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Old 05-25-11, 09:35 AM   #1
P51
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6 inches, 50 MPH

I was riding my usual Tuesday route last night on a two lane road with no shoulder. There was a car coming from the opposite direction and one from behind. We all three met on the same piece of road. The guy behind passed me at about 50 MPH, one hand on the wheel, one holding a cell phone to his ear. His mirror missed me by about 6 inches.

This was in broad daylight. I had on an orange jersey and a blinking taillight.

I'm new to this sport. I realize it's dangerous, but how often do the close calls happen? If you've been hit by a car, what were the circumstances?

Later in the same ride, I recognized the same situation about to occur, and moved out into the middle of my lane, forcing the guy behind to slow down and wait to go around. The first time, I didn't realize it soon enough to claim the lane. Do you take the lane on a two lane road all the time?
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Old 05-25-11, 09:46 AM   #2
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I once read, and have since proved to my own satisfaction, that most drivers give you as much room between their vehicle and yours, as you take between the edge of the road and yourself. I don't know why that is; it would seem that if you're 6" from the fog line, there'd be more room for a passing cager to fit his car than if you're 3' from the line, but many vehicles will pass you with 6" to spare in the first instance, and 3' in the second.

Most of the roads where I ride have deteriorating pavement near the edge, so I go look for a smooth stretch, which is generally found between tire tracks.
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Old 05-25-11, 09:47 AM   #3
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On most of the roads I ride (rural, some small town areas) there is a 2ft width of pavement on the right of the fog line. That is where I ride. If there is no area right of the fog line I wont ride it. It's not worth the risk.

Otherwise, yeah I've been "zipped" a few times when motorist fly by me rather closely. That is what makes this a dangerous sport. One little jerk of the handlebars at the wrong time and you go SPLAT like a bug on the bumper.
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Old 05-25-11, 09:53 AM   #4
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Yes this does happen, I would say take the lane but sometimes that is not the best policy. I would take the lane, check your mirror and decided "is he moving over", if not head for the ditch. I can see a little scene in my head where my blood gurgling last words are "I had the right of way."
There are also people who believe you have no rights on the road and belong on the sidewalk, non-cyclist in their 50's have told me they were taught to ride against traffic. Old farmers who drive tractors at 15mph on the highway will later cuss at you for making them slow down on the way home.

A small percentage of cyclist and motorists are morons, and these are the ones we remember.

Craig
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Old 05-25-11, 10:11 AM   #5
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Later in the same ride, I recognized the same situation about to occur, and moved out into the middle of my lane, forcing the guy behind to slow down and wait to go around. The first time, I didn't realize it soon enough to claim the lane. Do you take the lane on a two lane road all the time?
Yes. Always take the lane. If conditions warrant it, you can always give more room, but your starting out position should be in the lane. Check out CommuteOrlando for information about riding in the traffic lane; they have lots of good videos and animations.

And +1 on using a mirror.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 05-25-11, 10:20 AM   #6
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Depends on the area but things like this do happen. I have a rear view mirror on the bike and I am respectfull of motorists. They are bigger than me and can hurt so I keep an eye open for them. BUT- I also let them know what I am doing. Turning against the traffic and I signal- And definitely signal. Only move into my position when safe and when the car gives me room I thank them.

But one ride a few years ago we had 3 hits on cars. One pulled out on us and we damaged the bumper quite severely. One caught the end of my bars with his mirror and his door mirror went flying. And a car pulled right in front of us on a roundabout and he had a nice expensive crease down his trunk. None of these drivers saw us apparantly. Two riders on a Tandem in bright yellow and with strong lights front and rear. Damage to the Tandem--Zilch except I had to align the bars. You don't mess with an offroad Tandem- The cars can come off worse.
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Old 05-25-11, 10:52 AM   #7
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I've taken to the practice of staying a foot or two (or more) from the fog line, be it left, or right. If there isn't enough tarmac to ride to the right safely -default to this lane position if I can-, I'll move to the left of the line and take the lane. So far, this seems to work.
The priority above this 'idea' is NOT to be dead-right; so I'll give it up quickly if the spidey sense starts tickling.
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Old 05-25-11, 11:02 AM   #8
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If you hug the fog line and only take the lane when you realize you need to force an overtaking motorist to slow down, the motorists will be angry at what they perceive to be an obnoxious maneuver by you. If you default to the center of the lane and move slightly right to allow a motorist to pass more easily, they will think you are a considerate cyclist. At least that is my interpretation, as based on the amount of space they give me when passing and how hard they mash their foot on the accelerator when doing so.

Generally, if you don't take the lane motorists will assume that you think the lane is wide enough to share it with them and take your lane placement as an invitation to buzz you.
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Old 05-25-11, 11:15 AM   #9
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Take the lane if there's time to do it. Sometimes there isn't. I had a close call last night when I wasn't able to take the lane in a two-lane roundabout, of which there are a lot around here. I wanted to go 3/4 of the way around to in effect make a left turn, but the traffic signs allowed both lanes, inside and out, to continue straight through the intersection. I was just on the correct side of the dividing line, and a car passed me on my left and cut me off to go straight. I almost hit her. I should have been right in the middle of the lane to make her drive behind me, but there was a long enough line of traffic that I never had the chance to pull over safely.

At another roundabout that same ride, I woman talking on her cell phone while driving her minivan didn't even look at me as she motored right into the intersection directly in front of me. And I was even wearing my yellow jersey.

Sheesh.
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Old 05-25-11, 11:34 AM   #10
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Take the lane if there's time to do it. Sometimes there isn't.
If you always take the lane, you don't have to worry whether there is "time to do it." Also, if you take the lane as a car is approaching, you piss off the driver because he sees you as purposely blocking him personally and you're viewed as rude. If you always take the lane, you are just taking the lane, not purposely blocking anyone. Then if you do move over to allow more space for a pass, you're viewed as polite.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 05-25-11, 12:06 PM   #11
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If you always take the lane, you don't have to worry whether there is "time to do it." Also, if you take the lane as a car is approaching, you piss off the driver because he sees you as purposely blocking him personally and you're viewed as rude. If you always take the lane, you are just taking the lane, not purposely blocking anyone. Then if you do move over to allow more space for a pass, you're viewed as polite.
I can't see that a driver is going to have any different opinion of you if you take the lane in front of him (safely) or if he sees you in the middle of the road from 2 miles back. Either way he's going to be pissed off at you.
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Old 05-25-11, 12:49 PM   #12
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Many riders disagre with my style of protecting myself. I pay attention to cars approaching from behind. If I see I am about to end up in a pinch point, I'll slow down or speed up to avoid the sitration. Of course this is tough with heavy traffic but still works. The riders that disagree with me are theytpes that believe, I'm a cyclist, I have my rights. That's cool but doesn't matter once you're in a wheelchair. I'd rather lose a pedal stoke on my championshp timetrial effort than get hit.

What I also do (and this is why I won't ride with earphones) is I time the car approaching from behind by sound. Just as it arrives, I swerve about 6 inches to my right. If someone was about to hit me with their mirror. I just removed myself from the danger zone. I'm sure some riders will think it's crazy, but hey, I rarely ae close calls on the road. I do this after observing too many cars on my local roads hugging the line of the bike lane and shoulder.
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Old 05-25-11, 12:58 PM   #13
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Yep, it happens. Yep, it's dangerous. Yep, it's annoying. Nope, there ain't much you can do about it. So keep on riding, and do what you can to keep yourself safe.

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Old 05-25-11, 01:12 PM   #14
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I can't see that a driver is going to have any different opinion of you if you take the lane in front of him (safely) or if he sees you in the middle of the road from 2 miles back. Either way he's going to be pissed off at you.
Not true. If a driver sees you hugging the fog line, then as the car gets nearer you pull out and take the lane, that's viewed as deliberately blocking the car. It doesn't matter if the lane is wide enough to share or not, the driver only sees that you've moved over to take the whole lane to your (narrow) self.

If I can leave 10 feet of lane to my left and 2 feet to the edge of the pavement, I'll ride to the right. If there's not that much lane (and there rarely is,) then my default position is the right tire track. I can always move to the right further if necessary, but if I'm on the fog line already and have an aggressive driver behind me, there's noplace else to go. In my experience, if you give a 6'1" to a 6' wide car, they'll squeeze you over half the time and not even realize how dangerous to you it is. OTOH, if you're in the middle of the lane, they may complain but they'll wait every time. Wouldn't want to ding their hood, after all!
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Old 05-25-11, 01:18 PM   #15
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I can't see that a driver is going to have any different opinion of you if you take the lane in front of him (safely) or if he sees you in the middle of the road from 2 miles back. Either way he's going to be pissed off at you.
But if he sees you in that position 2 miles back, he's used to the idea that you're there by the time he gets there. And, if it's safe to pass, you can move 6 inches or a foot away from center and look like you're cooperating, but the driver still has to change lanes to go around you, while in the meantime, you still have a safety zone to make even more room for yourself if you feel the car is too close.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 05-25-11, 01:20 PM   #16
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Many riders disagre with my style of protecting myself. I pay attention to cars approaching from behind. If I see I am about to end up in a pinch point, I'll slow down or speed up to avoid the sitration. Of course this is tough with heavy traffic but still works. The riders that disagree with me are theytpes that believe, I'm a cyclist, I have my rights. That's cool but doesn't matter once you're in a wheelchair. I'd rather lose a pedal stoke on my championshp timetrial effort than get hit.

What I also do (and this is why I won't ride with earphones) is I time the car approaching from behind by sound. Just as it arrives, I swerve about 6 inches to my right. If someone was about to hit me with their mirror. I just removed myself from the danger zone. I'm sure some riders will think it's crazy, but hey, I rarely ae close calls on the road. I do this after observing too many cars on my local roads hugging the line of the bike lane and shoulder.
I do kind of what you say as well... I try to control where and when I get passed, to maximize my safety. The only difference is that I feel more comfortable using a mirror and not relying on sound.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 05-25-11, 01:57 PM   #17
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This is an interesting and "eye-opening" thread.
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Old 05-25-11, 04:16 PM   #18
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Much of my commute to work is on a two-lane road that is barely wide enough to be passed safely. Often jammed full of cars at rush hours. I spend a lot of time at the lane edge and even ride on the shoulder some of the way, where it is wide enough. Part of that time, I am passing cars on the right, slower and more cautiously than my usual speed, and then they sometimes pass me. I only take the lane in situations where there is not room enough for a car and a bike, such as when I get to downtown Indy: I'm not shy about taking the lane early to avoid being trapped in a right turn only lane when I am going straight.
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Old 05-25-11, 06:14 PM   #19
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I primarily ride two lane roads. I've found that if I hug the right I'll get someone occasionally trying to squeeze by - regardless of the on coming traffic. So I'll take my 1/3 to 1/2 of the lane. Then like Mr Beanz - move right as they pass. Also - if I think two diverging cars and I will meet - I WILL be in the middle, sure I may end up on the hood and thru the windshield. To me the speed diff of me doing 20 the car doing 50 is 30. Getting side swiped and thrown into a tree - and who knows what I get accelerated to. I'm out on that.

+1 on the mirror/s.

That said - there are friendly areas, and area's I chose not to ride.

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Old 05-25-11, 06:30 PM   #20
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If you hug the fog line and only take the lane when you realize you need to force an overtaking motorist to slow down, the motorists will be angry at what they perceive to be an obnoxious maneuver by you. If you default to the center of the lane and move slightly right to allow a motorist to pass more easily, they will think you are a considerate cyclist.
+1 I never thought of it that way but (as a driver) it makes good sense. If the statement above that drivers give you more space if you take more space is accurate that only improves this strategy.
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Old 05-25-11, 06:51 PM   #21
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Not true. If a driver sees you hugging the fog line, then as the car gets nearer you pull out and take the lane, that's viewed as deliberately blocking the car. It doesn't matter if the lane is wide enough to share or not, the driver only sees that you've moved over to take the whole lane to your (narrow) self.
But I maintain that the driver will have the same low opinion of you regardless of when you decide to take the lane. He/she will see you as a road hog and impediment to traffic whether done 200 feet in front of them or if they come on you already in that position. I suppose they might take it more personally if they see you do it, but a case could also be made that riding in the middle of the lane all the time will give them more time to decide exactly what method they want to use to disabuse us of our obviously misguided notion that we belong on the road in the first place.
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Old 05-25-11, 08:45 PM   #22
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When there is no room on the right i take the lane. Usually on the last 5 miles of some of my rides is through residential and two lane traffic. I take the lane and stay in the middle until there is room to the right or reach a stop sign. At stop signs i stay in the middle like i was in a car, wait for my turn then go. I stop with one foot on the ground and look around, no one has been rude yet after they see i came to a full and complete stop and waited my turn. On one piece of road that i ride has no shoulder with Jersey wall on the opposite side leaving no where to go. I have had a few close calls but most motorists wait until i can go to the right after this part of the road opens up. It only takes one time to make a bad day for us.
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Old 05-26-11, 01:31 AM   #23
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Check out CommuteOrlando for information about riding in the traffic lane; they have lots of good videos and animations.

.
Thanks for this link - the videos and commentary are really great.
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Old 05-26-11, 04:37 AM   #24
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You got 6" of space!!!! WTF, I never get that much space.
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Old 05-26-11, 08:17 AM   #25
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Thanks for all the replies. I think I will own the lane and move right when a car is passing, but stay put if a car is oncoming until it's safe to let cell phone psycho to pass. Good advice. Thanks.
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