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Old 11-05-08, 12:32 PM   #1
ROJA
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Do I need to start taking the lane more? Any tips or advice?

I have been doing a lot of utility and recreational riding lately on a number of local roads that have two lanes going in each direction. I typically ride as far to the right as reasonably practical, which means not right in the gutter and not in the "door zone" of parked cars, yet not in the middle of the lane.

Due to the lane width of most roads around here, this means that passing cars can do one of three things:
(1) pass me without changing lanes at all, which means buzzing pretty close to me (I haven't been hit yet, but it's often a scary experience);
(2) pass me by moving slightly into the left lane and leaving me a few feet of room; or
(3) pass me by changing lanes entirely (into the left lane).

Should I be taking the lane in these situations? I think it's arguably legal under the "substandard lane width" rule (CVC 21202(a)(3)).

Is this the safer approach? I never see other cyclists do it (and I live in an area with very very high ridership). Why is that? Are "we" really that much smarter than everyone else? Seems hard to believe.

My concern is that this approach depends on the ability of drivers to see me and change lanes. It also relies on the ability of a high-speed driver following another driver who changes lanes at the last minute to hit the brakes or change lanes in time (assuming that person didn't see me until the last minute because his view forward was blocked by the car or truck in front of him).

That said, even if I ride to the right, I guess I still rely on drivers to move slightly over enough to hit me. This depends on their ability to judge how much room they should or must give me, an ability which is clearly weak in many drivers (hence the problem noted above).

I guess that this approach simply means taking advantage of my rights, trading one set of risks for another, and inconveniencing drivers for my own safety and sense of security.

I would appreciate any tips or wisdom from those in similar situations. How come fewer than 1% of cyclists take the lane, even when it would be prudent to do so? How do you decide and how do you execute? What are the best ways to mitigate risk? Does the speed of traffic on any given road change your analysis?

Thanks.
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Old 11-05-08, 12:36 PM   #2
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here are the cliff notes answer for your situation:


"just don't get run over"
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Old 11-05-08, 12:44 PM   #3
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here are the cliff notes answer for your situation:


"just don't get run over"
I'm not sure I understand your, uh, concise advice. Sounds like you are taking more of a pedestrian approach (i.e., "I'm in a vulnerable position, so I'd better jump out of the way of that car"). I don't think that approach works as well on a bike (and it certainly makes for slow and terrified riding). But your environment and risk tolerance might be different from mine.
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Old 11-05-08, 01:27 PM   #4
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I either take the lane or ride on the sidewalk at pedestrian speeds. I don't believe in this in-between riding of sharing a lane with fast moving traffic. Most lanes are not wide enough to allow a car and cycle to safely ride together. For this reason I nearly always ride in between the right tire track and and center of the lane. This makes it very clear to motorists they have to overtake me to pass me. If you ride too far to the right then motorists can not determine how to safely pass you till they are right up behind you. By then they lost their safe window to overtake you and now are stuck at your slow speed. So they get even more frustrated...
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Old 11-05-08, 01:28 PM   #5
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ride far enough into the lane that you force them to move over, depending on how wide the lanes are, usually the right tire track is enough
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Old 11-05-08, 01:46 PM   #6
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what I have found is that if I ride in the right tire track, I feel comfortable, cars can pass me in a reasonable length of time, and they give me enough clearance. Riding further to the right can mean they don't give enough clearance. If I don't want them to pass, I go further out in the lane. But this is generally in situations where only an idiot would pass, and they would only pass if I am far enough right that they can ignore me.

So what I am saying is that for the drivers in my area, riding in the right tire track is taking the lane. Others may have different experiences with drivers in their area. Most drivers here will move over fairly far to the left if you are on the shoulder.

There is one road near me that I take the shoulder, even though it is very narrow. The speeds on that road are high, motorists might not be able to avoid me, and I'm usually going fairly slow as it's uphill. I don't like it, but there are a couple of rides where a couple miles of that road are required. Another factor is that the right tire track is a potholed mess, whereas the shoulder is fine. That doesn't stop me from feeling like an idiot every time I do it.

Last edited by unterhausen; 11-05-08 at 01:52 PM.
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Old 11-05-08, 02:18 PM   #7
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I'm not sure I understand your, uh, concise advice. Sounds like you are taking more of a pedestrian approach (i.e., "I'm in a vulnerable position, so I'd better jump out of the way of that car"). I don't think that approach works as well on a bike (and it certainly makes for slow and terrified riding). But your environment and risk tolerance might be different from mine.

I am taking the approach that, you can ask all the questions you want about what to
do and how should I ....whatever

but the real issue is, don't get run over. no matter what you have on your mind, it will
not match what is on any drivers mind when you both are about to share common road space


so type a million words and overthink anything you want.

you are still gonna get squished. so avoid getting squished.

it is your road smarts and self-preservation kung-fu that rules the road, not discussions on the web
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Old 11-05-08, 02:24 PM   #8
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I'm not sure what your options are, but I try to ride through residential areas and not on the main roads. Around hear, except for a few choke points, I can pretty much run parrallel to the main roads by taking side streets a couple blocks over or so. The problem with this is that the side streets don't always go through or sometimes they meander around and I get lost. If I'm not time contrained, I just enjoy exploring a little bit of the city, so it's not all bad.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 11-05-08, 02:26 PM   #9
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it is your road smarts and self-preservation kung-fu that rules the road, not discussions on the web
Where is the link to nominate someone for "Least Helpful Answer"?

DBAD.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 11-05-08, 02:32 PM   #10
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Use less trafficked roads and/or sidewalks.
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Old 11-05-08, 02:39 PM   #11
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Where is the link to nominate someone for "Least Helpful Answer"?

DBAD.
actually, this is the best advice, and most reliable.
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Old 11-05-08, 03:19 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by ROJA View Post
I have been doing a lot of utility and recreational riding lately on a number of local roads that have two lanes going in each direction. I typically ride as far to the right as reasonably practical, which means not right in the gutter and not in the "door zone" of parked cars, yet not in the middle of the lane.

Due to the lane width of most roads around here, this means that passing cars can do one of three things:
(1) pass me without changing lanes at all, which means buzzing pretty close to me (I haven't been hit yet, but it's often a scary experience);
(2) pass me by moving slightly into the left lane and leaving me a few feet of room; or
(3) pass me by changing lanes entirely (into the left lane).

Should I be taking the lane in these situations? I think it's arguably legal under the "substandard lane width" rule (CVC 21202(a)(3)).
Riding "as far to the right as practicable" doesn’t mean hugging the curb or edge of the road. This may not be the best place to ride. For example, if you hit the curb, you could lose your balance and fall into traffic. Other times when you shouldn’t ride too far to the right include:
• When avoiding parked cars or surface hazards;
• When a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side;
• When making a left turn;
• To avoid conflicts with right-turning cars.
• On a one-way street, you may ride on the left as long as you are riding with traffic.

Where you ride on the roadway depends on how wide the lane is, how fast you're going, and whether there is a bike lane present that you may be required to ride in. "Taking" or "controlling" the lane is a decision you make based on the lane width, and how comfortable you feel in the surrounding traffic.

If there is no shoulder or bike lane, and the travel lane is narrow, ride closer to the center of the lane. This will prevent motorists from passing you when there isn’t room. You should also take the lane when you’re traveling at the same speed as traffic. This will keep you out of motorists’ blind spots and reduce conflicts with right-turning traffic.

Traffic lanes are decsribed as being "narrow," "wide," or "very wide" - depending on whethere there's room in there for a car and a bike to share side-by-side with a reasonable space (typically 3 feet) separating them. In a "narrow" lane, there isn't room to share side-by-side. Cars have to move partway into the next lane to pass you. Narrow lanes are common on city streets and on backroads in the country. In fact, since we still build roads based on the 1934 design standards when the average car was a Model A Ford, narrow lanes are the most common lanes you're going to encounter.

On a narrow two-lane, two-way road stay alert to strings of cars from the front, in case one pulls into your lane to pass. You can ride near the edge of this type of road if cars are coming from only one direction at a time. Then cars from the rear can pass you without having to move as far into the other lane. But if cars are coming from both directions, you have to take control of the situation. You can't take chances that the drivers behind you will try to pass you in oncoming traffic.

Check behind you, and if there's traffic there too, take the first opportunity to merge safely to the middle of the right lane. Also merge to the middle of the right lane at a blind curve where there might be oncoming traffic. On a right curve in a narrow lane, this technique makes you visible earlier to the drivers behind you. The driver behind you will have to slow and follow you. It helps to make a "slow“ signal (left arm extended downward) to indicate that you're aware of the car behind you and that it's unsafe to pass. Don't let an impatient driver cause a crash.

Understand that the law is on your side. The law gives you the right to use the road, the same as a motorist, and to make other traffic slow down for you sometimes. Since you don't have eyes in the back of your head, you can't be expected to keep track of the traffic behind you at all times. The driver approaching from the rear is always required to slow and follow if it's not possible to pass safely.

It may seem dangerous to make a motorist slow for you, but it's not. The usual reason that bicyclists feel unsafe on narrow roads is that they don't take control of their situation. Remember, the drivers behind you don't have room to pass you safely in the first place. If you ride all the way over at the right, you're inviting them to pass you where the road is too narrow and, too often, you will get squeezed off the road. If you show clearly that it's not safe for drivers to pass you, they're unlikely to try.

In any case, narrow roads aren't usually places where motorists drive very fast. It's dangerous to drive fast on narrow roads because there's so little room for error. Motorists expect to have to slow down for all sorts of reasons, no matter how little they like it.

But be courteous. When it becomes safe for the car behind you to pass you, give the driver a wave-by signal. If you block traffic for more than a short time, the law requires you to pull to the side and let the traffic by.

Wide roads: On a road with two or more narrow lanes in your direction -- like many city streets -- you should ride in the middle of the right lane at all times. You need to send the message to drivers to move to the passing lane to pass you. If you ride all the way to the right, two cars may pass you at the same time, side by side, and squeeze you off the road.

When you're going as fast as, or faster than the cars: Usually, cars travel faster than bicycles – but not always. A row of cars may have slowed in a traffic jam. Or you may be riding down a hill where you can keep up with the cars.

If you're going as fast as the cars, pull into line with them. When riding down a hill at high speed, you need more room to steer and brake. Besides, it's dangerous to ride along next to the right side of a car. The driver could turn right or edge closer to the curb without ever seeing you.

As long as you keep up with the car in front of you, stay in line with it. If you begin to fall behind, pull to the right. But if you're catching up with the car, pass on the left, just as if you were driving a car yourself.

Riding in the gutter or alongside the white fog stripe invites motorists to pass you unsafely – squeezing you out of the lane entirely, or forcing you to ride into a road hazard.
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Old 11-05-08, 03:51 PM   #13
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ride far enough into the lane that you force them to move over, depending on how wide the lanes are, usually the right tire track is enough
Of course lightly traveled roads are the best answer, but I agree with the above quote. In particular when there are parked cars, my adage is that, like a gun, assume every parked car is "loaded." I also highly recommend a rearview mirror to assess what's behind you, in particular when unexpected things pop up, e.g. potholes. I think it is a Murphy's law of cycling that no matter how quiet the road, a car will pass you on the left when you have a hazard on your right. On some really heavily traveled commercial roads, I have used the technique described below in a thread about riding the sidewalk:

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I A mistake of riding in the street is riding the white line. The law only indicates ride as far to the right as is safe. Riding the line invites cars to wedge in without giving you a good amount of room. That is not safe. Ride the right tire track becasue that visualy makes you look like you are taking half the lane. That forces people too change lanes instead of trying to squeeze past you.

Basically you have to exert control on the drivers by positioning yourself in such a way to force them to make the safe choice of passing when they have a good line of sight and actually leave the lane you are in when passing you.

The street is often a much smoother and faster ride that wears on you less. I do conceed that sometimes the sidewalk is a good choice as my above post and link indicated but you might give street riding more concideration. I feel at intersections it is far safer then using cross walks.
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I totally agree, when there is at least a 6 to 12 inch paved shoulder to the right of the white line for some room to maneuver.

If not, and the road is busy, I will ride a sidewalk if available. I also practice a technique I call "bolus riding," most often on busy commercial streets with stoplights. Using my rearview mirror, if the road behind me is clear, I ride in the street. When a group of cars ( a "bolus") is released from the stoplight and starts to approach I go onto the side walk and return to street after they have passed. It works well on commercial streets because driveways are pretty frequent to access the sidewalk. (For Detroiters, I thought of this technique while riding Gratiot Ave in Roseville inbound with AM rush hour traffic.)
FWIW
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Old 11-05-08, 04:26 PM   #14
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As a rider I am responsible for deciding when a lane is wide enough for safe sharing.

When a lane is wide enough for safe sharing, I am responsible for riding right.

When as lane is not wide enough for safe sharing, I am responsible for taking the lane.
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Old 11-05-08, 04:48 PM   #15
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Where is the link to nominate someone for "Least Helpful Answer"?

DBAD.

That is actually the most helpful answer.
Respectfully, if you need to ask this stuff, you are using a route
you most likely shouldnt be using. You shouldnt have to question
how you should ride a part of you commute to internet people
most or all whom have absolutely no clue about the area or
conditions specific to you and your situation.
You've either accumulated the experience and confidence to ride it
or not, even if it means sidewalk or disregarding other expert
internet advice.
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Old 11-05-08, 05:07 PM   #16
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That is actually the most helpful answer.
Respectfully, if you need to ask this stuff, you are using a route
you most likely shouldnt be using. You shouldnt have to question
how you should ride a part of you commute to internet people
most or all whom have absolutely no clue about the area or
conditions specific to you and your situation.
You've either accumulated the experience and confidence to ride it
or not, even if it means sidewalk or disregarding other expert
internet advice.
Perhaps you popped out of the womb as a VC idiot savant, but I for one have been riding on the road for about 15 years and I still think I have a lot to learn about safe and effective street riding.
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Old 11-05-08, 05:42 PM   #17
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I confirm your finding. First of all, as John Forester would put it, less succinctly, your concern about being overrun by motorists approaching from the rear is, statistically, not anywhere close to being a top concern. Being struck by motorists who misjudge their distance from you, either as they pass you or when they swing back over into your lane, is a much greater risk.

Unfortunately there seems to be a natural tendency for motorists to assume that if they can pass you without changing lanes, then it is preferable to do so. When you sit in the right hand tire track a motorist will automatically choose to change lanes instead of trying to squeeze by you.

Many cyclists seem to feel concerned that they are "holding up traffic", and I want to address this issue. First and foremost, a cyclist has a right to the road, and that means a right to progress along the road at a speed appropriate for his vehicle. Bob Mionske's book cites many legal precedents in this regard.

A "speed limit" is a maximum speed beyond which the operator of a vehicle is presumed to be progressing in an unsafe manner. The fact that you are operating a vehicle that is capable of exceeding that maximum speed gives you absolutely no rights or privileges. In particular, a "speed limit" is in no way any sort of suggestion about a reasonable or safe speed.

The only way that motorists will learn to decouple the notion of a "speed limit" from the notion of a reasonable and prudent speed of travel will be if they become accustomed to other roadway users who operate their vehicles at speeds markedly different to the maximum legal speed limit.

Finally, in spite of my diatribe, I do try to share the road, which means that when it is safe to do so, I will use a bike lane, shoulder, or other accommodation to allow faster vehicles to get around me. However, when no such accommodation exists, I have learned that it is in my own best interest to control the situation so that an inattentive motorist doesn't take my life into his hands.
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Old 11-05-08, 06:26 PM   #18
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Perhaps you popped out of the womb as a VC idiot savant, but I for one have been riding on the road for about 15 years and I still think I have a lot to learn about safe and effective street riding.

Thank you for making my point, precisely.
PM tomorrow and Ill give you some tips about putting your socks on.
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Old 11-05-08, 06:35 PM   #19
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That is actually the most helpful answer.
Not really. It says that basically you need magical powers and/or street smarts, with no actual help as to how to acquire them.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 11-05-08, 06:43 PM   #20
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OP here- thanks to all for the tips and advice. This approach made logical sense to me, but the reinforcement here that I'm not crazy (despite what I see on the road) is very helpful!
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Old 11-05-08, 06:48 PM   #21
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"Not really. It says that basically you need magical powers and/or street smarts, with no actual help as to how to acquire them."


The OP's response to my previous post has already determined the thread is
going into the realm of unpleasantness. I guess when you post an open
question to a public forum you should expect to hear only answers you
want to ?
Back on topic, your statement(above) is the answer. You get magical
powers and streetsmarts by riding. Period. In all different situations
and conditions. Thats my opinion. Still valid even if undesirable.
Sorry if it offends
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Old 11-06-08, 09:44 PM   #22
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When a lane is wide enough for safe sharing, I am responsible for riding right.
My problem is wide lanes are only sharable if the motor vehicle is over on the left side.

These last few weeks I've had some oddly close passes in ridiculously wide lanes, simply because the motorist just kept driving down the centre of the lane. I have no idea why.

Of course, I've previously mentioned about the small but enraged subset of the driving public who will use their vehicle to push me over to the curb if they "catch me" taking a lane.
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Old 11-06-08, 10:56 PM   #23
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Of course, I've previously mentioned about the small but enraged subset of the driving public who will use their vehicle to push me over to the curb if they "catch me" taking a lane.
I just had that happen the other night. Don't remember it happening before.

I had a strange case of a problem with a fairly wide lane in the last couple of months. The car behind me wouldn't pass when there was oncoming traffic, but when the traffic cleared, they passed without going into the other lane at all. It was a little closer than I liked. My criteria being that I shouldn't be able to do any damage with my lightweight camping axe.
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Old 11-06-08, 11:37 PM   #24
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I have been doing a lot of utility and recreational riding lately on a number of local roads that have two lanes going in each direction. I typically ride as far to the right as reasonably practical, which means not right in the gutter and not in the "door zone" of parked cars, yet not in the middle of the lane.

Due to the lane width of most roads around here, this means that passing cars can do one of three things:
(1) pass me without changing lanes at all, which means buzzing pretty close to me (I haven't been hit yet, but it's often a scary experience);
(2) pass me by moving slightly into the left lane and leaving me a few feet of room; or
(3) pass me by changing lanes entirely (into the left lane).

Should I be taking the lane in these situations? I think it's arguably legal under the "substandard lane width" rule (CVC 21202(a)(3)).

Is this the safer approach? I never see other cyclists do it (and I live in an area with very very high ridership). Why is that? Are "we" really that much smarter than everyone else? Seems hard to believe.

My concern is that this approach depends on the ability of drivers to see me and change lanes. It also relies on the ability of a high-speed driver following another driver who changes lanes at the last minute to hit the brakes or change lanes in time (assuming that person didn't see me until the last minute because his view forward was blocked by the car or truck in front of him).

That said, even if I ride to the right, I guess I still rely on drivers to move slightly over enough to hit me. This depends on their ability to judge how much room they should or must give me, an ability which is clearly weak in many drivers (hence the problem noted above).

I guess that this approach simply means taking advantage of my rights, trading one set of risks for another, and inconveniencing drivers for my own safety and sense of security.

I would appreciate any tips or wisdom from those in similar situations. How come fewer than 1% of cyclists take the lane, even when it would be prudent to do so? How do you decide and how do you execute? What are the best ways to mitigate risk? Does the speed of traffic on any given road change your analysis?

Thanks.
From this post and the OP's responses to posts of others I get the sense his question is rhetorical and he already has the answers he needs.

Any chance we could move this thread to the vehicular cycling forum to confine this obviously contrived VC Promotional thread where it belongs?
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Old 11-07-08, 01:04 AM   #25
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I confirm your finding. First of all, as John Forester would put it, less succinctly, your concern about being overrun by motorists approaching from the rear is, statistically, not anywhere close to being a top concern. Being struck by motorists who misjudge their distance from you, either as they pass you or when they swing back over into your lane, is a much greater risk.

Unfortunately there seems to be a natural tendency for motorists to assume that if they can pass you without changing lanes, then it is preferable to do so. When you sit in the right hand tire track a motorist will automatically choose to change lanes instead of trying to squeeze by you.

Many cyclists seem to feel concerned that they are "holding up traffic", and I want to address this issue. First and foremost, a cyclist has a right to the road, and that means a right to progress along the road at a speed appropriate for his vehicle. Bob Mionske's book cites many legal precedents in this regard.

A "speed limit" is a maximum speed beyond which the operator of a vehicle is presumed to be progressing in an unsafe manner. The fact that you are operating a vehicle that is capable of exceeding that maximum speed gives you absolutely no rights or privileges. In particular, a "speed limit" is in no way any sort of suggestion about a reasonable or safe speed.

The only way that motorists will learn to decouple the notion of a "speed limit" from the notion of a reasonable and prudent speed of travel will be if they become accustomed to other roadway users who operate their vehicles at speeds markedly different to the maximum legal speed limit.

Finally, in spite of my diatribe, I do try to share the road, which means that when it is safe to do so, I will use a bike lane, shoulder, or other accommodation to allow faster vehicles to get around me. However, when no such accommodation exists, I have learned that it is in my own best interest to control the situation so that an inattentive motorist doesn't take my life into his hands.
I couldn't agree more. I'm in Boston, where bikes are everywhere. I feel like I'm the only one taking the lane ever. My friends who bike think i'm nuts for doing so and don't seem to understand that it really is safer to just take the lane. They're really afraid to hold up traffic and get honked at. One friend who was actually doored still doesn't take the lane because she told me if she were driving she would be pissed if someone took up her lane. Sadly, if I never started biking I would probably feel the same about bikers-they're an annoyance. Most drivers don't learn to share the road and as a result don't know how to react when bikes are on the streets.

I get honked at a lot, but it sure beats the hell out of getting doored or side-swiped. I dodge parked car doors almost every day when taking the lane which makes me feel safer than getting sandwiched in the side-swipe/door zone because it is. I also tend to take the left-center of the right lane, because i've had many instances where cars will still dangerously hover in the same lane when passing if I'm taking dead center.

So yes, not many people do take the lanes, but in many cases it's just so much safer.
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