I think I've put my finger on my complaint with the VC disciple crowd. You hear a lot of talk about having rights and protecting rights and the whole thing becomes a fierce competition between cyclist and motorist. It's almost like one of those nature shows where the cyclists are the hyenas trying to get their share of a kill when a pride of lions is around. If the lions don't want the hyenas there, it's gonna be ugly.
I agree that Chipseal has right to ride in the lane and I think and hope that his recent tickets for doing so will be dismissed. Since the first of the year, my commute now includes about a mile of country two-lane with no shoulder, so I've been thinking about navigating such roads with a more vested interest.
My first method was to "Chipseal" it: Stubbornly ride in the lane such that a car simply cannot pass without pulling into the oncoming lane. After all, I have a right to use it. While this is commonly viewed as the way to get the most passing distance, on this particular two-lane, the drivers seem to take it personally when I ride like that and try to passive-aggressively move me into my place on the side of the road by passing close to me, typically with two wheels to the right of the center dividing line, forcing me over to the right.
I refuse to try to squeeze over onto a non-existent shoulder. This will give me absolutely no room for error and invite cars to pass without any lane change at all. I've considered alternative routes, but they all involve very busy roads with lots of fast-food places with people suddenly giving in to cravings and making abrupt maneuvers. It's the route I take when I drive to work and it seems hazardous to me even in a car. So the two-lane is the only feasible route.
What I've come up with is this: First of all, when on this stretch I make it a point to know when traffic is approaching from behind by using a mirror. I pay lip-service to AFRAP by riding in the right tire track (or maybe just to the left of it). This gives me a safety factor to my right that I can use as if a car passes me too closely. It also allows me to use that space to help comunicate to the car behind that I know he's there, I know he wants to pass, and whether or not it's safe to do so.
If a car approaches from behind and there is no oncoming traffic, I move from that center-right position to a right position. If I'm riding the left edge of the right tire track, I'll shift over to the right edge of the tire track and hold my position very carefully. This tells the car that, yes, I know you're there, I know you want to pass, and I'm trying to accommodate you, but I still maintain a little bit of a safety margin by not moving all the way to the fog line. When cars pass under these conditions, an amazing thing happens: They move all the way over into the oncoming lane, and I have a boatload of clearance. It's almost like they show their appreciation for my minimal accommodation of their desire to pass by giving me extra space.
If a car comes up behind me and there is oncoming traffic, I either maintain my lane position or move a few inches to the left. I put my left arm out and down, palm facing back, fingers outstretched. If I feel emphasis is needed, I pump the arm up and down a little. I think that even if a driver is frustrated by having to slow down, most appreciate that I am actively taking control of the situation and communicating with them. They just kind of give in to my will As soon as the oncoming traffic is past, I shift right and (if I'm in a passing zone) I wave the car around me. If there is a double yellow line, I still move to the right a little, but don't wave. Most drivers ignore the double yellow and pass me anyway, but I don't want to be construed as telling them to do something illegal; that's their decision. Either way, again, they usually give me ample space when they pass.
I used to get steamed when they passed me on the double yellow but I realize they're going to do it anyway, so I just try to make them do it as safely as possible.
All of this communication seems to foster at least a minimum level of cooperation between cyclists and drivers, and seems to result in fewer frazzled nerves and lower blood pressure. I think it also brings all parties to a single level- we're all just trying to get through this; we're all just trying to get along. Kumbaya.
Do I have the right to the lane? Yes. Should I simply throw away my mirror and trust drivers to do the right thing? In my case, the answer is not unless I want to get hit. Is ceding a little lane position to communicate to the car behind me a surrender of my sacred rights? Frankly, I don't care if it makes everyone get through the encounter happily.
I think the hard-headedness that I perceive in the VC crowd is self-defeating. They seem to insist on that hard-headed, strict version of their rights. But if drivers could care less about cyclist rights, the vehicular cyclist is both right and defeated. Maybe drivers would better accomodate cyclists if there was a little more non-confrontational communication and little more kumbaya.