Bicyclist Challenges Ticket for Refusing to Stay Right – And Wins

South Carolina bicycle law mirrors many states with regard to bicyclists’ rights and responsibilities as shared users of the road.
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Firstly, Section 56-5-3420 states cyclists must be granted all rights and are subject to all duties applicable to a driver, except where the law expressly states otherwise. Further, Section 56-5-3430(A) states that “as practical,” cyclists shall ride as near to the right side of the road as possible.

It’s that “as practical” section that many cyclists base their decision to ride in the middle of the lane. The reason is because when traffic is allowed to pass a cyclist who is to the right of the road, there is greater potential for injury to the cyclist. This is why absent a bicycle lane, many cyclists opt to ride in the middle of the road, with motor vehicles having the option to pass either using the left lane or crossing the center line when there is no oncoming traffic.

It was this safety practice that landed a Florida cyclist in trouble recently, when a law enforcement officer ticketed him for failing to ride to the far right of the outside lane. He had been warned several times before, but this was the first time he had been ticketed. He fought it, and, according to a recent USA Today report, he won.

While our Spartanburg bicycle accident attorneys know many motorists get frustrated with cyclists, the League of American Bicyclists recommends cyclists should share a lane with a vehicle only if it is wide enough, which is about 14 feet. Cyclists are supposed to have at least three feet of space on either side in order to ride safely. The League says if there is not enough space, the rider should “take the lane” and ride in the middle.

In this case, the lane was 13.5 feet.

However, at the hearing, the officer argued a cyclist who uses the full lane slows traffic and places other cyclists and drivers in danger. State law in Florida (just as in South Carolina) does prohibit impediment of traffic, but those statutes only apply to motor vehicles.

The cyclist meanwhile argued that in a lane of that size, any vehicle larger than a mid-sized car would not be able to pass a rider while still granting the necessary three feet of space. He pointed out he would be putting his safety at risk to hug the curb while riding down the busy street on his daily work commute.

Ultimately, the hearings officer agreed. finding it would not be safe for a cyclist to utilize a bicycle to the far right of the lane in this instances.

Although the ruling spared him from paying a $61.50 ticket, it was never about the money, he said. He said he knew deputies and motorists need to be made aware of the rights of cyclists, and learn to respect them as equal users of the road – which he hopes will ultimately lead to fewer bicycle injuries and fatalities.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports there were 13 bicycle fatalities in South Carolina in 2012, making up 1.5 percent of the total number of traffic deaths that year. In Florida, which has the highest rate of bicycle accidents and deaths, there were 122 deaths, comprising 5 percent of the total.

Contact our South Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Cyclist fights for right to ride in full lane, and wins, Jan. 29, 2015, By Janine Zeitlin, USA Today

More Blog Entries:
Don’t Assume People See You, June 13, 2014, Spartanburg Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog

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