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Old 12-29-08, 02:21 PM   #1
Zomar
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Fellow Rider says, "Don't take the lane, there is a bike path"

Here is a photo from google street view:


This is the massachusetts ave bridge in Boston, MA, USA.

There is a bike path on this bridge as you can see. I think that picture makes the bikepath out to look wider than it is though. Cars frequently speed on this bridge, while the speedlimit is probably like 30-40 cars often drive really fast across the bridge because it is just a long straight shot. However at the end of the bridge is a series of stoplights which makes going fast rather pointless.

I was riding over the bridge today, monday around 2:30pm. The bike path is usually pretty clean but we had a storm recently and while the roads are perfectly clear, the bike path was filled with debris, gravel, salt, sand, who knows what. Their was nobody on the road in front of me, some cars were behind me but the traffic wasn't heavy. It was really windy.

My three options for crossing the bridge were:
1. ride to the far left of the bike lane and try to avoid crappy road conditions, and not get clipped by a speeding driver.
2. ride in the far right of the right lane and hope people don't try to squeeze by and hit me.
3. take the right lane.

I chose number 3. I took the whole lane. I probably was going at between 15-20mph. The wind made it hard to go faster. As I road across the bridge I felt as if I was in very little danger of being hit. Cars went to the left lane and passed me, nobody honked (I dont think), no traffic got backed up. At the end of the bridge I caught up with most of the cars that past me because they were stuck at traffic lights.

Anyways just after the bridge, I'm still taking the lane because at this part there is a good chance of being doored if you ride in the bike lane, and traffic can move no faster than I'm riding. This person rides up parallel to me, in the bike lane and says "Don't take up the whole lane like that, it pisses off the drivers." We talked for maybe 20 seconds where I tried to explain that I was taking the lane because the bikelane was filled with debris, I have the right too, and that it was for my safety. He said something like "you just have to ride more carefully then in the bikelane, taking up the lane pisses off the drivers more than they already are." Then he turned a corner and road away.


I'm pretty sure I made the right decision by taking the lane. I felt much safer and I didn't create a traffic problem at all as far as I'm aware.

What would you have done in my situation? Would you have taken the lane? What would you have told this person who tried to tell me the proper way to ride a bike to "avoid angering drivers" ?

Last edited by Zomar; 12-29-08 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 12-29-08, 02:28 PM   #2
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I would have done the same thing as you.
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Old 12-29-08, 02:29 PM   #3
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There are two traffic lanes in both directions right? So cars could just go around you if they thought you were going to slowly.
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Old 12-29-08, 02:38 PM   #4
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There are two traffic lanes in both directions right? So cars could just go around you if they thought you were going to slowly.
Yep, two lanes in both directions. I don't remember what the head on traffic was like, but I'm positive it wasn't dense. Cars just shifted into the left lane to pass me. There were no obvious problems as a result of my taking the lane.

I was just really confused by this biker's comments. He was like "you make it worse for all of us bikers by taking the lane like that. There is a bikepath, so use it."

Maybe he wasn't aware that bikers don't have to ride in bikepaths if they are present. Maybe he wasn't aware of a bikers right to the lane. Maybe he just has a weird sense of advocacy. I dunno.
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Old 12-29-08, 02:39 PM   #5
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Same as you until I started to slow down the auto traffic... then I would have slipped into the bike lane and would have gone carefully.

Sometimes "sharing the road" means knowing when it is good diplomacy to give way.

Also if I was moving fast, (on skinny tires) I'd be less inclined to move to the BL... but if I were commuting with a full load... (on fat tires) I'd probably BL the whole way.
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Old 12-29-08, 02:56 PM   #6
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Same as you until I started to slow down the auto traffic... then I would have slipped into the bike lane and would have gone carefully.

Sometimes "sharing the road" means knowing when it is good diplomacy to give way.

Also if I was moving fast, (on skinny tires) I'd be less inclined to move to the BL... but if I were commuting with a full load... (on fat tires) I'd probably BL the whole way.
A lot might depend on how bad the bike lane was. Sometimes it is both horrible and sort of OK, meaning really bad sections and some decent ones. For that I'd pull in if there were any cars behind me when I got to a decent section.

Depends a lot on traffic level also. Big difference between midday and low traffic and rush hour.
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Old 12-29-08, 02:59 PM   #7
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Zomar,

Though that stretch of road is not currently a section I ride on a daily basis I still ride it with some frequency. I used to ride it (pre-bike lanes) daily.

I think that the lanes have improved overall bicycle traffic flow both over the bridge and heading into Cambridge past MIT and through Central Square. However, as you may be aware there was a well publicized death in the bike lane when a rider was doored and fell in front of a bus. Some adjustments to the bike lane have been made since that time. And given the amount of bike traffic in the bike lane the accident rate is relatively low.

I haven't ridden the bridge since the storm but I am sure that debris has built up on the roadside and into the bike lane. Personally I make a judgement call based on how ridable the lane is and if I judge that it is definitely not ridable then I move into the lane. But it balances with what is actually safer as well as not just convenient, faster or less likely to throw grit and dirt all over me and my bike or cause a flat.

My bike and clothing in the winter allow me to ride in just about any circumstances and I use a studded tire that can go through most of the ice, slush and sand. As much as I'd like the cities of Boston and Cambridge to do a better job of plowing and really clear the bike lanes (and the roads) down to bare pavement I also have to chalk it up to "it's winter in New England and the roads are a mess". So long as I haven't moved into the lane solely to prove a point ie.- the bike lane is not well enough plowed but I'm genuinely riding in the lane because the bike lane is unridable then I suffer no guilt at all for riding in the lane.

If the other rider was able to match your speed while traveling in the bike lane and your bike is equipped for winter travel it sounds like it may have been a matter of convenience and speed- in other words the lane was clearer and you could move faster in it more easily. In any case, it's your call I'd tip the balance in your favor since I'm not too trusting in riders that feel the need to "instruct" other riders as to these kinds of decisions. So, I'd ignore the other rider's comments outright and if you're really prepared for winter riding and couldn't manage the bike lane then stick with your decision.
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Old 12-29-08, 03:33 PM   #8
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i would have done the same thing as you.
+1
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Old 12-29-08, 03:46 PM   #9
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Zomar,

You rode the bridge exactly the way I would have.

Don't worry about the clueless bike lane advocates that do not understand the danger they are putting themselves in. His words are the standard rant.
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Old 12-29-08, 03:46 PM   #10
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A lot might depend on how bad the bike lane was. Sometimes it is both horrible and sort of OK, meaning really bad sections and some decent ones. For that I'd pull in if there were any cars behind me when I got to a decent section.

Depends a lot on traffic level also. Big difference between midday and low traffic and rush hour.
Yup all those things bear consideration... I think the OP probably did fine.
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Old 12-29-08, 05:28 PM   #11
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I would have done the same thing as you.
+1

I like my bike path but don't take it when it's covered in debris--or more often, broken glass for some reason. I take the road.
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Old 12-29-08, 05:32 PM   #12
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I cross that bridge pretty frequently. You did the right thing.
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Old 12-29-08, 06:10 PM   #13
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Personally I would have weaved sharply between the two lanes, obviously twice as safe.
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Old 12-29-08, 06:44 PM   #14
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What's the big deal? The bridge is only 364.4 Smoots (plus or minus one ear) long.

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Old 12-29-08, 07:50 PM   #15
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What's the big deal? The bridge is only 364.4 Smoots (plus or minus one ear) long.

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haha thanks for sharing that! I saw those smoot markings before but never gave a thought to them.
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Old 12-29-08, 09:23 PM   #16
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..l. He said something like "you just have to ride more carefully then in the bikelane, taking up the lane pisses off the drivers more than they already are." Then he turned a corner and road away.
Correction:

".... He said something about 'having to ride more carefully [in the road] then in the bikelane, because taking up the lane pisses off the drivers more than they already are.' Then he nonchalantly turned a corner and immidiately wiped out on a big patch of sand that was strewn over the ill-maintained bike lane.

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Old 12-29-08, 10:38 PM   #17
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My three options for crossing the bridge were:
1. ride to the far left of the bike lane and try to avoid crappy road conditions, and not get clipped by a speeding driver.
2. ride in the far right of the right lane and hope people don't try to squeeze by and hit me.
3. take the right lane.
4. Right up the double-yellow.



You probably think I am kidding.

Unless the "very windy" was a crosswind. Then I own the right lane.

Last edited by JoeyBike; 12-29-08 at 10:46 PM.
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Old 12-30-08, 12:05 AM   #18
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....

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Old 12-30-08, 05:36 AM   #19
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4. Right up the double-yellow.



You probably think I am kidding.

Unless the "very windy" was a crosswind. Then I own the right lane.
That bridge runs roughly north/south, and there are often pretty strong cross winds running down the length of the river (which runs east/west) since there are no buildings to impede it.

Even if it were calm I'd be pretty hesitant to ride the yellow line. Most of the time you'd not be able to keep pace with traffic (cars traveling 30 to 40 mph usually), and the lanes are narrow. I'd feel uncomfortable with cars passing me that close, that fast, on the right.

But that's just me I guess.

Last edited by apricissimus; 12-30-08 at 06:39 AM.
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Old 12-30-08, 07:32 AM   #20
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I'd feel uncomfortable with cars passing me that close, that fast, on the right.
The thing is, they wouldn't be as close to the double yellow with you on it.

1. Motorists are very conscious, aware, and afraid of any object on the driver's side that will land in their lap if they hit it. Much, much less afraid of clipping something/someone on the passenger side. So they move the hell over.

2. There is more room on that line than you might imagine.

3. Something out of the ordinary makes cars slow down and move over.

Given an acceptable bike path on the right, I'll take that as my first option. Then the "proper" position just inside the right traffic lane fog line as my second choice. My third option is the double-yellow. If too windy to control my machine there, I am taking the right lane.

Another choice is to roll the bike lane until you have a clear space in the right traffic lane. In other words, ride just outside the fog line when traffic is roaring by, then just inside the fog line when there is a gap in traffic. You need a rear view mirror to make this work.

The joker in the deck is wind. If you can't hold a decent line, and you can't ride the bike path....then you need to control a lane.
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Old 12-30-08, 11:25 AM   #21
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Given an acceptable bike path on the right, I'll take that as my first option. Then the "proper" position just inside the right traffic lane fog line as my second choice. My third option is the double-yellow. If too windy to control my machine there, I am taking the right lane.
Does this mean you consider riding the double yellow to be a safer option than controlling the right lane? Or is there some other reason you placed it ahead of taking the right lane? Please explain.

I would ride near center of the right lane and only move over into the shoulder if it was safe to do so. If the traffic was as light as it appears in the photo there probably would be very little need to move over.
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Old 12-30-08, 12:42 PM   #22
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You did the right thing for the right reasons. Your fellow rider was mistaken in his recommendation.

This bridge is one example of a bike lane I wouldn't mind using for most of the bridge span, if the surface were clear of mud and sand and gravel and glass and other debris. There are no intersections and no parked vehicles and no restrictions to visibility. (The bike lane is pretty narrow at the ends though - I would merge left into the traffic lane.) In the normal traffic area on shore, with lots of parking and intersections, I would take the lane.

(By the way, the StreetView images show several people riding bicycles on the pedestrian walkways between the railings. I don't see any "bikes prohibited on sidewalks" signs, which I find surprising.)
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Old 12-30-08, 02:19 PM   #23
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(By the way, the StreetView images show several people riding bicycles on the pedestrian walkways between the railings. I don't see any "bikes prohibited on sidewalks" signs, which I find surprising.)
There are always a lot of cyclists on that sidewalk. People get spooked by that bridge even with the presence of a bike lane. The sidewalk can get pretty thick with pedestrians and joggers too, so you'd have to ride about 3 mph at certain times. Yet they still do it. Go figure.
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Old 12-30-08, 07:15 PM   #24
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The thing is, they wouldn't be as close to the double yellow with you on it.
Because as we all know, double yellow lines are as good as brick walls. People never cross them.

It takes one idiot taking five minutes to "change the radio station" and you're dead.

Oh and they'll walk away being as you were on the double yellow.


Oh duh, trolling.

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Old 12-30-08, 07:31 PM   #25
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i would go home and grab a broom and dustpan to clean the bike lane with to make things better for fellow cyclists and improve my own sense of self worth.
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