What is a road margin?
Every road (edit: I'm referring here only to paved roads built to accomodate any vehicle that is not "oversized" - vehicles up to 8.5' wide, but which are typically around 6' wide) has space towards the outside edge that is generally unused by through motor traffic (edit: comprised of typical width vehicles) - let's call this space the road margin (for lack of a better term).
The width of a margin varies widely from road to road. On some roads space that is generally unused can be several feet wide; on roads with narrow outside lanes, the margin can be measured in inches. I can't imagine a road with a margin of zero width - that would mean that cars are regularly driven rubbing up against the curb or driven with the tires at the edge of the pavement and unpaved shoulder.
Edit: Some very narrow roads without center dividing stripes are so narrow that cars traveling in opposite directions cannot both be fully on the road when they pass each other. However, such roads are typically lightly travelled, and, so, most of the time there is no oncoming traffic and the space normally used by through traffic is "centerish". The unused space to the right of vehicles driving in this "centerish" position is what I refer to as the "margin" on these types of very narrow roads.
In practice, the margin of a given road can be identified by certain distinctive physical characteristics, even when no traffic is present. The characteristics identifying the road margin include:
General road margin usage.
- Stripe. A shoulder stripe, standard bike lane stripe, parking lane stripe, or "fog line" demarcates the outside edge of the outside vehicular travel lane, thus effectively defining the margin (space generally unused by through motor traffic) to be the space to the right of that.
- Debris. The space on the road that sees frequent vehicular usage is being constantly blown clean by the movement of the vehicles. Thus, the debris is being constantly swept into the road margins, and the margins can often be identified by the presence of dust, dirt, sand, glass, staples, nails, rocks, rubble, etc., on the pavement.
- Moisture. After a rain, the part of the road used by vehicular traffic is often blown dry faster by traffic than the unused spaces, leaving the margins relatively wet for a longer period than the space used by motor traffic.
- Right of right tire track. On many roads the discolored and/or worn left and right tire tracks of where vehicles are normally driven can be seen on the roadway. The margin is the space to the right of the discolored/worn right tire track.
- Rumble stripes. On some roads rumble strips are used to warn motorists who may be inadvertently drifting out of their lane. These strips effectively designate where the lane ends and the margin begins.
While road margins are generally not used by normal through motor traffic, by definition, rarely is it completely unused space. Depending on the circumstances, how the road margin is used varies widely. Margin usage can include:
Food for thought
- Emergency parking.
- Regular parking.
- Space for evading collisions.
- Space for "drifting" while driver is attending to a distraction.
- In preparation to park or turn right.
- Turning traffic.
- Crossing traffic.
- Slow moving vehicles, including bicycles, to allow faster traffic to pass.
- Pedestrians and joggers, same direction and opposite direction.
- Under what circumstances do you ride in the margins? Why?
- Under what circumstances do you avoid riding in the margins? Why?
- Is your choice to use or avoid riding in the margin affected by whether the margin is demarcated by a stripe? If so, does it matter whether the stripe is a shoulder stripe or a bike lane stripe?
- Is cyclist conspicuity affected depending on whether the cyclist is riding in the margin or not? Why or why not?
- Do you think margin usage and avoidance while cycling is associated with crash likelihood? If so, how?
- Do you feel safer or more vulnerable, or about the same, when you're riding in the margin versus riding in the normal travel space (between the left and right tire marks) of the adjacent vehicular travel lane?
- When riding in the margin, do you feel safer or more vulnerable, or about the same, when that margin space is demarcated by a stripe versus when it is not?
- When riding in the margin, are you any more or less susceptible to mindlessness and/or inattention when the margin is demarcated by a stripe versus when it is not?
- Are you any more or less susceptible to mindlessness and/or inattention when you're riding in the margin versus riding in the normal travel space (between the left and right tire marks) of the adjacent vehicular travel lane?
EDIT: It has been alleged that creating this OP/thread without divulging my own bias is somehow deceitful. See #50 and #54. I don't understand the relevance of my bias here, or why someone would think that this type of thread is an example of me pushing my ideas in a deceitful way. However, for what it's worth, I have no issue with divulging my personal views for the umpteenth time. Most people, including most cyclists, seem to believe that cyclists should ride in the margins most of the time, for various reasons. I believe that it is better to avoid the margins whenever it is safe and reasonable to do so, with the notable exception of when doing so would impede others, and there is no good reason to avoid riding in the margin. Again, I'm not sure what difference that makes, and I think and hope it would not affect how anyone responds to these questions, but there it is.