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Old 05-28-09, 10:41 AM   #1
ROJA
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Problem with taking the lane

If you take the lane, what is to keep a driver that clobbers you from behind from saying that you darted out in front of him or her? You will probably be dead, so it's not like there will be any witnesses or other evidence to refute the driver's story. The kind of people who are evil or reckless enough to mow down cyclists from behind are probably not moral enough to tell the truth or take responsibility for their actions.
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Old 05-28-09, 10:52 AM   #2
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I believe you are correct, they will say that. However,
they can hit you with any lane position and still say the same thing. The argument has always been that if you are riding on the white line, you are inviting drivers to ignore you and thus get closer to you on average. YMMV

The only person I know that was hit from behind (and killed) was on an 8' wide shoulder.
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Old 05-28-09, 11:32 AM   #3
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If you take the lane, what is to keep a driver that clobbers you from behind from saying that you darted out in front of him or her? You will probably be dead, so it's not like there will be any witnesses or other evidence to refute the driver's story. The kind of people who are evil or reckless enough to mow down cyclists from behind are probably not moral enough to tell the truth or take responsibility for their actions.
Hmmm. You know, I never thought of that. Back to the gutter for me, where nothing bad can ever happen.
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Old 05-28-09, 11:42 AM   #4
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I think we can discount the idea of protecting yourself against people who run you over because they are evil; lane position will not stop them. So basically the question becomes, are the drivers behind you more or less likely to see you if you are taking the lane. That is the crux of the argument, and can't be solved in an internet forum.
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Old 05-28-09, 12:04 PM   #5
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The scenario you describe has been coined as an acronym: SWSS (Single Witness Suicide Swerve)

So many overtake collisions with only the motorist as a witness have happened that the acronym was created. Not known is how many of the collisions happened while the cyclist was in the lane or on the shoulder. In either case the motorist would claim "he swerved in front of me and I couldn't avoid him" to mitigate his own negligence.

There are even cases where a co-ordinated suicide swerve by two cyclists in front of an automobile have been claimed.
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Old 05-28-09, 12:05 PM   #6
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forensic evidence - gets em every time. Life is too short to spend worrying about what-if nonsense.
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Old 05-28-09, 12:09 PM   #7
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The kind of people who are evil or reckless enough to mow down cyclists from behind are probably not moral enough to tell the truth or take responsibility for their actions.
Ah, but many times, I think those are also the type of creature who dislike it when you ding their precious car. Maybe the message on the jersey should be "Careful, or I'll dent your car!"

In all reality, I think it is the presence of witnesses that inhibits some.
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Old 05-28-09, 01:12 PM   #8
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I don't worry about evil drivers who might hit me on purpose. I worry about those who aren't paying attention and won't see me there in the middle of the lane. The whole taking the lane idea has one big, show-stopping flaw: only cyclists know about it. It's a concept that doesn't register at all with the majority of motor vehicle drivers. Oddly enough, in my city, it seems the bus and taxi drivers are the ones most likely to know about it.

I still maintain that taking the lane only works for short stretches in slow traffic - like when you come to a narrowing due to a parked vehicle, some construction, that sort of thing.

Blanket promotion of taking the lane among relative newbie cyclists is going to get someone killed. Vehicular cycling is a valid concept, and I've been using it from a time before the term was even used, but it has to be applied with common sense and a certain amount of reasonable defensive cycling.
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Old 05-28-09, 02:32 PM   #9
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If you take the lane, what is to keep a driver that clobbers you from behind from saying that you darted out in front of him or her? You will probably be dead, so it's not like there will be any witnesses or other evidence to refute the driver's story. The kind of people who are evil or reckless enough to mow down cyclists from behind are probably not moral enough to tell the truth or take responsibility for their actions.
The point of "taking the lane" is to reduce the likelihood that a collision will occur. If "taking the lane" increases the risk of a collision, then it would make no sense to do so. The driver is likely to say "you darted" regardless of where you were when hit.
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Old 05-28-09, 02:42 PM   #10
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Drivers don't want a bike stuck under their car. It would ruin their whole day. So they slow down and/or change lanes. Easier than suffering a police investigation.
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Old 05-29-09, 12:51 AM   #11
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I don't worry about evil drivers who might hit me on purpose. I worry about those who aren't paying attention and won't see me there in the middle of the lane.
This is a silly concern. All motorists have the primary duty of avoiding hitting something. They make adjustments to meet this duty hundreds of times a trip. Their response to avoiding collisions is reinforced hundreds of times a trip. They pay special attention to the path directly in front of them.

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The whole taking the lane idea has one big, show-stopping flaw: only cyclists know about it. It's a concept that doesn't register at all with the majority of motor vehicle drivers. Oddly enough, in my city, it seems the bus and taxi drivers are the ones most likely to know about it.
It doesn't require motorists to understand what we are doing when we take a lane. They simply have the duty to observe my right of way, just as they must for all public road users. When cyclists observe the rules of the road and fit into the normal traffic pattern, motorists revert to their ingrained training.

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I still maintain that taking the lane only works for short stretches in slow traffic - like when you come to a narrowing due to a parked vehicle, some construction, that sort of thing.
(Snort!) Yeah, so you imagine. It has "worked" for me continuously for the past three years/10,000 miles on streets with speed limits ranging from 20 MPH to 65 MPH. You can compare your opinion to my experience. Taking the lane works every time it is tried. How else do you explain my astonishing continued existence?
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Old 05-29-09, 05:03 AM   #12
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(Snort!) Yeah, so you imagine. It has "worked" for me continuously for the past three years/10,000 miles on streets with speed limits ranging from 20 MPH to 65 MPH. You can compare your opinion to my experience. Taking the lane works every time it is tried. How else do you explain my astonishing continued existence?
I don't know how to explain your existance. No philosophy I ever studied has equipped me for that. I've existed road riding continuously since 1970. I'll reserve judgment on your experience until you have ridden like you do a little longer than 3 years.

I'm not the only person who has reservations about "taking the lane". I'm just someone who rides, not an expert. But there are some experts who question it too.

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This is a silly concern. All motorists have the primary duty of avoiding hitting something. They make adjustments to meet this duty hundreds of times a trip. Their response to avoiding collisions is reinforced hundreds of times a trip. They pay special attention to the path directly in front of them.
But they are looking for cars, trucks, busses, maybe people darting out... and they may think of being on the lookout for bicycles also, but the fact of the matter is that a bicycle is a pretty thin object when looking at it from behind, and there are many circumstances in which the presence of a bike when not expected might go unnoticed. So, while I generally agree with taking the lane under some circumstances, it has to be applied with some common sense. Unfortunately, this is a commodity that seems to be in short supply.
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Old 05-29-09, 06:20 AM   #13
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If you take the lane, what is to keep a driver that clobbers you from behind from saying that you darted out in front of him or her? .
Every car wreck involing a bike I have ever read, or heard about, this is the story anyway. "I didn't see him" "he darted right out in front of me" "he came out of nowhere" "he was in the road"
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Old 05-29-09, 06:42 AM   #14
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I don't know how to explain your existance. No philosophy I ever studied has equipped me for that. I've existed road riding continuously since 1970. I'll reserve judgment on your experience until you have ridden like you do a little longer than 3 years.

I'm not the only person who has reservations about "taking the lane". I'm just someone who rides, not an expert. But there are some experts who question it too.
I've existed commuting by bike on the roads continuously since 72, earlier if you want to count riding to grade school. I have no reservations about taking the lane when I need to take the lane...which is pretty much any time there is not room to safely share the lane. If traffic builds up behind me in those situations, I will move off the roadway and allow them to pass, when it is safe for me to do so, just like I would in any other slow moving vehicle like a buggy or tractor.

I'm sure an experienced cyclist like you would not endanger yourself by trying to share the lane when there is not enough room to safely do so, right?
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Old 05-29-09, 06:57 AM   #15
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I look at it this way...if you are indeed involved in a fatal accident, you won't be able to write. Stop fussing and look out for your own good looks and charm and continue worrying about space junk falling on you and when they will design a helmet to save you from a Sputnik.

Hopefully E.T. doesn't have a hit out on you and RELAX.
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Old 05-29-09, 07:09 AM   #16
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But they are looking for cars, trucks, busses, maybe people darting out... and they may think of being on the lookout for bicycles also, but the fact of the matter is that a bicycle is a pretty thin object when looking at it from behind, and there are many circumstances in which the presence of a bike when not expected might go unnoticed. So, while I generally agree with taking the lane under some circumstances, it has to be applied with some common sense. Unfortunately, this is a commodity that seems to be in short supply.
Any cyclist with a lick of sense makes themselves plenty visible through both active and passive means...and any driver with a lick of competence is looking out for ANYTHING that might be in their path.
Maybe your old eyes are failing, but a cyclist is pretty easy to see in normal conditions..not much harder than spotting a motorcycle, scooter or moped.

But of course we can't assume that any driver is competent or has a lick of sense, can we.
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Old 05-29-09, 07:48 AM   #17
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Maybe your old eyes are failing, but a cyclist is pretty easy to see in normal conditions..not much harder than spotting a motorcycle, scooter or moped.

But of course we can't assume that any driver is competent or has a lick of sense, can we.
Before my vision started failing and my teeth fell out, traffic was slower, drivers were more sensible, and motorists could be relied on not to be using a cellular phone or texting while at the wheel. All I'm saying is that "taking the lane" should be seen as one tool we have to protect ourselves as cyclists in some situations. It shouldn't be universally-applied. It's not a religion.

You can never take it for granted that you are visible as a cyclist no matter what you are wearing or flashing. When you are riding, you cannot possibly always be aware of what might be hindering your visibility to a fast overtaking or approaching driver. Lighting conditions change, where the sun is changes, what sunlight gets through foliage and buildings changes, backgrounds change. Plus, it can be hard for a motorist to judge relative distance when it comes to a bicycle when both are moving.
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Old 05-29-09, 08:14 AM   #18
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Before my vision started failing and my teeth fell out, traffic was slower, drivers were more sensible, and motorists could be relied on not to be using a cellular phone or texting while at the wheel. All I'm saying is that "taking the lane" should be seen as one tool we have to protect ourselves as cyclists in some situations. It shouldn't be universally-applied. It's not a religion.

You can never take it for granted that you are visible as a cyclist no matter what you are wearing or flashing. When you are riding, you cannot possibly always be aware of what might be hindering your visibility to a fast overtaking or approaching driver. Lighting conditions change, where the sun is changes, what sunlight gets through foliage and buildings changes, backgrounds change. Plus, it can be hard for a motorist to judge relative distance when it comes to a bicycle when both are moving.
Which is exactly why I said we can't trust drivers to be competent and that cyclists need to do their best to be visible. Beyond that, situational awareness comes into play...which is why I strongly advocate the use of mirrors. One can ride just fine without a mirror, but having one enhances your ability to monitor the patterns developing behind you...so you can plan accordingly. Knowing your environment allows you to ride in harmony with it. Ahhhmmmmmmm.
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Old 05-29-09, 09:05 AM   #19
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Going way OT here, but I must say Chip, your avatars are getting consistently more & more frightening.
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Old 05-29-09, 09:35 AM   #20
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Every car wreck involing a bike I have ever read, or heard about, this is the story anyway. "I didn't see him" "he darted right out in front of me" "he came out of nowhere" "he was in the road"
If they sideswipe you while trying to squeeze by when you're over on the right, they'll just say that the cyclist hit them. Even the people that don't intend to hit us will lie.
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Old 05-29-09, 09:41 AM   #21
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Going way OT here, but I must say Chip, your avatars are getting consistently more & more frightening.
Are you scared FOR Alfred, or OF Michael...or both?
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Old 05-29-09, 10:01 AM   #22
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I'll reserve judgment on your experience until you have ridden like you do a little longer than 3 years.

I'm not the only person who has reservations about "taking the lane". I'm just someone who rides, not an expert. But there are some experts who question it too.
Good news, Longfemur! You won't have to wait three years to find out if my experience is an anomaly or not. How about the VC experience from 14 people with a combined traveled distance of 631,000 miles from all over the USA? In a report published just today, you can get all the details!

Do let us know what you think. (I have a bet with a friend that more evidence will not sway you. In fact, I don't think any amount of evidence will cause you to change your mind, because you have some sort of emotional revulsion to taking the lane. You are probably unwilling to risk annoying automobile drivers.)
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Old 05-29-09, 10:12 AM   #23
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Every car wreck involving a bike I have ever read, or heard about, this is the story anyway. "I didn't see him" "he darted right out in front of me" "he came out of nowhere" "he was in the road"
Each of these "excuses" are really confessions by these motor vehicle operators of their gross negligence and a dereliction of their solemn duty to exercise due care.

Too bad law enforcement has abandoned their duty to uphold the law when such confessions are made.

It is also alarming that our society approves of shifting the blame from the reckless motorist to the cycling victim.
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Old 05-29-09, 10:40 AM   #24
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Good news, Longfemur! You won't have to wait three years to find out if my experience is an anomaly or not. How about the VC experience from 14 people with a combined traveled distance of 631,000 miles from all over the USA? In a report published just today, you can get all the details!

Do let us know what you think. (I have a bet with a friend that more evidence will not sway you. In fact, I don't think any amount of evidence will cause you to change your mind, because you have some sort of emotional revulsion to taking the lane. You are probably unwilling to risk annoying automobile drivers.)
Not that I disagree with the conclusion, but I wouldn't put much stock in that article or anything else that uses John Forester as a source or subject.
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Old 05-29-09, 11:23 AM   #25
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I can't comment on any survey like that one. I'm not sure it means anything, because self-reporting "studies" are notoriously inadequate.

I've been riding pretty long myself, and, while I may have gotten my first real "road bike" in 1970, I rode on city streets and country roads as a child. Unlike most Americans today, we rode everywhere and nobody worried about it. As kids, we rode mostly VC even without knowing it. Sidewalks were always a no-no. So, it all adds up to well over 40 years, but I have no idea how much mileage it's been. I don't even really know how much mileage I do now. I ride almost every day except winter, but I don't keep track of it, nor do I use a cyclocomputer. It's just not important to me to keep a running tally. But, I'm sure it has to have been a great many miles, and I've never had an accident.

You don't seem to understand that I'm not against taking the lane. What I'm against is the idea that it's the only way and it should be applied at all times. I apply it with common sense, because I don't intend to prove the worthiness of people's "rules" with my own flimsy body.

There are many things written in supposed authoritative books that make we wonder if the author really knows what he's talking about, because I have my own experience to go by. But, people do seem to like their "authorities".

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