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Advocacy & Safety Cyclists should expect and demand safe accommodation on every public road, just as do all other users. Discuss your bicycle advocacy and safety concerns here.

View Poll Results: Would cycling be better off without "Ride to the Right?"
Yes 62 57.41%
No 32 29.63%
Not Sure 14 12.96%
Voters: 108. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 12-10-08, 09:20 PM   #1
JohnBrooking
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Better off without "Ride to the Right?"

Most states have some kind of "Ride to the Right" law, usually some variation of staying "as far right as practicable", and ideally with a list of exceptions such as avoiding debris, avoiding right-turn only lanes, and preparing for left turns. Paul Schimek has a nice comparison of these laws in various states in this article. Some states don't even have a Ride to the Right law!

One argument that Paul makes in that article, which I find myself increasingly in agreement with, is that this law is discriminatory and redundant with laws about slow-moving traffic staying to the right. It seems to me that it reinforces the idea that cyclists are not quite as welcome to use the road as motorists are, no matter that the law says elsewhere that we have all the same rights and duties. On the other hand, the better Right to the Right laws will explicitly list exceptions which are not present in the more general purpose slow-moving traffic law, which seems like a good thing.

So would we better off without it, or is it okay as it is?

Related but different question, for extra credit: If you believe it a negative overall, is it worth campaigning to get it repealed in states where it exists?

Last edited by JohnBrooking; 12-16-08 at 09:58 PM.
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Old 12-10-08, 09:45 PM   #2
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I ride where I feel I am the safest at any given moment. I don't give much thought to where "The Law" thinks I should ride. It's my funeral if I get it wrong.

In your poll, I checked "Yes"

As for Part II of the question, I would rather be riding my bike than lobbying, but think that persons with the time and energy should do whatever they can to level the playing field for Cyclist vs. Motorist laws. Either we are "equal" i.e., bound by the same rules of the road, or were not. I can roll with either decision.
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Old 12-10-08, 10:43 PM   #3
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I'm with Joey, I ride wherever I feel safe for the moment, whether that be between lanes of cars, in the middle of the lane or slightly to the right..The only thing I don't do is blow through stop lights (for the most part). The law says that we can be as far to the right as we deem safe, and well I never deem the white line safe...
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Old 12-10-08, 10:44 PM   #4
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I am partial to the messenger's left.
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Old 12-11-08, 10:19 AM   #5
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I am gonna vote yes. From the many letters I have read on these forums, it seems clear to me that (at least in urban/suburban areas) the obsession with 'bikes should ride as far to the right as....." is in serious conflict not only with the safety of many of you riders out there, but also stands in the way of cyclists due recognition of their rights and privileges on the roadway.

After all, as a practical matter, CARS should ride as far to the right as practicable, as well, leaving the left lanes for passing and faster traffic. But no one grudges an automobiles right to be flexible, lanewise, as traffic conditions permit. Much the same should be extended to bikes.

I still say, dollar for dollar the best cycling safety expenditure is to widen the shoulder of the road. But in congested areas---just where it is most needed!---the room for shoulders is at a premium.

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Old 12-11-08, 10:40 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by JohnBrooking View Post
Most states have some kind of "Ride to the Right" law, usually some variation of staying "as far right as practicable", and ideally with a list of exceptions such as avoiding debris, avoiding right-turn only lanes, and preparing for left turns. Paul Schimek has a nice comparison of these laws in various states in this article. Some states don't even have a Ride to the Right law!

One argument that Paul makes in than article, which I find myself increasingly in agreement with, is that this law is discriminatory and redundant with laws about slow-moving traffic staying to the right. It seems to me that it reinforces the idea that cyclists are not quite as welcome to use the road as motorists are, no matter that the law says elsewhere that we have all the same rights and duties. On the other hand, the better Right to the Right laws will explicitly list exceptions which are not present in the more general purpose slow-moving traffic law, which seems like a good thing.

So would we better off without it, or is it okay as it is?

Related but different question, for extra credit: If you believe it a negative overall, is it worth campaigning to get it repealed in states where it exists?
Its very true. We are still being discriminated against and in essence "ride as far to the right as possible" is just like being told to "ride in the back of the bus."
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Old 12-11-08, 11:26 AM   #7
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I am partial to the messenger's left.
I'm not familiar with that phrase, "messenger's left". Please explain?
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Old 12-11-08, 11:30 AM   #8
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After all, as a practical matter, CARS should ride as far to the right as practicable, as well, leaving the left lanes for passing and faster traffic. But no one grudges an automobiles right to be flexible, lanewise, as traffic conditions permit. Much the same should be extended to bikes.
Agreed. That's the reason for the slow-moving vehicle law, which applies to bikes and cars alike. The big difference is that it doesn't have all the explicit exceptions listed, I guess implying that those exceptions should be common sense.
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Old 12-11-08, 11:39 AM   #9
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I think that the effect is probably negative -- I voted yes -- but more than likely the effect is trivial since most people do not know the specifics of the law in the first place.
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Old 12-11-08, 01:07 PM   #10
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I don't see much problem with the law. All it says is move over for faster traffic IF you feel conditions allow for it. Generally it is left to the discretion of the rider.

If you don't want to move over for faster traffic when there is room to do so, that sounds more like a personality issue than anything else.
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Old 12-11-08, 01:12 PM   #11
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the problem with ride to the right laws is that the exceptions are subjective and what a cyclist may determine is a hazard to be avoided may not even be seen by a following motorist, and the examples of cases where cops don't understand the law and give a variety of tickets to cyclists for violating the ride to the right laws that need to be sorted out in court at the cyclists' expense are quite abundant.
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Old 12-11-08, 01:33 PM   #12
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the problem with ride to the right laws is that the exceptions are subjective and what a cyclist may determine is a hazard to be avoided may not even be seen by a following motorist, and the examples of cases where cops don't understand the law and give a variety of tickets to cyclists for violating the ride to the right laws that need to be sorted out in court at the cyclists' expense are quite abundant.
Yeah I recall getting into a bit of an argument with a motorist when I was riding left in a right lane to avoid all the cracked pavement... the motorists response was to tell me to stop using "those skinny tires."

But I suppose it was just my "personality" that kept me from riding on that poor pavement, eh?
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Old 12-11-08, 01:48 PM   #13
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the problem with ride to the right laws is ..... sorted out in court at the cyclists' expense are quite abundant.
Or put another way, the 'ride to the right' is sort of like an albatross hung ONLY around the neck of cyclists.

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Old 12-11-08, 03:11 PM   #14
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Yeah I recall getting into a bit of an argument with a motorist when I was riding left in a right lane to avoid all the cracked pavement... the motorists response was to tell me to stop using "those skinny tires."
Hey ... at least he/she was thinking and demonstrated some understanding of the issue.

You should have responded something along the lines of that they should be driving a skinnier car ... or stop using "those fat cars."
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Old 12-11-08, 03:18 PM   #15
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You should have responded something along the lines of that they should be driving a skinnier car ... or stop using "those fat cars."
Touche.
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Old 12-11-08, 04:26 PM   #16
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Thanks for the link John.

I'm not sure I can add anything to what has been said already. I voted yes. I think the ride2right laws (with a bunch of exceptions) effectively place cyclists as second class citizens. Someone mentioned above "get to the back of the bus" which I think is very apropos. As for fighting to get it repealed... I can't vote yes as John might assign that to me.
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Old 12-11-08, 05:35 PM   #17
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The 'ride to the right, with a bunch of exceptions' should be inverted.

As currently perceived by motorists, cyclists are meant to stay 'out of the way' on the right and my dollar says that more than 90% of motorists have zero knowledge of the exceptions. This, as stated eloquently above by RoughStuff is "an albatross hung ONLY around the neck of cyclists".

Inverting the law would bring it home to motorists that cyclists have every right to be on the road, and we are doing them a courtesy by riding to the right:

"Cyclists should take the lane, unless the lane is wide enough to allow all vehicles to pass with at least 3 feet of clearance".

No mention of position within a lane. No list of exceptions. That is how it should be.

Until the law is written this way, law enforcement will not only likely side with the motorists egregious perception, but is also likely to join those making unsafe passes.
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Old 12-11-08, 06:20 PM   #18
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As for fighting to get it repealed... I can't vote yes as John might assign that to me.
So, then, you're interested?

Actually, I brought this up tentatively and informally recently with someone on the board of our state bike coalition, and he made a good tactical point that you want to be careful doing anything with the legislative process, because the way that things can get changed going through committee and rewriting, you can never ensure that you're going to really get what you want in the end, and sometimes it can even change in ways you don't really want. So it's not a process to be taken lightly. Given that we just strengthened our Ride to the Right law with more exceptions in 2007, mainly through the efforts of that very organization, I don't see it being politically feasible or advisable for the near future to say "Oh, we changed our minds. Let's just repeal the law altogether".

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Inverting the law would bring it home to motorists that cyclists have every right to be on the road, and we are doing them a courtesy by riding to the right:

"Cyclists should take the lane, unless the lane is wide enough to allow all vehicles to pass with at least 3 feet of clearance".
That's an interesting idea. I'm not sure how I feel about it, because I don't necessarily subscribe to the philosophy of always taking the entire lane whenever it's not wide enough to share. My approach is that I simply position myself at a comfortable distance from the usable right edge, wherever that is, and if I'm still not taking the entire lane, that just means cars don't have to move over as far to pass me safely, and that is a compromise I'm okay with. It may help that in Maine, the law actually allows motorist to cross a double-yellow, if it's safe, in order to give cyclists their 3'. So I think it's better to only require them to cross a foot or two over the line than 6' over the line. But in states without this law, I can see where you don't want to encourage the motorists to try to squeeze too close to avoid crossing the line at all.

I guess I'm still of the opinion that the law should say nothing at all about the lane choice and position of cyclists specifically, so that the only relevant statute is the one that already applies to all slow-moving vehicles, which would include bikes when they are going slower than prevailing traffic. That seems fairest.

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Old 12-11-08, 08:53 PM   #19
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I voted yes.


One thing I find is motorist read "ride to the right" and then don't bother to read the rest of the law.
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Old 12-11-08, 09:10 PM   #20
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If you don't want to move over for faster traffic when there is room to do so, that sounds more like a personality issue than anything else.
"Room" can sometimes be a right turn only lane, a debris-littered shoulder, or a sidewalk in the eyes of some motorists, and police for that matter.
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Old 12-11-08, 09:39 PM   #21
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It may help that in Maine, the law actually allows motorist to cross a double-yellow, if it's safe, in order to give cyclists their 3'. So I think it's better to only require them to cross a foot or two over the line than 6' over the line. But in states without this law, I can see where you don't want to encourage the motorists to try to squeeze too close to avoid crossing the line at all.
John, what I do not understand, if it is safe to move one foot into the adjacent (or oncoming) lane, then it is safe to move completely into the adjacent lane. Is it really that hard to move a car over laterally that we need to save motorist such hardship rather than giving the added safety to the cyclist?

When I am driving, I have never found it any harder to move completely into the next lane than moving just one foot into the lane. I always had to wait until the entire lane was clear for me to move over either way.
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Old 12-11-08, 09:46 PM   #22
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Personally I prefer to ride in the street in town instead of the badly planned bike lanes with the glass and potholes.
Yesterday while driving I followed a couple on bikes, the man seemed used to riding, the woman was behaving as though new at it, she wobbled nervously as I came up in my car, but I stayed well back, because I didn't know what she would do. Then she signaled a left turn meaning she was taking the lane. (I always take the lane at that same area so that I'm more visible to the overtaking cars, at the curve) and also because I'd be making a left turn in about 50 yards.
I saw a huge "pod" of cyclists one day, and I wished I was on my bike instead of in my car. The more bikes on that road, the more drivers will realize bikes are out there, and are more likely to keep an eye out for them.
So, I voted yes, because I would prefer to be a vehicular cyclist in places where the speed limit is below 40 mph. Preferably, 35 mph and lower, but I have found being more in the road is safer, with some common sense in place, of course.
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Old 12-11-08, 10:20 PM   #23
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This 'back of the bus' stuff is nonsense. Always makes my hair stand up. Displays a fairly frightening ignorance of history or an amazing sense of entitlement or both.

Newsflash folks -- bicyclists enjoy more freedom and 'rights' than any other class of road user. Don't screw it up with your misguided whining.

The ride to the right law, with exceptions written in to favor bicyclists, is really just a codification of common sense and common courtesy, in my opinion. As many here have mentioned, lots of cops and drivers have a very much less favorable view of where cyclists should be allowed to ride than is expressed in this law. It's not the law that's the problem. The law doesn't require anyone to ride in a door zone or through piles of litter or in a right turn lane or over potholes, it expressly says otherwise. It also allows you to ride wherever you want in the lane when there is no faster traffic around, in my interpretation. It does require a little bit of compromise, that's how the world works. It's a shame that we have to codify common courtesy.

Traffic is compromise. You move a little to the right, they move a little to the left and everybody goes on their way. I guess it comes as a shock to some people that they have to compromise with other road users while using the roads. The uncompromising bicyclist who refuses to cooperate with motorists who want to pass is just the same as the guy who pulls up behind them and lays on the horn. It's just two uncompromising road users saying howdy, and bickering like spoiled children.

I would add that it's the uncompromising lane takers, not the scofflaws, who will get us all kicked off the roads.
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Old 12-12-08, 01:39 AM   #24
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I'm not familiar with that phrase, "messenger's left". Please explain?
As a messenger I spend a lot more time in high density traffic than most and don't spend much time riding on the right as it simply far too hazardous... besides parked cars and the potential for being doored, errant pedestrians, cabs that don't signal when they pull out, etc... there are those motorists will speed up and pass you on the far left to make right turns (you gotta love that).

On quiet streets without right turns the right is fine... when it gets busy this is no place to be and one really wants to be a little more aggressive in their positioning.

One either takes the lane or in the case of multiple lanes, I will often ride in the left lane as this puts you in a place of higher visibility as you are directly in front of the driver and in many cases, it really gets their attention and one does have every right to be there.

It makes left turns easier too because you are already in that lane and I have never had a car pass me on the right and try to make a left turn... because they can't help but see me.

I am a really cautious rider and make sure I am always in the safest place possible... that place just might not be the place where people think a bike should be.

People look at messengers and will often say they are reckless but these guys really know what they are doing... it is one of those "do not try this at home" situations as it does require some really mad skills and a good knowledge of how the traffic flows where you are working.

I also have no problem breaking the law when I know it keeps me safer.
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Old 12-12-08, 07:06 AM   #25
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As a messenger I spend a lot more time in high density traffic than most and don't spend much time riding on the right as it simply far too hazardous... besides parked cars and the potential for being doored, errant pedestrians, cabs that don't signal when they pull out, etc... there are those motorists will speed up and pass you on the far left to make right turns (you gotta love that).

On quiet streets without right turns the right is fine... when it gets busy this is no place to be and one really wants to be a little more aggressive in their positioning.

One either takes the lane or in the case of multiple lanes, I will often ride in the left lane as this puts you in a place of higher visibility as you are directly in front of the driver and in many cases, it really gets their attention and one does have every right to be there.

It makes left turns easier too because you are already in that lane and I have never had a car pass me on the right and try to make a left turn... because they can't help but see me.

I am a really cautious rider and make sure I am always in the safest place possible... that place just might not be the place where people think a bike should be.

People look at messengers and will often say they are reckless but these guys really know what they are doing... it is one of those "do not try this at home" situations as it does require some really mad skills and a good knowledge of how the traffic flows where you are working.

I also have no problem breaking the law when I know it keeps me safer.
So how well does this work on 45 and 55MPH arterial roads?
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