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Old 04-09-08, 11:23 AM   #1
WriteABike
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When do you pull off the road?

Due to recent events, I finally feel like maybe it's safe to ask this question here. First, a little background:

A friend at work and I commute to and from work by bike. Most of the trip is on low-speed rural roads with hardly any traffic. But there's a mile-and-a-half section that's on a narrow, 55mph road that is usually pretty lightly trafficked, but occasionally we'll end up with a car (or large truck) approaching from the front and one approaching from behind, and there's no shoulder outside the white line. On our road bikes, we don't worry much about that situation. There probably isn't technically enough room for them to stay in the lane and keep three feet from us, but they do it anyway, and I'm used to it. (Sometimes they'll actually crowd the oncoming car instead. Often, the car behind just slows down until the oncoming car passes.)

I have a recumbent trike, which I'm almost finished building a velomobile-style shell for. My friend is planning to get a trike and build one soon. When I first started riding the trike, I had the three-across scenario occur with a semi coming up behind me. I could see it in the mirror well in advance, so I decided to pull off the shoulder. It was an inconvenience to me, and I got weeds stuck in the idler, so I decided to just hold my lane and count on the vehicle behind me to slow down and wait. That's what I've done since, and it hasn't been a problem.

Because the trike is a little wider and can't ride halfway off the road like a bike, there really isn't room for cars to squeeze past. My friend is worried about riding on that road and taking the lane. My thinking is that I'll take the lane and keep an eye on the mirror. If it appears that the vehicle is going to run me over, then I'll bail off the road. He thinks we ought to slow down and pull over.

Bailing off the road at speed could be dangerous because of the steep shoulder. Also, I might wait too long and end up getting hit. But the chances of getting hit from behind when riding such a noticeable vehicle seem miniscule.

Thoughts?
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Old 04-09-08, 11:58 AM   #2
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It sounds like you're doing good, but maybe move a little farther left to make it more clear that there is not enough space to "squeeze by". As long as they can see you in the lane early on, they will not hit you. A mirror does help, because then you can see them slowing down or changing lanes safely.

If I was holding up cars for over a minute or so I'd pull over, as long as there was a safe spot to do so.

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Old 04-09-08, 12:20 PM   #3
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I've never been able to tell by looking at the front of a car what it is going to do, so I don't see much utility in a mirror. What is important is that the driver needs to know with absolute certainty what you're going to do. If you look like you might get out of his way, he's going to try and squeeze by. If you look like you're not going anywhere, if he sees you he's going to slow down and wait until it's safe to pass.

If he doesn't see you, you've got problems on this road no matter how you ride.
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Old 04-09-08, 01:17 PM   #4
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55mph rural roads are hard. I seriously burnt myself out one summer commuting on these roads for about half of a 20 mile commute, 2 to 4 times a week.

I don't typically pull of the road for anything (though I am on two wheels, not three). What I do is make it painfully obvious to the overtaking vehicle that they cannot pass using the same lane. I will "take the lane", meaning I'll get out toward the middle and many times on these types of roads I'll give a signal with my hand to "stay back" (put my hand out, palm toward the driver, and wave them away).

This works most of the time. The watch word is to be assertive. Act like you own your own space.
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Old 04-09-08, 01:21 PM   #5
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My wife rides a trike and in honesty, she gets better courtesy from the cars than I do. She rides a recumbent delta, a Sun EZ-3, and they'll often hold back and then give her the entire lane if they can. Some of them may think she's a little old lady and I know a few that thought it was a form of wheelchair. Whatever the reason though, they definitely give her more room.
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Old 04-09-08, 01:57 PM   #6
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I've never been able to tell by looking at the front of a car what it is going to do, so I don't see much utility in a mirror.
One never knows what a driver may do until they do it. I would instead say one can often tell by looking back (mirror helps) at rear approaching vehicles if the driver may have seen me and I can tell what the are likely to do next - this is especially true for roads different than the OP is dealing with: one narrow lane each way.

You do get some clues from rear approaching motorists. Some are obvious, flashing headlights, left turn signal. Some more subtle, slowing down, or moving leftward in lane.

Of course none of these give certainty to what the driver will do next, but they are clues that help me know what the motorist may do next or what I may need to do next.

Also on roads unlike the one in question (say multi lane) those clues can be much more obvious, such as seeing nearly ever driver merge into the adjacent lane well before they get to you.

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Old 04-09-08, 01:58 PM   #7
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I don't typically pull of the road for anything (though I am on two wheels, not three). What I do is make it painfully obvious to the overtaking vehicle that they cannot pass using the same lane. I will "take the lane", meaning I'll get out toward the middle and many times on these types of roads I'll give a signal with my hand to "stay back" (put my hand out, palm toward the driver, and wave them away).
This is great advice.
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Old 04-09-08, 02:44 PM   #8
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I have run into a similar situation but on a thin, busy road. One stretch of my commute, about 200ft long is perennially packed with parked cars. The road is technically a 45, but 60 is probably more accurate. My choice is to either keep to right, and hug the cars, perhaps weaving in small gaps and giving traffic room to pass. Or, take the lane for about 200 ft.
Once you can make the initial leap of faith to take the lane, its smooth sailing. Alternatively sometimes I just don't have the emotional energy to take the lane and try to squeeze to the side. Usually when I do that I am in panic the entire time, and ride very nervously.
If I was a better cyclist, I would choose option 1 every time.
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Old 04-09-08, 04:04 PM   #9
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I think the "stay back" hand is the crucial extra detail here. It indicates that you are not just in the middle of the highway for no reason, and that you are aware of their presence, and working toward the "common good". It indicates that maybe you know something about the circumstances that they don't, like a car approaching around the bend.

Of course, I know the task is harder for a lot of people in more rural areas who have "thin, fast, busy" roads and much fewer route options...
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Old 04-09-08, 05:13 PM   #10
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I think you're doing the right thing. Pulling over is really only necessary if you're causing an extended obstruction, and even then don't feel like it's an obligation. I'll move closer to the kerb/edge when it's safe for them to pass, but I don't recall ever having to pull off the road entirely to let anyone pass. But ultimately that judgement call is your own on a case by case basis.

The rule of thumb seems to be that motorists pass you with about the same amount of room that you ride away from the kerb edge. I'm not sure why, it just is. If they have to move even slightly into the next lane, they will generally go even wider.

I predict you'll find once you take the trike out on the road that the response from motorists will be almost universally positive. The difference I noticed when I started recumbenting was nothing short of revelatory.
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Old 04-09-08, 05:19 PM   #11
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make it painfully obvious to the overtaking vehicle that they cannot pass using the same lane.
Yepper, that's the ticket. Sometimes they'll get ticked off, honk, holler, etc., but the fact is that your safety is more important than their couple of seconds of inconvenience.
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Old 04-09-08, 06:40 PM   #12
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Take the lane - like ride in the middle of it? If you're cycling at 30-40 mph, sure, but at 10-15 mph, you're nothing short of an obstacle to traffic. I live in Amish country, and the Amish buggies travel at about 10 mph. They make every effort to keep to the right to let cars pass safely, same thing that I do while cycling. Funny how everybody's perspective changes depending on whether they are cycling or driving. The other guy is ALWAYS wrong, right?
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Old 04-09-08, 07:32 PM   #13
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They make every effort to keep to the right to let cars pass safely, same thing that I do while cycling. Funny how everybody's perspective changes depending on whether they are cycling or driving. The other guy is ALWAYS wrong, right?
If it is too narrow for a car to pass safely, or other conditions (like oncoming traffic) make it dangerous to pass, what difference would it make to a responsible driver whether you are hugging the curb, riding in the right tire track, and riding in the middle of the road?
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Old 04-09-08, 07:49 PM   #14
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Discretion is the better part of valor.
But that doesn't mean we can't fantasize about TOW missiles and dynamo based EMP weapons....
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Old 04-09-08, 08:39 PM   #15
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Can I just point out HH's mantra might be really helpful in this situation? It sounds like "take the lane" is the appropriate thing to do. I think it would be much safer than trying to pull off in a spot, or giving just enough room for someone to think they can squeeze by.
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Old 04-09-08, 08:58 PM   #16
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It sounds like you're doing good, but maybe move a little farther left to make it more clear that there is not enough space to "squeeze by". As long as they can see you in the lane early on, they will not hit you. A mirror does help, because then you can see them slowing down or changing lanes safely.

If I was holding up cars for over a minute or so I'd pull over, as long as there was a safe spot to do so.
THis response is reasonable. I'd add to make absolutely sure you are visable. Trikes are low to the ground, and even more unusual to see a trike. So add a flag, lights, reflectors, whatever, be visable. \

And no black fairings, bright colors are your friends.
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Old 04-09-08, 10:16 PM   #17
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Take the lane - like ride in the middle of it? If you're cycling at 30-40 mph, sure, but at 10-15 mph, you're nothing short of an obstacle to traffic. I live in Amish country, and the Amish buggies travel at about 10 mph. They make every effort to keep to the right to let cars pass safely, same thing that I do while cycling. Funny how everybody's perspective changes depending on whether they are cycling or driving. The other guy is ALWAYS wrong, right?
Do like the Amish do. Take the lane only when necessary. Like when going around bends in the road or when there are vehicles ahead. Give room when it is not necessary. That way, yes, you are an obstacle to traffic, on purpose, and you know it... but you are only an obstacle for a few 10's of seconds. This is an important cooperative gesture when on rural, no shoulder, 55mph highways.
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Old 04-10-08, 02:32 AM   #18
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Stay to the right only if the lane is wide enough to safely share. This invites close passing. Otherwise, ride far enough to the left in the lane to make it blatantly obvious that they cannot pass without at least partially changing lanes. Hold your line when being passed or you may find yourself getting squeezed off the road.

The trailers I tow are at least as wide as a 'bent. On roads such as described in the OP, I use the same road position regardless whether I have a trailer in tow or not. Which is no further to the right than the right tire track. This gives me the entire right half of the right lane and passing motorists the other 3/4 of the road, on coming traffic allowing.

On a road like this I consider a 12' lane to be not wide enough to safely share, a 14' lane is marginal.

I have found that when riding in this manner, nearly all passing vehicles match my speed until there's room to pass, then completely change lanes to make the pass. Just as if passing any other vehicle.

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Old 04-10-08, 06:52 AM   #19
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I only move out into the middle of the lane if cars are approaching from both directions. Then when the car behind passes, I give a wave of acknowledgement.
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Old 04-10-08, 10:58 AM   #20
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It sounds like there's a pretty strong consensus for taking the lane. On a 40 mph road I ride, I've always done this. It seems like it takes more guts on a 55 mph highway; I just don't feel like I belong in the middle of the lane. I think it just takes some getting used to. I grew up on a 55 mph highway with a wide, paved shoulder, and I never crossed the white line into the lane. That highway had lots of traffic, though.

I think waving to drivers who've had to wait behind me is a good idea, too. I don't know what they're thinking, but a wave of appreciation can't hurt.

And, yes, I've definitely noticed that people give me more room when I'm on the trike. Coworkers often ask if the trike is more dangerous considering that my head is at bumper-level. With a day-glo orange tailsock and Superflash blinky, I think it's quite a bit safer.
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Old 04-10-08, 04:07 PM   #21
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It sounds like there's a pretty strong consensus for taking the lane. On a 40 mph road I ride, I've always done this. It seems like it takes more guts on a 55 mph highway; I just don't feel like I belong in the middle of the lane. I think it just takes some getting used to. I grew up on a 55 mph highway with a wide, paved shoulder, and I never crossed the white line into the lane. That highway had lots of traffic, though.
Can you give a map link to the road in question?

Usually the higher the speed of the road, the wider the lanes, but I realise that's not always the case. If there's a nice wide shoulder, I'd ride there.

Even without a shoulder, it's not necessary to ride in the middle of the lane at all times. I usually move a bit more into the lane only in situations when close passing is likely and I want to discourage it. As long as it's clear they have to at least partially leave the lane to pass you, you're far enough into the lane.

Another handy skill is getting used to close passes. Obviously they aren't ideal, and you do everything you can to prevent them, but they do happen. Keeping your cool and holding a stable line with traffic passing inches from your shoulder can save your life.
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Old 04-11-08, 01:37 AM   #22
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I have a recumbent trike...
I hate to be that guy, but someone's got to say it:

1. Recumbent - Low and hard to see in all but the most ideal circumstances.

2. Trike - Wide, slow (generally), hard to maneuver.

If you were driving a car down the same road and there were two kids skateboarding side-by-side, how would you feel about it? Do you carry a portable brick wall to bang your head against when you ride too?

And don't forget that a TRI-cycle is not a BI-cycle. You may not even be protected by local laws on roadways and fall under the category of roller-skates etc. No Foolin! Check on it.

Before everybody flames the dickens out of me, look at the practicality of the whole thing. This thread would not even exist if the rider of such a thing was not seeing a problem too. I admire the spunkiness of the OP, and in a perfect world OK, but I would find a parking lot or a Rails To Trails to ride on or get that thing on eBay before someone (you) gets hurt.

Remember who had the guts to point out the obvious after the smoke clears.

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Old 04-11-08, 02:28 AM   #23
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On a 55 mph road the difference in speed between cars and bikes renders the difference in speed between bikes and trikes moot. The same applies when I'm towing a trailer behind my bike. I'm wider and a little slower, but the speed differential isn't enough to matter.

The legal aspect as to trikes on the road in UT may be worth checking on, but in practice I'm generally given more room when I do have a trailer with me. As I understand, what I see with a trailer in tow is what trikes see all the time. That's even been pointed out on this thread.

Any problems with riding any pedal powered vehicle on roads such as described in the OP are nullified by being conspicuous and riding in a competent, confident and assertive manner.

The idea that trikes shouldn't be ridden where bikes can be because the trikes create some kind of imaginary problems is ridiculous.

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Old 04-11-08, 11:29 AM   #24
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Do like the Amish do. Take the lane only when necessary. Like when going around bends in the road or when there are vehicles ahead. Give room when it is not necessary. That way, yes, you are an obstacle to traffic, on purpose, and you know it... but you are only an obstacle for a few 10's of seconds. This is an important cooperative gesture when on rural, no shoulder, 55mph highways.
A bike is not an obstacle to traffic it is part of traffic. We have to stop apologizing for being in the traffic lane, we are part of traffic, and we are not impeding normal and reasonable movement of traffic if other traffic only has to wait a few seconds to safely get passed us.
The cooperative gesture would be for the motor vehicles to obey the law and pass safely even if they are inconvenienced for a few seconds.
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Old 04-11-08, 12:50 PM   #25
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According to Google Earth, the section of road I referred to is from
41 47'10.58" N, 111 59'13.94" W
to
41 46'05.83" N, 111 58'52.75" W

You can plug those coordinates into Google Earth and probably any internet map database. Anyway, it's a 1.25 mile stretch, and at the moment the satellite took the photo there was only one car on it, maybe two.

If you look at the satellite photos, you can see it's open farmland. I think it's ideal terrain for recumbent riding, trike or otherwise--flat, straight, and with few distractions. If drivers can see at all, they can see me. My speed on that stretch is between 17 (heading South in the morning) and 30 (going North in the afternoon; love those prevailing winds. Got to find me a bigger chainring.) I do take up more room than I would on a bike, but only because I can't ride with half my width hanging over the edge of the road.

As for legality, in Utah a trike is a human powered vehicle and the operator "has all the rights and is subject to the provisions of this chapter applicable to the operator of any other vehicle." Interestingly, though, they aren't subject to the same penalties for DUI.

Now once I get that electric-assist built, I might be in different territory.

(Listen to me. I've really gotten sucked into the recumbent mindset. I even bought some Shimano sandals.)
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