I'm new to bicycling. I seem to love it, and I'm starting to make short trips with my bike rather than my car.
Initially, I rode as far to the right as I could. And it was harrowing on roads without bike lanes that had parked cars. Motorists would split the lane with just a few inches clearance to me and high closure speed.
I started reading about the "Take the lane" concept, and I tried it. It does seem to be safer, and for the most part works well. But in 3 days, I've been yelled at 3 times by motorists.
#1 Going south on Coleman Road coming up on Almaden Lake Park. I'm riding with my girl, and we need to leave the bike lane to move across to the left turn lane to get to the park. Traffic is coming. I signal and move first into the right hand lane. A lady is coming up in her car behind me. She had lots of space behind me when I changed lanes, but waits until the last moment to slam her brakes and hold down her horn. Me and my girl proceed to the left turn lane, and this lady proceeds to yell something at me about getting out of the street as we all wait at the light.
#2 Riding with my girl down Lincoln Ave. It's a very boutique downtown'ish area with a lot of traffic and pedestrians. Cars usually have to move pretty slowly through it, so I figure taking the lane shouldn't be a problem here at all. And there's no other choice. It's narrow, packed with parallel parked cars, no bike lanes, and sidewalks stuffed full of pedestrians. A car splits my lane anyway even though I'm in the center of it and makes a close pass around me nearly taking me out with his rear bumper. I don't actually know if this was intentional or just clueless, but there appeared to be no reason for the driver to have done this. The left lane was clear, and he had plenty of space and opportunity to pass me safely and easily.
#3 A couple of minutes later, a guy in an SUV yells "Get in the bike lane!" as he passes in the left lane. I say back, "What bike lane?" but he's already gone up ahead.
Is this normal? Or have I just been unlucky so far?
I did feel safe taking the lane. Even the car that made the close pass didn't actually make me feel I was in danger. It was more like "Wtf is this guy doing?" The speeds were low, and it wasn't _that_ close. So other than motorists having a rude reaction to it, taking the lane seems to work well. So far.
I don't actually feel like yelling back at these motorists. I'm not angry with them. They're just ignorant, and it's not really their fault. The state doesn't do enough to educate them, so they believe I'm breaking the law, and they're reacting to that. I didn't even know about taking the lane myself until a few days ago!
My girl is another matter though. She was upset by it and told me she didn't feel it was worth it if this is the way we're going to be treated. She said maybe it's just not actually practical. I can see how bicyclists get discouraged and give up and go back to cars.
She had a really interesting point about it. She said she can't remember ever driving a car herself and seeing a bicycle taking the lane. Neither have I.
Is taking the lane something that bicyclists really do in the Bay Area?