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?