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Chalupa102 07-13-10 10:58 AM

When do you take the lane?
(If this is in the wrong section, please move)

Quick senario. About a week ago I was driving on a curvy 2 lane road (1 lane each direction) with a narrow shoulder. From the white line to the edge of the road was probably about 2 feet wide at max. There was what looked like a pretty experienced cyclist on a nice road bike ahead. He was positioned, for the most part, on or a little to the right of the white line in the shoulder. I have never biked on the particular section of the road. I would think he would have been better taking the lane in the right tire track to make himself more visible, especially on a curvy road. I could be wrong though.

So I'm just wondering, when do you personally decide to take the lane? I know people have different views on it, but what is your preference? Also, if there's a decent shoulder and you use it, where do you position yourself in it?

Chalupa102 07-13-10 11:07 AM

I meant to put a poll with this, but my computer messed up and didn't let me.

The options where going to be:

- 2 lane road w/ wide shoulder, I use the shoulder
- 2 lane road w/ wide shoulder, I take the lane
- 2 lane road w/ narrow shoulder, I use the shoulder/ride the white line
- 2 lane road w/ narrow shoulder, I take the lane
- 4 lane road w/ shoulder, I use the shoulder
- 4 lane road w/ shoulder, I take the lane
- If using shoulder, I ride in the middle
- If using shoulder, I line on/near the white line
- Other

mikeybikes 07-13-10 11:17 AM

Depends on more than just what you posted. Traffic volume, lane width, previous experience with said road, motor behavior established for the day, etc. It really is a judgment call for me that depends entirely on way too many circumstances to say...

That said, there seems to be a lot of cyclists and motorists that think you'll get killed for taking the lane, so they ride the curb or fog line.

Zizka 07-13-10 12:21 PM

I default to controlling the lane. I'll consider moving into the shoulder on a two lane road if the shoulder is wide enough, clear of the debris, and otherwise safe, and if there is overtaking traffic that will have some difficulty passing me for some reason like heavy traffic in the other lane or poor sight lines. I haven't actually encountered any four lane roads with shoulders where I would ride in the shoulder. If there were any around here that went up steep hills and I was going really slow, I would, but otherwise on a four lane road, I'd be in the lane.

When I do ride in the shoulder, I try to be a couple of feet away from the white line. Riding the white line invites scarily close passes.

ilovejmb 07-13-10 12:27 PM

I echo Mike's point that it depends entirely on the circumstances. That said, I very rarely ride to the right of the white line, but the area that I ride in has almost universally narrow and pitted shoulders. Ninety-plus percent of the time, I am riding in the rightmost 2ft of the lane. I consider "taking the lane" to mean riding toward the center of the lane. I only do that in circumstances where it would be unsafe (to me and the driver) for a vehicle to attempt to pass at all. This is generally very narrow two-lane roadways with little or no shoulder, high traffic and often active movement in an out of parked cars. I only ride on the shoulder in dense and/or fast traffic areas, or where the shoulder is wide and smooth enough to make it safe. Even then, I ride fairly close to the white line because I would rather have drivers cognizant of me in case something forces me back out into the lane.

TRaffic Jammer 07-13-10 01:15 PM

In my city, Toronto, when I need to. This can be dependent on weather, or motorist behaviors, or any combination of a variety of factors. No shoulders on our city streets.

sggoodri 07-13-10 01:25 PM

Most of my cycling is "urban" so intersections are my dominant concern with positioning. I default to controlling the lane, but when traveling at slow speed between intersections on wide lanes (at least 12' wide, preferably 14' or more) I ride near the right side of the lane if it's safe to do so. I move into the center of the lane when descending at speed, avoiding debris on the edge of the lane, approaching intersections, matching speed with slowing traffic, avoiding parked car door zones, etc.

genec 07-13-10 04:05 PM

When it is the only means to get from A to B.

I generally don't take the lane if there is a usable and safe bike path, bike lane or shoulder or a WOL, but I don't hesitate to take the lane when that is all there is... no matter what the road is.

I also take the lane when it is a safety issue... such as me moving at the speed of traffic, or the line of sight to cross streets is obscured.

Bekologist 07-13-10 08:19 PM

one caveat about curvy, rural, high speed roads: control the lane too far left, and you may find yourself unable to move safely right when you detect the presence of an overtaking vehicle by sound or in the corner of your mirror.....

I approach curvy, narrow sections without much shoulder by riding well left if practicable to maximize my own sight lines behind me and to maximize my visibility to traffic behind, then continue thru the curve safely right. you don't want to be committed to driving a line in a curve close to the double yellow unless you are travelling at or near the speed of traffic.

if bicyclists are tooling up a curvy road and there is a lot of traffic, bicyclists will hopefully be trying to courteously share the road if safe to do so.

on my urban commute i will always default to the center of the road and near the dividing line unless there are people needing to pass. on a lot of rural trips on main roads there is ample shoulder to ride on. if not, in the lane and move safely right for overtaking traffic.

low visibility and high speed differentials, i will default safely right.

there's so many variables!

Seattle Forrest 07-14-10 10:45 AM

Usually, which is the same as "when I feel I need to."

Like others have said, there are a lot of variables that go into deciding where I should be at any given time. The number of lanes is not one of them, though; either it's safe to share, or it's not. But I try to avoid main roads that have only one lane in each direction, preferring neighborhood/back roads when it's practicable to take them.

More than anything, I keep myself out of the door zone. Most bike lanes don't help with this; riding at their left edge takes you out of the frying pan and into the fire. They tend to have bumpier pavement ( sometimes because of sidewalk tree routes, sometimes from potholes ) and more debris than the travel section of the road. I'll use a bike lane when it's safe to, and when I have enough visibility to see that it's safe for a while ... I don't want to merge in and out a lot.

If the lane is wide enough, generally meaning over 14 feet, I'll share it. This is pretty rare, though. When the lane isn't wide enough, I ride near the center.

All that said, I make it easy for traffic to pass when it's safe for them to. I'd rather have cars off in the distance in front of me, than getting twitchy behind me. Like (most of) them, I'm just trying to get where I'm going, and do it safely (for me).

Bekologist 07-15-10 07:15 AM

for local NW riders, I'm thinking of the road that leads past snoqualmie falls.

on the way UPHILL on this, stay well right after the first big curve. if a cyclist is coming DOWN this, usually taking the lane all the way back to the final curve usually makes sense. there's a couple of places people can pass and a bicyclist can move right to allow a few cars by, but otherwise, a cyclist is well advised to take the lane!

AaronJohnTurner 07-16-10 08:19 PM

When not obvious, gut feeling prevails.

-On a multi lane road in bad shape or tiny lanes, I take the right lane to myself. Motorists are plenty capable of switching lanes for a few brief moments.
-When cars are parked in the curb lane.
-Riding same speed as traffic
-Descending city hills where I'm travelling over half to 3/4s the speed limit (Still a judgement call depending on lane width and number of lanes)
-Tight construction zones
-Approaching a red light/waiting in traffic at a red light/intersection
-Whenever sharing a lane would be dangerous to my health.

electrik 08-01-10 10:27 PM

When I am likely to be afforded less than 3ft by the motorist.

I wouldn't even dream of getting 5ft from motorists at highway-speeds.

God, that would be like heaven.

ianbrettcooper 08-09-10 10:33 AM

If by 'taking the lane' you mean riding in the lane as opposed to riding on the white line or in the gutter, I take the lane all the time. I always ride the straightest line I can inside the traffic lane and to the right - probably about where the average car's right tire is situated. This I do for visibility and to give me space to move when a driver gives me too little room.

In the case of a wide curb lane, I try never to use it because cars may be parked there which might force me to dodge quickly into traffic.

At an intersection I always take the centre of the rightmost straight-travelling lane when I'm going straight; I take the right of the rightmost lane when going right; I take the centre of the rightmost left turn lane when turning left.

My default philosophy is this: if in doubt, go to the centre of the rightmost lane. In my opinion, this guards my rear and lets me concentrate on stuff that's happening from other directions. Some may find this counter-intuitive, but in my experience it works well. Car drivers are, after all, usually looking forward.

ROJA 08-09-10 10:53 AM

Just to get the lingo straight, I think the common use of the term "taking the lane" refers to riding in such a way that an overtaking car or truck would have to change lanes to pass. That typically means riding no further right than the right tire track.

ianbrettcooper 08-09-10 11:05 AM

Thanks. I'm new to the lingo because although I've been cycling for 40 years, I just started talking about it... well... today, LOL. Heck, the only book I've even read about cycling is Hurst's 'Cyclist's Manifesto' (most of which I agreed with, some of which I didn't) and I probably forgot most of that within a week.

Regarding overtaking cars and trucks, I always try to ride so that they have to move. Whether they change lanes to do it is up to them, and the usual situation that develops in the real world is what leads me to refer to them as "f***ers" or (if I'm feeling less profane) "nutcases" LOL.

chipcom 08-09-10 11:30 AM

If the lane is wide enough to share, share it. If not, own it like you stole it.

Bekologist 08-09-10 12:13 PM

oh, i don't know. does that mean ride on the inside lane stripe on every road with an outside lane less than 14 feet?

riding one lane each direction highways, there is no need to totally claim a narrow lane all the way to the lane stripe.

aka sonny barger style.

GamblerGORD53 08-11-10 11:10 PM

A 2 foot sholder is plenty to ride in the middle of, hopefully crud free. I will also ride in a 1 foot sholder on a 60 mph highway.
Cars are 7 feet wide. Who the hell needs 6 feet for a bicycle ? Are you drunk ?
In any case i ride 1 or 2 feet from the right.

irc 03-24-11 04:40 PM


Originally Posted by GamblerGORD53 (Post 11275594)
A 2 foot sholder is plenty to ride in the middle of, hopefully crud free. I will also ride in a 1 foot sholder on a 60 mph highway.
Cars are 7 feet wide. Who the hell needs 6 feet for a bicycle ?

Typical lane widths are 10 - 14 feet for a 7 foot wide car. So why do you think a 2 feet wide bike only needs 2 feet of roadspace? Try riding your bike through a 2 feet wide gap between two trees to see what minimum width you need.

I'm comfortable with 2M of road space. I'll usually ride around 1 - 1.5M from the kerb. Sometimes further out in the center of the lane if needed. But ride one foot from the edge of the shoulder/road. Nope. Never do it.

electrik 03-24-11 06:14 PM


Originally Posted by chipcom (Post 11259531)
If the lane is wide enough to share, share it. If not, own it like you stole it.

You did steal it, you freeloading cyclist who doesn't have to pay taxes!!

ianbrettcooper 03-28-11 05:11 AM


Originally Posted by GamblerGORD53 (Post 11275594)
In any case i ride 1 or 2 feet from the right.

Anyone who rides 1 to 2 feet from the right is asking to be sideswiped or right hooked. Statistics show that drivers either don't see, or think they can ignore, cyclists who ride so far to the right. They hit such cyclists all the time.

genec 03-30-11 08:39 AM


Originally Posted by chipcom (Post 11259531)
If the lane is wide enough to share, share it. If not, own it like you stole it.

Well stated! I am also quite partial to that gut feeling thing.

Brontide 05-26-11 06:37 AM


Originally Posted by chipcom (Post 11259531)
If the lane is wide enough to share, share it. If not, own it like you stole it.


I would also say, when in doubt, take the lane.

kenoshi 08-14-11 01:56 PM

Always far right as possible...Key word possible.

I take the lane when:

1. There's only door lanes
2. There are no shoulder or the shoulder is not ride-able
3. Moving my way over to the left turn lane
4. Passing obstructions...e.g. downed trees, buses, wrong way riders, construction, googlers on their fru-fru google bikes (goodness these guys are notorious for running reds/stopsigns), etc

I try to stay out of car's way as much as possible, but I make sure they know I'm there...If I take the lane I get into the middle, and haul ass until I can safely move over to the right or make the left turn, and plot my routes to avoid problem areas...I have my blinkies on always. If I take the shoulder or bike lane, I ride in the middle.

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