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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 04-17-08, 07:17 AM   #1
jimlamb
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Shoulder or Lane?

So I've been commuting from Cary into RTP for a little over a year now. I've tried a few different routes, but there aren't that many options between my home and work. My current route takes me up NC-55 (from Green Hope High School) up to Kitt Creek (past the 540 exchange). Originally I generally rode in the middle of the shoulder. Lately, with the construction traffic and related debris that's been there, I've moved into the extreme right of the right-hand lane. When I was riding in the shoulder I would occasionally (very rarely) get honked at by a passing motorist who apparently felt that I wasn't entitled to be on the road at all. Since I started riding in the lane, I've been getting honked at by tractor trailers (usually at least once a day) who apparently think that, despite the fact that there's a left-hand lane, I need to get out of their path entirely. This week, for the first time in my year of commuting, some yahoo in a utility truck yelled at me to "get off the road". I know that gas prices are high and that truckers are getting hit especially hard, but I'd rather not be the target of their frustration.

So, my question is this, where should I ride to be safest? I clearly have a legal right to ride along the right-hand edge of the right lane and I feel that I'm most clearly visible from that position to passing motorists (less likely to be tuned out as visual noise). I also feel that if, as I did originally, I ride in the shoulder, I will sometimes need to move quickly back in to the lane to avoid debris (dead deer, fallen trees, construction equipment, parked construction vehicles, mounds of rock, etc.). If I ride in the lane, I get the additional stress of dealing with these motorists who think they own the road. I'm thinking I should make a T-shirt that has an arrow on the back pointing left and oversized letters that say "Keep Left 200 ft." - kind of like those trucks that put "Keep back 200 ft. - not responsible for windshield damage." :-)

I don't think there's a right answer to this question. Honestly I just needed to vent a bit. Thanks for listening.

Jim
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Old 04-17-08, 07:23 AM   #2
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In my experience, drivers can tell when you feel like you're supposed to be there (in the road). Once you are confident about riding in the road, you will get more respect from others on the road.
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Old 04-17-08, 07:34 AM   #3
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The way I ride depends on the situation...

1) One lane, no bike lane - I ride as far to the right as I feel is safe.
2) Two lanes (or more), no bike lane - I take the right lane, riding down the middle of it or just slightly to the right of center. Basically I'm trying to tell people there is no room for them in my lane, yet trying to maintain a safe distance from cars passing in the left lane.
3) If there is a bike lane, no matter how many car lanes are available, I always use the bike lane.
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Old 04-17-08, 07:35 AM   #4
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I'd definitely be in the lane if there's construction crud around.
If there are two lanes and the construction stuff makes it unsafe to share the right lane, I'd be farther left in the right lane. If you hug the white line, cars will tend to skim by closer to you than if you move farther left.
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Old 04-17-08, 07:40 AM   #5
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3) If there is a bike lane, no matter how many car lanes are available, I always use the bike lane.
Not around here you can't. After the winter the bike lane is still full of rocks, glass, metal bits that cars randomly drop, other parts of cars from pieces of bumper to plastic trim.

I ride in the bike lane (if there is one) when I feel it's safe for me and my tires to do so. I refuse to ride over the crap that cars throw down just to use the lane.
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Old 04-17-08, 07:43 AM   #6
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On this part of my route, there isn't a bike lane, but there's a "wide outside lane" meaning that the right-hand lane is a bit wider than the left-hand lane to accommodate cyclists. The speed limit on this particular road is 50 mph. Traffic tends to move in bursts as people rush from one red light to the next (they're maybe a mile or so apart). Depending on the time of day, traffic may be backed up to the point where I'm passing large numbers of cars or it may be moving at 60+ mph - it's fairly unpredictable. It is two lanes, each way for the entire stretch I travel on. There's also an interchange with a bypass road that I pass on the way. That's where I've always moved into the right-hand lane, to make it clear that I'm going straight and not turning right.

As always, your collective insights are much appreciated.
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Old 04-17-08, 08:44 AM   #7
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increase your visibility to the rear. Large slow moving vehicle triangle and a couple of superflashes. I use very assertive "I'm taking THAT SPACE" hand motions when i have to lateral. Beef up your tires and commuting bike - you should be able to ride thru glass, and bunny hop a deer or at least a two inch pavement heave.


a bikemaxim- riding high speed roads is an exercise in regular, low intensity motorist harassment.
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Old 04-17-08, 09:05 AM   #8
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Bekologist, I already have two blinkies on the back (including a SuperFlash). I don't use a triangle, but (this time of year) I'm riding in full daylight. I ride a cyclocross bike, so it's reasonably beefy. I don't think I'd want to bunny hop a deer while hauling my laptop, but I can generally go off-road without to much difficulty.

"riding high speed roads is an exercise in regular, low intensity motorist harassment" - can't argue with that!
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Old 04-17-08, 09:21 AM   #9
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IMHO, riding on the extreme edge of the road communicates "I don't have a right to be here, pretend I'm not here". I'd rather take up a whole lane, and force people to move to avoid me, especially on higher speed roads. You can't stop obnoxious people yelling.

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Old 04-17-08, 09:24 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimlamb View Post
I also feel that if, as I did originally, I ride in the shoulder, I will sometimes need to move quickly back in to the lane to avoid debris (dead deer, fallen trees, construction equipment, parked construction vehicles, mounds of rock, etc.). If I ride in the lane, I get the additional stress of dealing with these motorists who think they own the road.
It is usually easier to move from the lane to the shoulder when necessary than the other way around. Don't worry too much about a few honks. My experience is that the vast majority of honkers never put me in danger. They wait behind and / or safely pass even if they do honk at me. As a matter of fact, most only honk as they are safely passing. This is especially true on higher speed roads.

Ride where ever you feel safest.
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Old 04-17-08, 09:30 AM   #11
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4-lane road with WOL, I'm definitely to the left of the white line.

Even with the occasional ahole, I think the ride will be easier and less stressful in the lane than on the shoulder.
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Old 04-17-08, 10:17 AM   #12
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and bunny hop a deer
I think you just inadvertently defined a 'real' cyclist. Once you can bunny hop a deer, you can officially refer to yourself as a 'real' cyclist.

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Originally Posted by AlmostTrick
Ride where ever you feel safest.
This is some excellent advice. Do some reading on riding on traffic, and just use your best judgment. Don't forget you have just as much right to be on the road as anyone else. An informed confidence, with little to no arrogance, will keep you pretty safe on the road.

Personally, I would find a route that doesn't take me on 60mph roads, even if you have to stretch out your commute a bit. Makes the ride much more enjoyable. I try to stay off roads that are 45mph or higher as they kinda negate the stress relief and general relaxation that is a very enjoyable part of cycling for me.

Last edited by toThinkistoBe; 04-17-08 at 10:23 AM.
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Old 04-17-08, 10:26 AM   #13
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The way I ride depends on the situation...

1) One lane, no bike lane - I ride as far to the right as I feel is safe.
2) Two lanes (or more), no bike lane - I take the right lane, riding down the middle of it or just slightly to the right of center. Basically I'm trying to tell people there is no room for them in my lane, yet trying to maintain a safe distance from cars passing in the left lane.
3) If there is a bike lane, no matter how many car lanes are available, I always use the bike lane.
^^What he said. Although, I tend not to ride in bike lanes. I ride on the outside (left) edge of the lane. Not only is it safer to avoid debris and sewer covers this way, I like to have a buffer between the shoulder and me. I also don't believe that bike lanes are safer than riding on the road, like a vehicle.

Bottom line, I take the lane when I need to and clearly signal my intentions and ride like a vehicle. I don't care if people honk at me. Safety is my first concern.
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Old 04-17-08, 02:37 PM   #14
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Show your thanks to the honkers for indicating that they have seen you. Its the ones that dont see you that you should be worrying about.
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Old 04-17-08, 02:43 PM   #15
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I've tried riding in the right lane when 2 lanes are available and no bike lane, kind of towards the right center of the lane. That usually ends up with a bunch of honks, expletives, and middle finger waving from drivers.
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Old 04-17-08, 07:43 PM   #16
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I've tried riding in the right lane when 2 lanes are available and no bike lane, kind of towards the right center of the lane. That usually ends up with a bunch of honks, expletives, and middle finger waving from drivers.
F**k them. They are in a car. A bike rider is SUCH! an inconvenience for a car that can get somewhere twice as fast as you. They can step off.
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Old 04-17-08, 07:57 PM   #17
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Wear a reflective vest so you can be seen a mile away.

Use a mirror.
If a huge truck is coming move to the left tell him to move over. I stick my hand out to the ground that I want this. If a small prius comes behind you and you can move over safely do so.

Be ready to hop over that dear .
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Old 04-17-08, 08:08 PM   #18
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Bekologist, I already have two blinkies on the back (including a SuperFlash). I don't use a triangle, but (this time of year) I'm riding in full daylight. I ride a cyclocross bike, so it's reasonably beefy. I don't think I'd want to bunny hop a deer while hauling my laptop, but I can generally go off-road without to much difficulty.

"riding high speed roads is an exercise in regular, low intensity motorist harassment" - can't argue with that!
Get more visible to the rear...many times you get grief because the driver didn't see you until it was too late for them to plan a way to get around you. Alert shirts, vests, triangles, and such combined with good blinkies help a lot and make you look more like you 'belong' there.
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Old 04-17-08, 09:19 PM   #19
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So, my question is this, where should I ride to be safest?
In Amsterdam.
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Old 04-17-08, 09:47 PM   #20
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Much of my daily commute is along a state highway. It's only 2-lane, but it has a lot of traffic and folks usually drive around 60-65 mph. The shoulder is a couple of feet wide and I'm always on it, even though there is debris. I just know I'll eventually get nailed if I ride in the lane. And I would end up feeling a little sorry for the tractor-trailer drivers that would get delayed due to my taking up the space they need to safely pass. They're working to put food on the table and I respect that, and don't want to make it any harder for them.

Your situation might be totally different - just my 2-cents.
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Old 04-17-08, 09:54 PM   #21
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So, my question is this, where should I ride to be safest?
Ride where you feel safest.

If people are yelling and blowing horns - they are seeing you! Rejoice!

I like a helmet mounted rear view mirror. Lets me keep an eye on the knuckleheads gaining on me from behind so I have less surprises. This allows me to ride in the lane when it is clear, then move to the shoulder if the gates of hell open behind me.
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Old 04-17-08, 10:48 PM   #22
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OMG, this is going to be another long thread - again. It would be nice if this thread had a poll with it.

All I can say is that if you ride the shoulder, you are going to be white knuckling it every time a car passes - which means every car on the road.

Taking the lane is scary because you know that somewhere behind you is a sleepy-head or a lady putting on make-up, or a kid on a cell phone or a drunk; all who pose a risk to those who share the road with them. The risk is especially high for bicyclists.

One thing is for sure. If you ride the shoulders, drivers will treat you like you don't exist. Every car that passes you will be a near-miss.
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Old 04-17-08, 10:49 PM   #23
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If people are yelling and blowing horns - they are seeing you! Rejoice!
I love it.

JoeyBike is my new favorite poet.
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Old 04-17-08, 10:57 PM   #24
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>Every car that passes you will be a near-miss.

I had a pretty scary experience recently. Riding out of town to the hills, I was on a sealed shoulder, when the shoulder ran out and turned into gravel. I edged my way back into the lane, and could hear a truck coming. I thought it would probably overtake me, so I'd be safe in the lane. Split second decision, I decide to get back into the gravel shoulder. Truck hurtles past, misses me by about 30 cm. I think if I'd taken the lane, it would have been too late for him to avoid me. Eep.

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Old 04-17-08, 11:16 PM   #25
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>Every car that passes you will be a near-miss.

I had a pretty scary experience recently. Riding out of town to the hills, I was on a sealed shoulder, when the shoulder ran out and turned into gravel. I edged my way back into the lane, and could hear a truck coming. I thought it would probably overtake me, so I'd be safe in the lane. Split second decision, I decide to get back into the gravel shoulder. Truck hurtles past, misses me by about 30 cm. I think if I'd taken the lane, it would have been too late for him to avoid me. Eep.

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