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  1. #1
    Senior Member intransit1217's Avatar
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    Taking the lane vs impeding traffic

    So we were 2x4 last night on our way out to do on the bike drills. Unfortunately, the shoulder was narrow enough that to pass us cars had to cross a double yellow line.

    To me, that is impeding traffic.

    What say you?
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    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    In the context of most traffic codes, you are not impeding traffic by taking the lane when it is necessary to prevent unsafe passing (of a single file).

    If the lane is too narrow for one bike and a car, it is too narrow for two so there is no harm although local jurisdiction and interpretation by law enforcement may vary with regards to riding double in the lane. If on the other hand there is safe room for one bike and a car, then I would agree that riding double is impeding traffic.

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    Senior Member intransit1217's Avatar
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    I tend to think in those instances it would be better for us to ride single file. But I see the point. With the 3 foot rule, cars cross the line any way. Which I suppose makes us safer to be two abreast making us more visible to approaching cars.
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    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    that's a lot of cyclist to pass even single file. can you guys find wider roads?
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by intransit1217 View Post
    I tend to think in those instances it would be better for us to ride single file. But I see the point. With the 3 foot rule, cars cross the line any way. Which I suppose makes us safer to be two abreast making us more visible to approaching cars.
    Two-abreast allows the car to pass the group in a shorter distance than single file - single file will take twice as long. You're not obstructing traffic, you are traffic.

    This thread got my attention as the wife and I had a 'lively' discussion a couple weeks ago, the story: the two of us were riding out of our neighborhood on a pot-hole-war-zone two-lane road with a double yellow line. A minivan passes us, crossing the double yellow line, the driver was at a respectable speed and gave good clearance. However, my wife lost her $h!t, gave a very nice one-finger-salute and some colorful language. I was not happy with this. The wife said she was mad because the driver passed in a no passing zone.

    Every day, I ride a number of roads with no shoulder and no passing zone. I will never get mad at a driver crossing the double yellow to offer me a safe distance (and reasonable speed).

    Anybody know if police will ticket a driver for passing in this situation? I don't expect they would.

    footnote - the wife is really pissed because this residential street has been turned into a highway with the closure of a major state highway less then a mile away.
    I didn't say it was your fault, I said I'm blaming you. There's a difference.

  6. #6
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    Check your states laws?

    Washington says cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as other vehicles, allows cyclists to ride 2 abreast while keeping as far to the right as safe, but also says a delay of 5 or more vehicles is illegal on a 2 lane road.
    The rules and laws of the road are for individual users not groups, so it makes sense that groups should choose when and where they ride wisely, and thoughtfully.

  7. #7
    Senior Member intransit1217's Avatar
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    Double checking with a bike attorney now.
    I wouldn't call this an extended area of use for us. It was merely the most efficient way out of the area to where we did our exercises.

    But that raises a valid point. Is there another less travelled route?
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    Quote Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
    that's a lot of cyclist to pass even single file. can you guys find wider roads?
    or maybe find a bike trail ??!!

  9. #9
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    If it is safe for a car to pass you within the lane if you're going single file, then IMO (if it's safe) you should probably go single file.

    If they can't pass a single file line within the lane anyway, then they have to change lanes to pass and you're being LESS of an inconvenience by riding two abreast (you're giving them a line half as long to pass).
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    If it is safe for a car to pass you within the lane if you're going single file, then IMO (if it's safe) you should probably go single file.

    If they can't pass a single file line within the lane anyway, then they have to change lanes to pass and you're being LESS of an inconvenience by riding two abreast (you're giving them a line half as long to pass).
    this is exactly right. Most of our roads are narrow enough that cars have to use the other line anyway. Unfortunately most motorists haven't given the issue enough thought to realize that in that case a double file group is easier to pass.
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  11. #11
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by intransit1217 View Post
    Which I suppose makes us safer to be two abreast making us more visible to approaching cars.
    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    If they can't pass a single file line within the lane anyway, then they have to change lanes to pass and you're being LESS of an inconvenience by riding two abreast (you're giving them a line half as long to pass).
    If that is the case, why not ride four abreast rather than two?

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    In Michigan, bicyclists are instructed to take the lane whenever riding on the road. Shoulder riding is an option, but never, ever required, much like sidewalk riding, due to the dangers and poor maintenance (michigan roads are terrible, but their sidewalks and shoulders are even worse). One cyclist is instructed to be at minimum 2 feet from the edge of the road, in the position a car's right tire would be or thereabouts, to discourage cars from unsafely passing *without* crossing into the passing lane. Bicyclists on the road are meant to be treated as cars in all respects. Two abreast riding is totally allowable as well (but not more), with in that situation the second bike riding where the left wheel would be. They do ask that when it is safe to pass you switch to one abreast to signal that to drivers and make it easier for them. My point being that when one person is on the shoulder, in Michigan that means you could have one on shoulder, and two on the road, and completely take up the traffic lane, and that would not only be totally legal, but complying with the advisements of Michigan's DOT. So no, it's not obstructing traffic. As someone else aptly said, bicyclists don't obstruct traffic, they *are* traffic.

    I learned the hard way to care more about my safety than drivers convenience when I was riding on the sidewalk and since drivers pay no attention I got hit by someone turning into a parking lot (when on sidewalks, bikes are meant to be treated as pedestrian traffic, but he wasn't looking regardless and would have hit me had I been a pedestrian as well). So if I have to be dead center in the traffic lane wearing 100% reflective gear for cars to notice me, so be it. Cars that can't handle that and wait until they can safely pass, shouldn't be on the road, and if they "squeeze" past, tail incredibly close, or do other unsafe and aggressive maneuvers, they get reported to the police, with possible criminal charges attached for reckless endangerment, assault with a deadly weapon, or similar, and likely won't be on the road in the future.

  13. #13
    Senior Member intransit1217's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    If that is the case, why not ride four abreast rather than two?
    Because four abreast would put one or two riders in the oncoming lane.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member enigmaT120's Avatar
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    I don't get the fixation on double yellow no-passing zones. If a tree or other stationary object were in my path I would go around it even if the line was a double yellow. That's one extreme. When I'm climbing a steep hill I'm depressingly close to that tree in speed. It's not that hard to judge if you can see far enough ahead to know if it's safe to pass. The faster the cyclist, the more room you'll need.
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    Laws vary, but the practical effect depends on what's actually happening. If traffic is light, and there are plenty of passing opportunities, and cars are in fact passing without a backup, then it's a no harm-no foul situation. OTOH- if traffic is backing up, then there's a problem, and you can either solve it with some adjustment, or wait for a cop to sort it out and apply law, ie. (NYS) the obligation to ride single file to allow passing.

    Also consider that it may not be related to the width of your group, but the length. As someone pointed out, it would take more time and distance to pass 8 bikes single file, than double. I stopped riding in groups on open roads years ago, but when I did, we'd break into smaller (shorter) sub groups where necessary to facilitate passing. It wasn't a question of law, since nobody knew or cared about that BITD, but a matter of common courtesy.

    As a practical matter, I don't want frustrated impatient drivers fuming behind me. It increases the likelihood that they'll do something stupid, desperate and maybe dangerous. So I try to create passing opportunities wherever I can, and make life easier for everyone, including myself in the process.

    BTW- for those who want to live by the letter of the law, understand that the traffic code applies to individual cyclists and motorists acting alone, not to vehicles (including bicycles) in groups. When you ride as a group in close order, that may be interpreted as constituting a parade, for which different rules may apply and/or permits may be required.
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  16. #16
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    If that is the case, why not ride four abreast rather than two?
    More than two is on the books as illegal in most states. Also 4 abreast would not really be doable safely within the lane for most roads.

    Also I think that with two abreast, each rider has a bail-out option to the side. Once you're three abreast, there's a rider that's trapped if something happens (animal, pothole, etc).
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  17. #17
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GiantOctopodes View Post
    In Michigan, bicyclists are instructed to take the lane whenever riding on the road. ... but complying with the advisements of Michigan's DOT.
    Can you point me to this in print? I totally believe you and it's how I ride, but I've been increasingly catching flack about this and would like documentation.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    Can you point me to this in print? I totally believe you and it's how I ride, but I've been increasingly catching flack about this and would like documentation.
    http://www.lmb.org/index.php?option=...=8&catid=4&m=0

    Dangerous activity on page 6 includes hugging the curb, proper lane placement is covered in detail on page 7.

    If that's too 'promotional' for your tastes, there is also the following

    Michigan Legislature - 300-1949-VI-OPERATION-OF-BICYCLES-MOTORCYCLES-AND-TOY-VEHICLES

    Which are the actual laws and regulations governing bicycle use in Michigan. The relevant sections are covered in detail in the following as well

    Michigan Bicycle Law

    Hope that helps!

  19. #19
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by enigmaT120 View Post
    I don't get the fixation on double yellow no-passing zones. If a tree or other stationary object were in my path I would go around it even if the line was a double yellow. That's one extreme. When I'm climbing a steep hill I'm depressingly close to that tree in speed. It's not that hard to judge if you can see far enough ahead to know if it's safe to pass. The faster the cyclist, the more room you'll need.
    The issue is that often motorists don't pass cyclists with the same care they might pass another car or your aforementioned tree... motorists have a tendency to try to look through cyclists to see if the road is clear and not see all the approaching traffic, or they take the idiotic mode of suggesting they are being forced to drive into oncoming traffic. In that latter situation, motorists must understand it is ALWAYS their decision as to whether it is safe to pass... no one in front of you is "making" you do anything.

    Also since cyclists are moving... if there is approaching traffic from the other direction, a passing motorist may not judge the speed of the cyclists well and put themselves (and others) into a bad situation... in the rush to "get past those 'damn' cyclists."

  20. #20
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    In MA, it is legal to ride 2 abreast and do not have stay right. I take the lane all the time on my commute. This road is narrow, twisting and has a 20 mph limit. In spots it is only 8 ft wide. Safest for me to ride this way, as it not wide enough for a bike and a car to fit side by side. Bikes are traffic. Got a mirror?

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    Quote Originally Posted by intransit1217 View Post
    I tend to think in those instances it would be better for us to ride single file. But I see the point. With the 3 foot rule, cars cross the line any way. Which I suppose makes us safer to be two abreast making us more visible to approaching cars.
    This is true, objectively, but a lot of drivers don't realize this, probably because they don't actually think it through. What they think is that two abreast riders are taking up more of the lane. They don't think about the fact that they have to give way either way (single or two abreast) and that it's quicker to pass the shorter group.

    I'm not saying this is right, but it's the way drivers see it.

    Also, I've had the experience with a very courteous and rule-following group of riders. We were about 10 or so riders, riding in a little-used country road, up a hill single and double file (mostly double, but a couple of singletons in the group or at the end). Now, we weren't a professional double paceline lined up like a regiment. We were the way most more casual groups ride, very slowly up a hill, keeping to two abreast and as far right as practical, but not perfectly lined up. Not weaving excessively for the ~8-10 mph speed, but not an arrow straight trajectory like a fast riding, disciplined pro team.

    A driver got angry and then wrote a letter to the cycle club website accusing us of riding 3-4 abreast. We were flabergasted and thought about it and verified the time and place and the fact that we were single and double filed. But, think about it - looking from the rear of a group like this, your vision and depth of field could interpret a single rider riding behind a pair as being three abreast.

    Just another way that drivers mis-perceive a two abreast group.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hypno Toad View Post
    ...This thread got my attention as the wife and I had a 'lively' discussion a couple weeks ago, the story: the two of us were riding out of our neighborhood on a pot-hole-war-zone two-lane road with a double yellow line. A minivan passes us, crossing the double yellow line, the driver was at a respectable speed and gave good clearance. However, my wife lost her $h!t, gave a very nice one-finger-salute and some colorful language. I was not happy with this. The wife said she was mad because the driver passed in a no passing zone.

    Every day, I ride a number of roads with no shoulder and no passing zone. I will never get mad at a driver crossing the double yellow to offer me a safe distance (and reasonable speed).

    Anybody know if police will ticket a driver for passing in this situation? I don't expect they would.

    footnote - the wife is really pissed because this residential street has been turned into a highway with the closure of a major state highway less then a mile away.
    First, I'm with you. Why anyone would get angry in any situation that doesn't endanger the cyclist, I just don't see the point. And note I said "endanger" not "inconvenience". I dont' believe in getting angry just for getting inconvenienced - like having to slow down, etc. even if the driver is not respecting official right of way. Hey, it happens all the time when I'm driving. Sometimes I have to slow down for a car turning in front of me. If I don't have to slam on the brakes, I don't honk. Same with a bike. We share the road, and the bike has a handlebar and brakes for a reason - to slow down, stop and turn, which is part of being on the road with other vehicles.

    Second, we should remember that no passing zones, etc. are designed for safety at car speeds. Passing a bike takes such a small fraction of time that it takes to pass a car, that there are many (most?) no passing zone circumstances where it would be perfectly safe to pass a bike where it wouldn't be to pass a car. Remind your wife of that.

    I personally doubt that a cop would give a car a ticket for safely passing a bike in a no passing zone because of the above rationale.

  22. #22
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GiantOctopodes View Post
    Hope that helps!
    Indeed it does. Thanks. I did not realize that MI has a mandatory helmet law for adults.
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    I've asked both cops and my friend the judge about passing in no passing sections. Everyone agrees that crossing a double yellow to pass a stationary obstruction on the road is legal (subject to no cars approaching). The judge said that there was civil liability in the event of a head on, but that's different.

    Then we covered children or a dog moving in the road, and both said it was legal. When it came to bicycles, it became grayer because bicycles are vehicles, but both agreed that if there were good sightlines and no oncoming traffic it OK (this may not mean legal). My cop friend mentioned, that though the bike situation hasn't come up yet, he's seen many cars passing constriction equipment or other very slow moving trucks, and would never considering issuing a ticket unless there were oncoming traffic.

    But there's a problem because many drivers don't know whether it's legal or proper to move across a double yellow to pass a bicycle (when safe). This gives rise to unnecessary frustration for all parties. Also from what I've observed over the years, many drivers will crowd or move halfway over a double yellow (even with approaching traffic), but will not cross it completely (go figure).

    IMO- it still boils down to common sense and courtesy, not necessarily the fine points of the vehicle code. The only time I get annoyed (more like shaking my head in wonder) is when people pass me crowding the center on a narrow road while there's an oncoming car. It works (so far) but would be so much better if they'd wait all of 2 seconds for the oncoming car to clear before starting the pass.
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    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    Indeed it does. Thanks. I did not realize that MI has a mandatory helmet law for adults.
    If so, AFAIK it is the only state with such a requirement.

  25. #25
    Senior Member loky1179's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Camilo View Post

    First, I'm with you. Why anyone would get angry in any situation that doesn't endanger the cyclist, I just don't see the point. And note I said "endanger" not "inconvenience". I dont' believe in getting angry just for getting inconvenienced - like having to slow down, etc. even if the driver is not respecting official right of way. Hey, it happens all the time when I'm driving.

    Agree, this happens all the time. On my way home from work yesterday, a woman was backing out of her driveway on a residential street. Totally did not see me. I came to a complete stop, let her finish backing out. No problem.

    A little patience goes a long way.

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