s some of the loosely affiliated groups that come through that get together in a pack and end up in the roadway,’’ Hartmann said.
Hutchins said some FDOT signs along A1A say bicyclists cannot ride more than two abreast. He wondered if those signs are in conflict with the new law.
The new law also spells out changes affecting motorists, including:
• No passing zones no longer apply to motorists who drive to the left of center to overtake a bicycle, provided the motorist gives at least 3 feet passing clearance.
• A vehicle making a right turn while passing a cyclist can do so only if the cyclist is at least 20 feet from the intersection and at a safe distance for the driver to make the turn.
• Cyclists riding in groups, after coming to a full stop at lights, may proceed through an intersection in groups of 10 or fewer. Motorists must let one group pass before proceeding.
Many people aren’t aware of the new law, but public agencies are starting to get the word out.
The Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency offered a presentation to its governing board in July.
“I typically ride in a group of two, just me and my husband, or up to about six to eight, and we are always considerate, always following the rules of the road,” West Palm Beach Commissioner Christina Lambert said at the TPA presentation. “But many times we are met with aggressive drivers who do not want bicyclists on the road, so I think the more we can do to help educate to keep everyone safe, the better off we