Top 5 Reasons to Claim the Lane (and why it's safer)

There is a lot of debate as to where a bicycle commuter should position themselves in relation to the road. New bike commuters, especially, are often intimidated by riding in the road and often choose something that isn’t necessarily the safest place.

claimthelane.jpg

Here are the top two least safe places to ride:

  • Sidewalk– While the odds of you getting hit from behind diminish greatly, there are other dangers that come into play.
    • Drivers are not looking for fast moving objects on the sidewalks, so when you come to a cross street there is a good chance you’ll get hit by a turning car.
    • Sidewalks are available for pedestrians and, in many states, it’s illegal for bicycles to ride on them.
    • You are forced to (and should) go extremely slow. Besides dealing with turning cars and pedestrians, you are riding on surfaces that are not maintained for traffic and you will often have other obstacles to deal with.
  • The extreme right side of the road– This is the most dangerous place you can ride. You are risking two dangers:
    • Cars will repeatedly try to squeeze by you in the same lane and will almost always come very close to you which, obviously, increases your chance of getting hit.
    • The Peek-a-boo bike. Picture two cars approaching. The second car is following closely to the first. As the first car moves to miss you, it is seen by the second car as merely drifting in the lane since the car isn’t moving that much out of the way. The second car doesn’t realize you are in the road until it is too late.

Because of the above dangers–and contrary to many people’s “common sense”–the best thing for a bike commuter to do is claim the lane. I ride at least a third of the way into the lane and, around curves, I roll right down the middle.

Here are the top five reasons why I started claiming the lane (and why you should too):

  1. Drivers give you more room – The day I started claiming the lane is the day I stopped getting regularly buzzed too closely by cars. As mentioned above, when you are all the way to the right, cars will almost always try to squeeze by. When you claim the lane, they are forced to slow down and wait for an opportunity to pass you which means they take plenty of room to do it.
  2. You are more visible – Drivers are used to looking for other large, metal boxes. And they’re used to looking for them in the middle of the lane ahead of them. When you hug the side of the road, you are often outside their field of vision. By claiming the lane you are much more likely to be seen by oncoming traffic.
  3. You avoid dangerous debris and obstacles – The sides of roads are usually covered in debris. Stuff that can slash your tires and/or fly up and hurt you. There are also things like sewer grates and uneven shoulders to worry about. By claiming the lane you avoid all of this.
  4. It’s an easier, more enjoyable ride – When stuck squeezing the side of the road or riding on the sidewalk, feelings of stress abound. Constantly watching the terrain ahead of you, swerving out of the way of obstacles, slowing down for pedestrians and many other things to which you are forced to pay attention are reduced when you claim the lane.
  5. You are making a statement – While not as important as the previous safety related reasons, this has long term effect. On many roads, bicycles are perceived as an annoyance that shouldn’t be allowed in the road with other “real” vehicles. By claiming the lane you are making a statement that we belong on the road and have all the same rights as cars.

I came to these views after a lot of time spent bike commuting in my home city of Lynchburg, VA. We don’t have bike lanes and I’ve come to believe that the people that built our roads had never heard of the bicycle. Not to mention most drivers are oblivious to the “share the road” mentality (and laws).

I firmly believe on a bike, my place is in the road and claiming the lane–and in a large portion of our country, that is where you belong too. It’s safer and more convenient.

What do you think?


This post was written by Tim Grahl, founder of Commute by Bike.


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0 thoughts on “Top 5 Reasons to Claim the Lane (and why it's safer)”

  1. Fritz says:

    If taking the lane is uncomfortable (and it is for many people), consider taking a League of American Bicyclists Bike Class. click here for courses and instructors.

  2. It gets my vote every time . . . except I do feel like I’m taking more than my ‘fair’ share of the road when I’m 23″ wide, in the middle of a 10′ wide lane. That probably speaks volumes about my self esteem 😉

  3. Tim Grahl says:

    Karl McCracken: That’s funny… sometimes I think I deserve both lanes. I guess that speaks volumes of my self esteem as well!

  4. Franklyn Wu says:

    The topic of claiming the lane came up in the local bike club email list as well. one of the members posted this link to an article written by an attorney who has written a book about law and cycling:

    http://velonews.com/article/72849

    I found his article really helpful. If i read him correctly, sometimes there are regulations with regard to when a cyclist can take the lane. Most of the benefits you listed are justifiable causes for a bike to take the lane (avoiding hazard, etc.). Other reasons include sub-standard width lane, bike traveling at speed comparable to speed limit, etc. Some states have law saying that cyclists should travel as right of the road as “practicable”, which is not the same as “possible”, though there is probably some line in the sand about what that means.

  5. Ghost Rider says:

    Tim,

    while I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments (and I try to hog a lane wherever I can to “send a message” to motorists), I wonder if these techniques run afoul of the “as far to the right as practicable” wording that appears in so many states’ road-use laws. Your thoughts on this, anyone?

    “As far to the right as practicable” is pretty vague wording, ain’t it?. What I think is far enough to the right might be wildly different from what a law enforcement official thinks, even though I’m safer by taking more of the lane (which I am entitled to by law in most areas).

  6. UltraRob says:

    I’ve long believed that plenty of people will take a chance and squeeze by you and might end up hitting you. There are very few people that will intentionally hit you even if you’re out blocking the lane. The few that will intentionally hit you then will probably hit you just because you’re on the road even if you aren’t in their way.

    If I feel that traffic is giving me enough room, I’ll stay as far right as possible. If I feel people are passing too close, I’ll move a couple feet into the lane. It does upset a few people but I’m always given more space.

  7. Adam says:

    No question — I take the lane. The hairier the traffic is, the more aggressive I am about making sure I can be seen.

    Obviously there is some room for nuance here. If I’ve got a good bike lane, I’ll use that. And I don’t want to gum up lanes that would otherwise be humming along at 40 mph. But there aren’t too many circumstances that I’m riding on that kind of road anyway.

  8. kaz_kougar says:

    I figure it’s better to be seen and piss off the motorists than not be seen and get hit by them. Fortunately for me, the Eugene/Springfield area is full of bike lanes and trails.

  9. Mase says:

    In Texas, you can legally take the lane unless it is more than 14 feet wide (which most lanes are not). The relevant statute (Texas Trans. Code Sec. 551.103) states, in relevant part,

    “shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless … the person is operating a bicycle in an outside lane that is [either] (A) less than 14 feet in width and does not have a designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane; or (B) too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely travel side by side.”

    My commute in Houston, TX, is on a few two lane, two-way streets (one each direction) and then on multi-lane, one-way streets. None of the lanes are over 14 feet wide. Found that the only close buzzing comes from the a**holes that race around me (in the next lane), but change back to my lane right in front of me (as opposed to the usual 10 feet or so in front of me).

    The rare bikelanes in Houston are, usually, too narrow and, as they are at the edge of the road, full of grime, dirt, glass, and other objects so I just take the lane on those rare roadways too.

    Unfortunately, yet again the Texas legislature failed to pass a 3 feet passing law (mainly due to a lawmaker whose district has a lot of two-way, two-lane farm roads so he added an amendment excepting roads with no shoulders). Fight another day.

  10. Matt@TMW says:

    I agree that claiming the lane is the hardest thing to get used to when you start riding. Fortunately, when I started riding for a commute, my route took me 8 miles each way along roads that carried traffic ranging from 35 to 75 mph. That trial by fire allowed me to be far more comfortable getting in the lane on the narrower (and slower) roads that I now traverse.

    When it warms up a bit here and the sun starts coming out earlier I’m going to start teaching my wife how to commute on her bike. Claiming the lane will probably be the hardest part for me to teach her. (Luckily her route consists mostly of bike lanes).

  11. Kelly says:

    I stay to the extreme right. But I also avoid narrow roads and blind corners. I’ve claimed my lane before, but I usually worry about the one that doesn’t see me -I think it’s only a matter of time. I’ve only been ‘buzzed’ a few times in all my years of commuting on the right. On low traffic roads, however, I’ll ride right down the middle of the street and pull close to the right to let cars pass after they’ve seen me.

  12. I came up with the same idea two years ago while on a bike trip in North Carolina with my wife. We were on a 60mph road, a long and nice one, but every minute a car would pass a high speed and its wind would almost throw us on the side gravel. I have been riding for years, but that time I got angry and thought about it. I decided to try riding closer to the middle of the lane, which seemed a bit heroic to me.

    To my surprise, it worked very well. Drivers would see an “obstacle” and slow down. This was a road with only one lane in each direction, so the driver would either change lane, or slow down even more, waiting for the other lane to clear. Cars started passing us at a much lower speed, and we felt much more safe. We never got an aggressive response from the drivers.

    Since then, when I ride in the city, I claim the lane. During a year of commuting, I came across half a dozen of aggressive drivers, and another half-dozen would just honk at me. I think ignoring them is fine. Sometimes I wait for a light with them, and I explain what I’m doing.

    In conclusion, my advice would be to claim the lane in all situations where there is not at least two feet of space at the right of the line. If there are parked cars at your right, do as if there was a line drawn 2 feet from the cars, and ride at least 2 feet left of that imaginary line (total 4 feet from the cars).

  13. gazer says:

    I’ve taken the League of American Bicyclists BikeEd course that Fritz mentions, and I ride more to the left than most cyclists.

    However, there is usually at least one dingbat a week that feels that he or she (last week was a she) has to prove that you “don’t belong in the road.”

    This week, I’m wearing a yellow t-shirt with ARMY in huge block letters on the back. So far, no dingbats. Hmmmm.

  14. Mark says:

    I agree, Claim the lane, Save your life!

    There is one caveat however, and I have personal experience with it (as I’m sure many of you do as well). That is when claiming the lane, I have, on rare occasions, been greeted with some pretty extreme road rage in the form of pulling up next to me and sharply forcing me into the curb generally with the driver screaming something like “Get out of the lane and onto the sidewalk where you belong”. Of course these morons may have done the same thing if I was already hugging the curb. All said and done, I do feel much safer taking the lane when the road doesn’t have a suitable shoulder.

  15. To Tim:
    The wording is vague by-design so that the bicyclist can make their own determination about what is most practicable considering the conditions they are faced with. It is meant to give leeway and allow the vulnerable cyclist to make their own “practicable” decision.

    As a League Cycling Instructor, I prefer not to use the terms “Taking the lane” or “Claiming the lane” – as these imply impropriety. Why would you have to “take” something if it is already yours? Can we as a cycling community shift towards “Controlling the lane”? You’re there, you have a right to it, control it.

    It’s just semantics, but language and the words we chose are very powerful, even subliminally.

  16. Ghost Rider says:

    MikeOnBike,

    thanks for that link…an interesting read, to be sure. However, after reading it, I am concerned that cyclists can be accused of “obstructing normal traffic flow” if they are taking the lane “just because” (rather than for a specific reason like avoiding parked cars, debris, etc.).

    The wording of many traffic laws remain, at least in my eyes, somewhat ambiguous.

    If it causes motorists to proceed past me with caution, though, I will continue to hog the right-hand lane!!!

  17. Ghost Rider says:

    Dominic,

    your quote “It is meant to give leeway and allow the vulnerable cyclist to make their own ‘practicable’ decision” concerns me…is our own decision also one that will stand up in court? I surely hope so! I am thinking of the snowplow case being covered by Bob Mionske on Velonews of late…although some of the particulars are different, part of the case revolves around that word “practicable”.

    Looks like I should take the L.A.B. course, eh? Maybe that will help clear up my confusion (or at least better familiarize me with applicable laws)…

  18. Ed W says:

    There’s nothing in the law that requires any road user to do something they know to be dangerous. And it’s without any doubt that hugging the right hand fog line is dangerous. It encourages motorists to ‘squeeze by’ between a cyclist and on-coming traffic. Think of it this way – as a motorist yourself, do you have difficulty judging whether there’s sufficient clearance between the right side of your car and an object or a cyclist? Do you have difficulty judging when someone or something is directly in your path? When trying to make that decision as to whether to slow down or pass, a motorist dithers for a moment. When a cyclist is further left, effectively in front of him, he doesn’t hesitate. He either changes lanes to pass (assuming the oncoming lane is clear) or he slows down and waits.

    Taking the lane is counter-intuitive for many new cyclists and even some experienced ones. But it is a truly effective way to gain road space and increase safety. Some cyclists and motorists will never ‘get it’ unfortunately, but the technique is astonishing to those who try it and use it regularly.

  19. Rick says:

    GhostRider,

    There was a case in Ohio were a cyclist was ticketed for impeding traffic. It ended up going to court, then being appealed. The cyclist was found not guilty. Here’s a short write-up:

    http://www.ohiobike.org/Selz/Selz_Appeal_Explanation.htm

  20. Jennifer says:

    In Illinois the Vehicle code was recently amended to (among other things) change “as far to the right as practicable” to “as far to the right as practicable and safe” in order to clarify the rules that were already on the books. (Look up Illinois SB0080 if you’re dying to know more.) I don’t know how well this has been working as far as real data goes, but I have noticed fewer gutter bunnies setting themselves up for right hooks at intersections, which is a relief. Unfortunately, I’ve also noticed more drivers giving friendly taps on the horn to let cyclists know that there’s a car behind them, as though they expect us to move out of their way as soon as we can do so “safely” in order for them to pass us with the newly specified 3 feet. So I’m hoping the new wording won’t backfire.

  21. Ghost Rider,

    It held up with the Chief of Police here in Long Beach, CA. He pulled me over one day for what he thought was “obstruction of traffic”, but after a calm roadside chat and a little bit of education, he apologized for making me late for work and sent me on my way.

  22. Matt S says:

    Riding my bike has made me a better motorist as well.
    On the interstate, a lot of people are pressured into driving faster and faster by tail-gaters. I don’t like driving above the speed limit because of safety and the expense of gas.
    Cycling in the lane has given me confidence to “take my lane” on the interstate and drive as slow as I feel is appropriate.

    Also, a mirror on the bike helps a lot. If nobody is about to pass me, I drive directly in the middle of the lane. That makes me more visible to cars at the intersections.

  23. Hayduke says:

    Absolutely right on in every respect!

    This doesn’t mean taking the lane everywhere and everywhen. When conditions warrant, take the lane as a responsible vehicle operator on the road.

  24. Ghost Rider says:

    Thanks everyone for helping enlighten me — good to hear also that a “friendly roadside chat” with the police had a positive outcome! Thanks also to Rick and others, for the links that further illustrate these types of cases.

  25. Choke says:

    I have the luxury of bike lanes most of the time here in CA. But, when I don’t have a bike lane it’s because of parked cars (that I give a wide berth to anyways).

  26. Seamus says:

    I live & commute in a rural area
    so my experience is probably atypical
    but I am firmly in the “take the lane” camp.

    On more than one occasion
    I have watched motorists
    do the right thing as far as
    the law was concerned
    at stop signs and STILL
    not see me as I approached
    while wearing an orange & yellow
    reflective vest in broad day light
    I will do everything I can to make
    myself visible and that includes
    taking the lane

  27. John says:

    I agree, mostly.

    I’ll take the lane when conditions warrant. However, in snow, riding up a 1/2 mile hill at 4-6 mph with 40-50mph traffic is where I draw the line.

    On my commute, in this unavoidable section, I’ve got a perfectly wide sidewalk on my right with a total of 2 intersections to be cautious of on this stretch; and I’ll use it.

    Generally, I agree with the advice given in the article and have had similar experience. I’m only pointing out that taking the lane isn’t always the safest way to get where you’re going in every situation.

  28. Jamie says:

    As another bike commuting blogger, I get a lot of questions about riding the road, and the two things I tell people is:

    STOP CARING IF YOU’RE HOLDING UP TRAFFIC.

    If traffic is going slower, it’s safer for everyone, not just you. I take the same tact when I drive a car, which thankfully isn’t too often. Tailgaters? I slow down for them in a car, too.

  29. lady clay says:

    I commute through intown Atlanta, and I always take the lane where there isn’t a bike path. Mostly the traffic is slow enough that I’m not slowing anyone down. I also wait in line – and in the lane – at traffic lights. Predictability, in other words, is the name of my game.

  30. Quinn says:

    In Reno, every day, or almost, I piss off some one for traveling down the right tire track and often wonder just when a dis gruntaled driver is gonna go postal on me, for taking That much room.

  31. Siouxgeonz says:

    I was reluctant to claim the lane at first, in a huge part because so many of the people who wrote to say it was the right thing to do seemed to emphasize “making a statement,” and I so much don’t want to make a statement that people can talk about in my eulogy. Seemed I would have to get out in dead center of the lane to “take” it, too.
    Now, I cringe whenever I hear somebody say “but I worry about the one who doesn’t see me” and hugs the line, because so many more people *don’t* see you when you’re doing that. It’s a perceptual thing… it *feels* more dangerous. Sometimes feelings aren’t right; think of every optical illusion you’ve ever looked at.
    I’m very fortunate in that I rarely actually slow down traffic, and there are enough bicycles around here so people are less likely to go off on a rider, and I do think it helps that I look like a commuter, not a recreational rider.
    I, too, learned to take my lane with a baptism in fire on a busy road. In forty miles you get a pretty good sample size 😉 Two of us were riding and my friend noted that the drivers were buzzing by awfully closely… which (my silly verbal mind; it takes words to make anything happen) made me think “oh, yea! I’ve read that if we move out…” so we did.
    Danged if suddenly the drivers didn’t get a whole lot better at giving us room! Instant education! And we weren’t dead center; just crossing into that “you’re in the car part” threshold.
    We stopped for a bite to eat, and when we started riding again, the drivers forgot how to pass us agian. Oops, make that we were too far to the right, because as soon as we nudged out again… the drivers got better. Amazing how educable they are!
    I am sure that it is important that only about five times did a driver have to hang back and wait for oncoming traffic. None of those drivers expressed hostility, but that *is* a small sample size.
    If things had gotten more congested, I probably would have made a point of pulling off just as my dad did every few miles when we took that VW Bus into the mountains and we’d get a train behind us.
    Oh, and out in traffic… I pedal harder, and I should 🙂

  32. Siouxgeonz says:

    Oh… and I think that the “learn how to ride in the street if you’re trying to get somewhere ” should be a, if not the, priority in encouraging cycling as transportation. It would seem lots of people are going to consider bicycle commuting and there’s a lot of it that *is* counterintuitive… just as aspects of motorized transportation are.

  33. Tim Grahl says:

    I wholeheartedly I agree with Siouxgeonz on the education aspect!

    Sometimes while riding I’ll be in the zone and not realized that I’ve drifted to the right and cars start passing close so I move back out. My rule of thumb is to force them to go AROUND you instead of giving them perceivable room to squeeze by.

  34. Yuri Lipkov says:

    Wholeheartedly agree.

  35. Matt@TMW says:

    Posted a story about this today on my blog:

    tomorrowmorningsweather.blogspot.com

    Still haven’t really figured out trackbacks yet, sorry.

  36. peteathome says:

    Actually, I think “taking the lane” is a lot safer than using a bike lane. In the discussion of the hazards of riding to the right, you didn’t mention that there is a higher likelyhood, at intersections, of people making right turns across your path or turning left in front of you. You are much less visible when you are on the far right. While bike lanes may help with the “squeeze” problem, they don’t help at all with the most common dangers of intersection collisions.

    You are MUCH better off getting into the right-hand side ( if there is room, otherwise take the lane) of the lane that goes the direction you want to go – the right turn lane if you want to turn right, the right most straight-through lane for straight, the left turn lane for left.

    So stay in the bike lane away from intersections, but get out of it when you come near an intersection.

  37. r. says:

    I definitely like taking the lane. I usually do it as I approach an intersection or when I see parked cars on the side of the road. I have to set myself up so I’m visible. I’ve been hit by a car when I wasn’t taking the lane. She right crossed me and kept going though the motorists around me tried to stop her.

    I usually make every driver around me mad when I do take the lane, but in Tennessee it’s my legal right. I agree that learning this strategy has made me a better driver; it makes me check my blind spots and sides more often.

  38. William says:

    Great post – though I agree with John (Post #28). I do have a steep, windy hill, about a mile long, that is one, narrow lane in each direction with parked cars on both sides, and so I take the sidewalk for that stretch, though I then feel apologetic to the pedestrians I pass! But especially when there’s a median on a one-lane-in-each-direction road, I take the middle of the lane – no room for a car to pass, and I want to get that point across to drivers.

  39. jason (sd) says:

    I have been hit by a car twice; once by a drunk driver, and the worst time was when I was riding on a sidewalk.
    The impede traffic law in South Dakota states that MOTOR vehicles cannot impede traffic. So this law does not affect pedal power bicycles.

  40. Chris in Columbus says:

    I’d like to know how much anyone has heard stories of cyclists being pulled over by police for taking the lane. I have had this happen twice. It’s very frustrating to me when police don’t know the law, It’s even more frustrating when you live in a town where the police all work for a mayor that is a self proclaimed cycling advocate. Other than writing him a letter that will never be read, I’m trying to put together a strategy that will get his attention.

  41. Ed W says:

    I’ve been stopped just once for taking the lane, but my friend Brian seems to be a cop magnet at times. Most of the time, a police officer understands the reasoning for the practice when a cyclist presents it in a reasonable, non-confrontational way. Most of the time. Some cops, just like some cyclists, just don’t get it. Still, even a traffic stop can be an opportunity to educate. After Brian was stopped by an especially obtuse cop who issued him a ticket, Brian’s attorney contacted the Chief of Police who not only had the ticket withdrawn, but used the opportunity to put out some information on bicycle traffic law to the rest of the PD.

  42. Matth says:

    Here’s my experience of “taking the lane”. In two words, I love it… but! It really does piss off the cars, just like I’m pissed when there’s a car parked/rolling in the bike lane so I tend to avoid it and keep it for extreme cases. I’m from up north (Montreal Quebec) and we’ve had a *lot* of snow this year (over 300cm afaik!). When the roads are still not cleared I prefer taking the lane, the cars are slowing me down anyway at that point so I’m not pissing off anyone and I can be seen from far, even in reduced visibility.

  43. Matth says:

    One thing I forgot to mention… I do take my lane _every time_ when turning left. And for some reasons motorists seem to find it odd (how the heck and I supposed to turn left? get off the saddle? You get off from my face!)

  44. nat says:

    Re: those who just don’t ‘get it’: i’m amazed that, based on my commuting experiences, 9 out of 10 motorists would rather move into the oncoming-traffic lane, when there is traffic approaching in that lane, than use the empty right lane to pass a bicyclist who is in the left lane (such as when approaching a left turn).

    Re: honkers: I do my best not to provide positive reinforcement to the honking–i don’t want them to get the message that they can intimidate cyclists into giving them their way. So, if someone honks at me (or rides my tail, or otherwise indicates they’re unhappy with my safe & legal cycling behavior), i move further left and/or slow down. After all, i’m already as far right as is safe, and moving as fast as i can, and they apparently deem this behavior unsafe (after all, we all learned that the horn is for dangerous/emergency situations, right?), so i’d better correct it, right? They probably can see an impending danger that i (with no obstructing metal cage, a higher vantage point, and a more-forward position) am missing. (now removing tongue from cheek. But the behavior really is helpful–whether they get the message, or just decide i’m in incorrigible asshole, it almost always gets them to back off.)

  45. Roger says:

    If I recall correctly, in California if you have more than 5 cars backed up behind you, you are obliged to pull over and let them pass. This applies to automobiles, so it may apply to bicycles as well. Not every state has such provisions.

  46. MikeOnBike says:

    Re: the “Turning Out of Slow-Moving Vehicles”
    http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21656.htm

    Yes, it applies to bikes, too, because of 21200.

    The conditions are pretty narrow and specific. It only applies when you can safely pull over, and it doesn’t apply at all on multi-lane roads.

  47. burnsey says:

    I have learned to take the lane. Yes, cars slow down to pass me, rather than buzz past if I am hugging the curb. However, there are still places where I ride the sidewalk for my own safety, such as the tunnel at the top of a hill that I pass through each day.

  48. Andrea says:

    I have recently moved to Phoenix, AZ and became the lone commuter. Does anyone know the steps involved in creating bike lanes? I would like to take this on.

    The commuting culture in Phoenix is disgusting.

  49. Fritz says:

    Andrea, Phoenix has about 500 miles of bike lanes, signed bike routes and bike paths. Srinivas Goundla is the city bicycle coordinator in the planning department , and the Maricopa Region of Governments has a Bicycle Task Force that works to implement the regional bicycle plan. Attend the meetings, meet the people who are involved, and watch things happen.

  50. Andrea says:

    Fritz:
    Thanks! I will do just that. I have been surprisesd at the biking culture here and would like to advocate for more bike lanes, especially on the wider roads which can afford to add a lane (or so it seems to me – but there might be good reason why there are not bike lanes on those roads).

    The problem I have found so far with the bike lanes (and, I am just learning where the bike lanes are, mind you, having been in town for just three months) is that they dont seem to connect. But, and again, I am just learning.

    I came from Portland Oregon where there are bike lanes that connect the city and the suberbs. Perhaps, I was spoiled.

    Anywho, thank you for the information and I am excited to get involved.

  51. Bart says:

    As per ‘taking the lane’, i’ve taken a page from the Nevada (and originally California) D.M.V. rules of the road. We cyclo-commuters have the same rights and responsibilities as any motorist (proper signaling of lane changes, etc.) with the logical exception of the usage of certain highways and freeways (where we’re banned). I do have my bag of illegal dirty tricks but, those i use VERY carefully. Expensive tickets or potentially crippling accidents are NOT my bag.

    A true test of one’s street skills is mountain passes (Mt. Rose Highway, Geiger Grade, etc.). Your overall street skills will be thricely sharpened. Just do this with an (very) experienced guide at first if you’re a newer cyclist. With little or no shoulders one has to ride more assertively and aware by necessity. The downhill sections are best done using the lane-you’re doing slow to medium car speeds (40-50 m.p.h). Use an alternating front/back braking technique with a light touch in the straight sections, ‘straighten’ out the corners, counter-weight your pedals and lean appropriately. Remember, there is little to no room for error in the mountains and asphalt +human flesh=’singing’ showers and/or stitches (or Worse if you fly over a guard-rail). [If you do crash (it happens), fall loosely and DON’T fall stiff-limbed. Limbs break that way much easier.]

    Keep the faith,
    Bart

  52. MikeOnBike says:

    Re: Bike lanes in Phoenix (or anywhere). This seems like an odd question considering the subject of the original post.

    If a road doesn’t have an explicit bike lane, then the lane you’re riding in is the bike lane.

  53. Andrea says:

    I was just curious and thought that people who are interested in biking issues might have some advice about how to get further involved.

    So, not an “odd” question to reach out to people who are interested in similar issues.

  54. MikeOnBike says:

    Re: Odd question: I didn’t mean that it was an odd question in general. Getting involved in the local planning process is valuable and Fritz provided the contacts for that. But that’s a very long, very slow process.

    I only meant that it was an odd question in the context of this particular blog post. By claiming the lane, you create your own bike lanes. That’s immediate gratification.

    Even when there are bike lanes, those same 5 reasons still apply when there are intersections, parked cars, debris, etc.

    To paraphrase a famous quote: “You ride your bike on the roads you have. They’re not the roads you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

  55. Andrea says:

    I understand better now what you were saying. I like the quote and will rememberr this…

  56. nat says:

    Re: bike lanes

    If the road is wide enough for a bike lane, it’s probably already as safe as it’s going to get for cyclists. Both my experiences and the research i’ve been able to find point to a wide lane as giving all of the benefits of a narrow lane + bikelane (of a similar total width), and without some of the downsides of bikelanes. Specifically:

    — Bikelanes tend to be disproportionately full of gravel, glass, and other stuff you don’t want to bike in, because the motorists avoid the bike lane whether or not there are bicycles in it, so the crud on the road only gets blown as far as the bike lane, instead of being blown into the gutter or completely off the road.

    — Even with a bikelane, you’ll probably have to move out of the bikelane and claim a different lane in most of the same circumstaces you would’ve had to before the bikelane–when people are buzzing you too closely, when approaching intersections, to avoid debris, etc. And the motorists then get even more upset than when you adopt the exact same lane position on a road that doesn’t have that extra stripe on it.

    — Bikelanes seem to encourage in motorists the mistaken notion that they don’t have to be–or shouldn’t be–in the curb lane for right turns, increasing the incidence of right-hook style turns across cyclists. And encourage the mistaken notion in cyclists that they can or should make left turns from the curb lane.

  57. AKAMIE says:

    What if I am more comfortable riding slow on the sidewalks- is that ok? I’m not comfortable riding fast in traffic or in the bike lane.??? Thanks for such a helpful site!

  58. Andrea says:

    This is one reason bike lanes are important: safety or perceived safety.

    For inexperienced cyclists and for the purposes of growing the community of bike commuters bike lanes are very important because regardless of any real effects and how arguable those may be, they create the perception of safety and study after study has shown that that is what gets people on their bikes. A real infrastructure gives cyclists some standing on the road and that encourages people to be there.

    The ‘I’ve commuted every day for ten years’ club doesn’t care about bike lanes because they’ve got both a wild west attitude that their safety is in their hands and theirs alone and because they know the tricks and prefer not to be regulated. They are correct about their own experience as far as that goes. Also, in bike-shitty cities road crap does tend to get swept into the bike lanes, no doubt.

    However, any real bike friendly city — like the european cities — creates a bike infrastructure that’s targeted at people who are not experts and sets policy on their behalf. That’s the only reasonable step, because one important reason you have a bike lane, a bike box, bike boulevards, sharrows and the like is to increase overall visibility of the activity even if that’s irrespective of any particular and real effect it has at any specific time or place.

  59. Siouxgeonz says:

    You’ll want to get to know the bike culture and the car culture before you decide where to pour your efforts. YOu seem surprised that the bike lanes don’t connect. Welcome to our very, very, very car-dominated culture.

    True: the absolute best way to cultivate a bike culture is to get people out on bikes.
    The huge however, though, is that if bicycle lanes *only* create the perception of safety, and in fact the safety isn’t there, then much more harm will be done as those riders will graduate from “I would ride if there were bike lanes so I could be safe,” to “OMG! Those cars! I tried the bike lane and almost got killed by a guy making a right hand turn this morning! YOu must be SOO BRAVE to ride your bike! Even bike lanes aren’t safe!”

    (welp, I take a different route than that *because* of the intersection you’re talking about…) We’ve been advocating here for “Complete Streets” – the idea that any time you design any street it should consider all its users… and that there are different ways to meet those needs, depending on the setting.

    There are commuters like me who don’t fit neatly into your categorization. I frequently have to convince people that no, I don’t have a wild-west attitude… that I’m pretty much a weenie. I’m thinking that’s one of our big problems – it *almost* sounds like even you believe that if somebody is riding confidently in the street, they’ve got a wild-west attitude… that any *reasonable* rider should want to be in a bike lane.

    And then there’s the fact that our non-expert riders can be **extremely** non-expert. Bike lanes don’t get the wild-westers or the simply uneducated riding *with* traffic, with lights, riding safely…

    Have you’ve conflated “bike lanes” and “bike infrastructure?” Look at those bike lanes that don’t connect, bike lanes that are inherently flawed … and, basically, a culture that considers cyclists a political special interest group that’s a nuisance to be given as little as possible… bike lanes don’t cure that; they don’t develop infrastructure *or* set policies (such as having housing developments designed for more than cars).

    I think if you get out there and help push for bike lanes you’ll do lots of good… but I suspect you can do more if you are sure to listen carefully to what happens around those bike lanes (which, of course, you’re doing).

  60. MikeOnBike says:

    Re #58 (sidewalks): First thing to check is whether it’s legal. That varies from town to town and even within a town. It might also vary by cyclist age. And it’s not always posted. However, I suspect sidewalk cyclists are rarely charged, unless they’re in a collision, or maybe in a crowded downtown area.

    As long as you’re very slow and very careful, you can probably get around on sidewalks without much additional danger. That might be okay for short distances. Here’s some info about some of the trouble spots:

    http://cyclistview.com/inclusivepdintro/index.htm

    Another option would be to seek out lower-volume roads, assuming they connect to where you’re going.

  61. Quinn says:

    I had an inccident about 2 weeks ago, that scared me onto the side street and prompted me to buy a new bike.

    a “gods gift to the road” Tahoe came about 6 inches from me as I was riding in the right side tire track, he was traveling about 40 mph in a 35. I did get a chance to stop and inform him of the law, he just blew it off saying that me traveling in the right tire track, say to him “move around me” Not “move into the other lane to pass me”.
    afterward I realized that I am treated differently when riding my XXIX(28.5 lb) vs my Jake(24 lbs). Though it is heavy to do any serious commuting on, so Friday I picked up an SE Stout, with my mods (cockpit & fork), SS it will be down to 24 lbs.

  62. Quinn says:

    I had an inccident about 2 weeks ago, that scared me onto the side street and prompted me to buy a new bike.

    a “gods gift to the road” Tahoe came about 6 inches from me as I was riding in the right side tire track, he was traveling about 40 mph in a 35. I did get a chance to stop and inform him of the law, he just blew it off saying that me traveling in the right tire track, say to him “move around me” Not “move into the other lane to pass me”.
    afterward I realized that I am treated differently when riding my XXIX(28.5 lb) vs my Jake(24 lbs). Though it is heavy to do any serious commuting on, so Friday I picked up an SE Stout, with my mods (cockpit & fork), SS it will be down to 24 lbs.
    I figure I should be ok with that

  63. Dave says:

    I’m considering commuting by bike, but I might have to begin taking steriods to screw up the courage. Houston is a car town, an agressive car culture. Oil town, car town. Once in a blue moon I see someone on a bike, but usually nowhere near a road. I’ve seen one guy on a bike this week, in fact, and he was traveling through parking lots and on sidewalks.

    My question is this regarding taking the lane. I drive the speed limit in Houston wherever I go, and 1 of 3 cars tailgates. I’ve got this or that car on my ass constantly. Won’t the same be true if I’m on a bike?

    Road rage is a real concern for me. I’m not talking about someone simply flipping me the bird, which I can handle. I’m talking about someone trying to make a point by physically harming me with a 2000 LB vehicle. I had a guy ram me on the freeway a couple years ago. I was going 55, so he must of been going at least 100 when he hit me. Folks are hugely impatient with other cars in this town. I can’t imagine it being any different for a guy on a bike.

  64. ChristopherPaul says:

    Reply to MASE

    I live in Houston. I commute about 14 miles to work often. From Bissonnet to Clay. I have never even considered taking the road until I read this post. I will definitely put this into practice now. Hugging the curb is just too dangerous. And yes, the bike paths/routes here are just too sparce and ill planned.

  65. MikeOnBike says:

    Dave asks: “My question is this regarding taking the lane. I drive the speed limit in Houston wherever I go, and 1 of 3 cars tailgates. I’ve got this or that car on my ass constantly. Won’t the same be true if I’m on a bike?”

    Assuming he has the opportunity to change lanes and pass you, he’d have to be *really* patient to tailgate your bike for very long.

    Most people have enough sense to realize that cyclists aren’t going to go much faster even if they’re tailgated.

    A few stubborn jerks think it’s your job to jump off the road whenever there’s a car present, and they think it’s their job to enforce this fantasy. But most drivers quickly figure how to use the empty lane to the left.

  66. Jen says:

    . I commute to work by bike and will say that I find most the car drivers more considerate than some of the other bike riders. I have had other cyclist curse at me because I stopped while riding in front of them- at a stop sign.

    While I understand my right to take the lane and have no problem doing so in the right situation most of the time I try to plan my route on slower posted mph, lighter traffic routes. I add about a mile each way to my commute, but it makes for a more pleasant ride for me. I am amazed at some of the people (like Nat) who seem to be willing to intentionally antagonize other people on the road by picking the speed they think everyone else should be going and then deliberately holding up traffic behind them. I think it really does a service to no one except to help bolster the person-who-is-holding-up-traffics ego (Look, I can make all these people upset/go slower/have to switch lanes). I think if we ride with courtesy and respect we will get that back.

    I know there are situations where it is safer to claim the lane and really support people doing so. I also know that some bicyclists have other safer options available (riding one street away) but choose to claim the lane on a high-speed /high-traffic road just to prove a point. If I was in a car and could not go the posted speed limit, I would pull over to let people pass me or pick a safer route. I do the same on my bike.

  67. Neil says:

    I know that in California, at least, if the lane is a “sub-standard width lane” then you are allowed to take a full lane. Sub-standard is defined as any lane that cannot comfortably fit both a car and bike side-by-side. I also carry the CA vehicle code sections pertaining to bikes at all times. Maybe overkill, but having a nice orange highlighted passage to shove in someones face in the event of a collision is very helpful.

  68. AKAMIE says:

    Wow! I posted on here about 2 months ago about being more comfortable riding on the sidewalks. How things change….I got a new bike, faster, fits perfect. After a few hundred miles under my belt commuting to and from work on my bike(s) about 90% on sidewalks – I have a new found confindence and strength in my legs and a higher fitness level to be able to ride in the lane. Atlanta traffic is terrible, aggressive and my commute doesn’t offer a lot of options for low traffic routes without adding 15 more miles each way. This has made me more “creative” in my routes, I’m now about 90% in the lane in the morning when traffic is more calm. And about 80% in the evening, but I also added 4 miles to the route home through neighborhoods to cut down on the terrible spots on the road with the traffic.

    I still think that bike lanes are required for ‘newbies’. And what about kids? Do we support them riding in the street vs the sidewalks?

    Also, the law does state here in Atlanta that bicycles are to use the road, not the sidewalks, but yet the City of Atlanta police only use sidewalks from what I’ve seen, and they are very friendly towards other cyclists on the sidewalk.

    “Claiming the lane” only works if cyclists OBEY the traffic laws- like red lights, stop signs, etc.

  69. ScottM says:

    Striped bike lanes are useless at best, as far as I can see.

    On any road where it is necessary for a cyclist to take the lane, it is inappropriate and dangerous to stripe a bike lane. On any road where it is not necessary for a cyclist to take the lane, a bike lane isn’t needed.

    In practice, bike lanes are worse than useless:

    http://www.bicyclinglife.com/EffectiveAdvocacy/blvswol.htm

    Better to spend the money on educating inexperienced cyclists and motorists on how to safely operate their vehicles.

  70. safe than sorry says:

    Let see. 1000 lb car versus 200 lb biker. Not very good odds for the biker in an accident. That’s the key.

  71. All great points. Within the first few days of cycling I figured out it’s much, much safer to claim the lane and now I own that lane and could care less if cars honk or get frustrated behind me (if there’s room for me to move to the side safely I’ll do so, but otherwise that’s my lane). My opinion is if you can’t move your vehicle around my skinny bicycle that’s a sign of your poor driving skills, not mine. You might find this story I published about a recent run-in with a driver who completely lost his cool when I claimed the lane on a multiple lane road interesting.

  72. Andrea says:

    Are you implying then that “taking the lane” is not safer for the cyclist?

  73. mary says:

    Thanks so much for this article. I’ve been riding my bike to work for two weeks and have found the drivers in Miami unwilling to give me enough, if any room. If I claim my own space, they still honk and yell but I’m alive.

  74. Eric says:

    The last time I was able to commute by bike, it was 3/4 of a mile from my house to work. To take control of the lane, I would have to first merge into 5 lane 45mph+ oncoming traffic to turn left, then turn left onto another 5 lane 45mph+ road which is so busy, one time by car I counted that the light changed from green to red 7 times before I could turn left. Suicide. I took the sidewalk and got there in 10 minutes or less.

  75. lisa says:

    I’m a ft bike commuter in Denver, and I always take the lane. Only had a driver get angry with me once in the last year. Of course, I bike with my daughter in the trailer-drop her at daycare (before I hit downtown-I’m not that crazy!) on the way to the office-so people are pretty respectful overall.
    I figured out quickly that it’s far more dangerous to let drivers think they can squeeze by me. Interestingly, after a biker was killed this spring, the paper published some brief comments about safety, and included the statement that you should not only bike in the lane, but bike in the one you are using, i.e. don’t be in the turn lane if you are going straight.

  76. Anonymous says:

    test

  77. Anonymous says:

    any bicyclist riding in the middle of the lane, putting along at 15mph during rush hour traffic, had better get over or to the right side of the road or taste bumper. you people are a bunch of self-serving pompous idiots who think the world revolves around them…it does not. Just keep thinking you are the most important person in the world as you clog up the highway, I’d be willing to bet you are failures in other areas of your lives as well. Statistics don’t lie, a bike against a car means the biker is a loser.

  78. Jennifer says:

    So much angst! You should bike more.

  79. Anonymous says:

    I have never understood why anti-cyclists post on pro-cycling blogs or list serves. Just to prove the point that there are people out there who hate cyclists being on the road? We all know that every single time we ride on the road…the point has been made numerous times by many people.

  80. jason says:

    actualy, I kind of like it when angry car drivers post stuff, I finally understand what they are saying… Its hard to hear them on the road as they drive by telling you what they think at 50 mph to your 15-20.
    It actualy happened today, I almost got the impression that it was a positive statement, but it was a huge truck, so that can’t be.

  81. nat says:

    Jen Says:
    “While I understand my right to take the lane and have no problem doing so in the right situation most of the time I try to plan my route on slower posted mph, lighter traffic routes. I add about a mile each way to my commute, but it makes for a more pleasant ride for me. I am amazed at some of the people (like Nat) who seem to be willing to intentionally antagonize other people on the road by picking the speed they think everyone else should be going and then deliberately holding up traffic behind them. I think it really does a service to no one except to help bolster the person-who-is-holding-up-traffics ego (Look, I can make all these people upset/go slower/have to switch lanes). I think if we ride with courtesy and respect we will get that back.
    I know there are situations where it is safer to claim the lane and really support people doing so. I also know that some bicyclists have other safer options available (riding one street away) but choose to claim the lane on a high-speed /high-traffic road just to prove a point. If I was in a car and could not go the posted speed limit, I would pull over to let people pass me or pick a safer route. I do the same on my bike.”

    Well, maybe you would consider my behavior selfish and ego-centric, if you observed it, and maybe i’m just not communicating very well.

    First of all, slowing down when someone tailgates you is Drivers Ed 101. It’s the standard procedure to shake a tailgater, and the single most-effective way to both minimize danger while they tailgate, and encourage them to do something else–as you slow down, you give yourself more reaction time so that you don’t have to slam on the brakes with someone too close behind you; you do not reward the tailgater for their behavior; and you make it easier for them to pass you, if they’re in a hurry. I’ve been a professional driver for more than a dozen years, and i deal with tailgaters in a car the same as on a bike: i slow down.

    Secondly, when i’m biking, I only slow down *after* someone else has attempted to assert that *they* know how fast everyone should be going–and they’re saying that i shouldn’t be on the road. I’m responding in kind, not initiating confrontation. And i don’t keep it up, or hold up a line of traffic–just make sure they’ve gotten the message that they’re not gonna intimidate me into getting out of their way. If it’s safe, i’ll happily get out of the way–i spend most of my time deliberately being out of the way of motorists, out of consideration. But when i need to be in the lane, i need to be in the lane. I’m not gonna put myself somewhere dangerous out of “consideration” for others. For that matter, a lot of the people that think i’m “holding up traffic” aren’t even in the same lane i’m in. They have their very own lane to drive in, that i’m not in at all, and *still* can’t seem to figure out how to pass me.

    Third, i can maintain the speed limit, most days (when i’m not low on energy). So these folks who are honking at me for “blocking traffic” are upset that i’m merely doing 24-26 in a 25mph zone and not letting them do 35 in a 25 zone. In fact, during rushhour on most main streets around here, i have to ride my brakes much of the time, because the traffic is much slower than i am. And that’s not a testament to my cycling prowess, that’s an observation of the inefficiency of motor vehicles en masse. 17mph is a very realistic average speed for urban traffic.

    Fourth, let’s look at that “safer option one block away”. My current route: a 2-4 lane (the outside lane is given over to parking on one side or both, at various times of day) road with signals and 25mph. When parking is allowed on my side of the street, i can usually ride safely in the parking-allowed lane, being clearly out of both the door zone and the other lane. When parking isn’t allowed, even if i have to claim the outside lane the whole way (which i normally don’t), that would leave a clear lane. And since the timing on the lights is such that i can usually catch the whole string, i can keep up roughly the speed of traffic. Now, that side street: a just-barely-2-lane-plus-parking-on-both-sides street, with stop signs at least every other block. It’s still a steady stream of traffic, but the difference is i have to stop, and thus get back up to speed, every couple blocks, meaning i spend a lot more of my time well under 20mph. And the road is narrow enough that i *have* to take the lane–there’s nowhere else to be. So, i’m constantly blocking motor vehicle traffic. So, by riding the high-volume multi-lane road, i hold up a lot less traffic than if i ride the sidestreets. *And* i get where i’m going faster. Now, maybe it’s different where you live, but everywhere i’ve ever lived (or visited), sidestreet means parking on both sides, and narrow roads–not to mention lots of driveways. And the same speed limit as the through routes. Those few roads that actually are higher speed are also multi-lane, and much wider lanes, so a cyclist is much less of an impediment to motorists–i can ride the faster roads completely within the lane and still completely out of the way of any competent motorist smaller than a big rig.

    So, at least around here, the high-speed and/or high-volume roads are the option where i cause the least inconvenience to motorists, as well as being the most direct routes to most places (regardless of vehicle choice) and the safest for cycling (because they’re the only roads where i can maintain good visibility for motorists coming into the road at intersections and driveways). As an aside, the speed limit is supposed to be the fastest speed on a road, not the slowest–no one has any obligation to go at least the speed limit, much less over it.

  82. david says:

    Taste bumper? That guy’s point of view is pretty funny on the one hand, amazing a guy that angry can function at all, and disturbing on the other hand, because I think the guy is dead serious. This kinda pobucker is exactly what concerns me about taking the lane. All it takes to is one pobucker out of a thousand drivers to decide I need to ‘taste some bumper.’ I’m located in Houston, and the pobucker is a species I’m very familiar with. If I’m gonna commute by bike and take the lane, I’m probably gonna have to move to a town that respects the rights of bikers, a town with fewer angry pobuckers.

  83. nat says:

    david: “Taste bumper? That guy’s point of view is pretty funny on the one hand, amazing a guy that angry can function at all, and disturbing on the other hand, because I think the guy is dead serious. This kinda pobucker is exactly what concerns me about taking the lane.”

    Well, my feelings on that sort of person are that there are two possibilities: they’re all bluff, or they’re a sociopath. If it’s all bluster, then the best way to deal with them is not to give in to their bluff. And if they’re a sociopath, i have no confidence that they won’t decide to turn me into a hood ornament even if i’m on a path 15′ from the road. So, i don’t let the sociopaths worry me, because there’s really not much i can do if someone with a lethal weapon comes at me on my bike. I keep my eyes open, of course, and try to see any such situations coming while i still have a chance, but, really, i’m just plain outclassed by a motor vehicle on the open road. I worry much more about the folks who are bluffing, because while they don’t have the gumption to kill you intentionally, they probably have the stupidity to do it accidentally. And i spend most of my mental effort just watching out for the run-of-the-mill idiots, who have no intention of hurting anyone, but don’t know how to drive (which is most of them).

  84. Richard Crossthwaite says:

    Hi,
    I live in the UK and am just new to cycling having used my car for the last few years and a motorcycle before that. Even on my motorcycle with lights and dayglo jackets I was forever being knocked off by myopic drivers. It is much more difficult on a bicycle and claiming the lane, or Assertive cycling is the sure way to go, generally it has a lot to do with primal instincts. If you behave like prey you are treated like prey, either ignored or knocked off. Take the predators position and they take more notice of you. Traffic cops on bikes/m.cycles have a big impact on peoples driving because they are seen as predators. You could always try dressing similar to cops. It worked for me on my motorcycle.

  85. MItch says:

    I recently started bike commuting one or two days a week. My commute is ~ 6 miles each way in a NYC suburb. I am fortunate that I can get to work where ~ half the commute is on local streets with light traffic. In those situations, traffic typically is moving 35-40 mph. I have a good shoulder with high visibility (easy to see and be seen). I firmly “take the lane” when I need to go left.

    The rest of the commute is along 4 lane roads with left and right turning lanes as well as very wide, well maintained shoulder lanes which are clearly marked as bike lanes. There are few bikes using them (I might see one or two other bikes in my commute at most). Car drivers really do not expect to see a bike in the bike lanes and, at right hand intersections, I have to be super careful about people using the bike lane as an extended right turn lane. There are two intersections where the bike lane goes dotted so a right turn lane for cars can cross over. I try to make my intentions as clear as possible that I am claiming the lane but I clench my teeth every time I get to those intersections. When I have to make a left on these fast roads, if traffic is light, I will move to claim space in the left turn lane. If not, I cross the intersection on the right then cross the main road perpendicular to traffic along with the rest of the cross street vehicles (discretion is the better part of valor). Contrary to what many might think on NY’ers, I have found most drivers to respect my rights to the road. I am in the eastern ‘burbs though.

  86. Sean M says:

    In Northern CA, where I commute, many intersections, especially along so-called “bike boulevards” and streets with bike lanes, actually paint a bike symbol in the middle of the lane at the intersection. I began noticing these on my daily commutes about five years ago. Back then, I would be stopped, resting, way over at the far right of the road and look to my left and see the bike symbol implanted in the middle of the lane. ‘Hmmm, I’d think. The City wants me to scoot over there. Interesting.’ THis was really my first exposure to the notion of controlling the lane and since then I’ve begun to notice how much safer and more relaxing it can be to control the lane. Much of my commute rides are with bike lanes. I’d say about 70% of the 10 miles each way is bike lane and of the remaining 30%, about 20% of that is on bike boulevards or calm, residential streets. However, on both commutes there are intersections, left turns, and overpasses where it behooves me to control the lane and I have never, ever had trouble from a driver for doing so.
    Here’s something interesting. There are two places on my commute where the existence of a bike lane does not seem advantageous and I am beginning to think I should control the lane instead (would that be legal if there is a bike lane?): one is a left turn onto a street with a bike lane where there is ALWAYS a Mercedes parked right at the beginning, inside the bike lane. As I make the turn, if I stay to the right cars will pass me (the green left turn light is brief so the cars are eager to get through). However, that puts me in a tight spot when I encounter the Mercedes stuck in the bike lane shortly thereafter. The other instance is a stretch of bike lane alongside many gas stations and strip malls. I frequently have cars that for some reason don’t want to slow down and let me pass before they pull into the station or mall and instead speed up and turn right in my face. This happens so frequently (at least 3x a week) that I am beginning to feel that it would be safer for me to control the lane. What do you think?

  87. Fritz says:

    Sean, I’m having a hard time picturing the Mercedes situation — any chance of posting an illustration somewhere? I don’t know what has bike lanes and left turn lanes and who’s passing what.

    The 2nd situation you describe is the right hook. Many cyclists indeed move left when necessary to prevent this. California has a mandatory bicycle lane law with the usual “hazardous conditions” exceptions. You’ll need to decide for yourself if the risk of right hooks qualifies as a “hazardous condition.” Most Bay Area police officers and local judges don’t seem to recognize dangerous driving as a ‘hazardous condition’ that can be controlled by your position. YMMV, IANAL, etc.

  88. Kryzzz says:

    I live in a college town, therefore there are a lot of bike paths/lanes. I use these where they are available. The rest of the time I use the sidewalk.

    I understand that bikes are considered ‘motor vehicles’, but they aren’t built like them. They can’t go the posted speed, and they don’t do much for you when you get hit by a huge mass of metal going 60MPH. It doesn’t happen often, but if my pants get caught in my chain, or my chain just plain acts up, etc, and I’m in the middle of the street with cars behind me, I’m going to get squashed, and I’m totally not cool with that.

    Around here it is dangerous to ride in the street. Until they make bike lanes part of every road, I will happily stay on the sidewalk.

  89. John says:

    Kryzzz, you should ride where you feel comfortable. Safely riding on the sidewalk forces you to ride very slowly though. If you’re ok with that, then, by all means, ride on the sidewalk (of course yielding to every pedestrian and stopping at every intersection and paying very close attention to autos exiting/entering driveways).

    Though, if you want to get anywhere at a decent speed and can do so without riding with 50mph traffic, then you’re better off riding on the road.

    What college town are you talking about?

  90. john says:

    I commute by bike most days. I was wondering if anyone knows where I can get some custom cycling shirts made up. I was thinking of getting some made up that say things like: POLICE CYCLING TEAM.

  91. Fritz says:

    John: You mean something like this? Carlton has something similar on his site somewhere though I can’t find it at the moment.

  92. Howard says:

    Claiming the lane sounds like a great concept. Iam new to commuting by bike and have found in the UK drivers are very happy to push through a gap thats not there! I used too being a reformed car driver now at the weekends. I dont feel confident enough yet to claim the lane, i accept all the reasoning its just me not being strong enough to do it.

  93. Farah says:

    I get honked at 80% of the time I claim the lane, and each time it happens, I become less confident about it and lean more toward riding on the sidewalk. The major problem I face is when cars start to pile up behind you and then you decide to be thoughtful enough to pull over and let them by. Once I’ve done that, returning to the road is sometimes really difficult because of the heavy traffic, and may take up to a few minutes. This cycle has to be repeated several times, making the ride uncomfortable, costing me a lot of delays, and altogether making the sidewalk choice faster and more convenient, especially that they are seldom used by pedestrians where I ride.

    What I do now is that I only take the lane when the sidewalk is too narrow or has a few pedestrians on it, and the lane is too narrow. I try saving my energy for the stretch of the road where I have to take the lane, so that I can achieve a speed that’s less likely to disturb the motorists, but I always seem to end up depleting myself too quickly for nothing *sigh*.

    That said, what I am currently doing is probably wrong, but I’m either not fit enough to keep up with cars on the road, or too afraid of being the origin of a chain of annoyed drivers. Perhaps with experience my behavior will change, and I hope it does, but until then, that T-shirt seems like a great idea 😉

  94. phil says:

    I love the self righteousness of cyclists (I’m also a cyclist). Take the lane but don’t be a dick about it. If you’re holding up traffic consider letting them by every once in a while, you’re not the only person on the road.

    Oh, and I absolutely love it when cyclists bring up “the law”. The same guys/girls who will argue about the exact meaning of “practicable” when it comes to taking the lane are out there blowing through stop signs, red lights, and conveniently return to the right when it means getting around a line of cars at an intersection (the same cars who passed the cyclist just moments ago)

  95. Unknown says:

    To all the anti-cyclists out there. We, and myself, are legal road users. We can use the middle of the lane if needed. Anyone of you whom say that we had better get out of the way or I will run you over or shit like that..keep on thinking that way and you will face serious consequences, and you can goto jail or be hit with very heavy fines or points on your license for endangering cyclists and or pedestrians. It is your duty as a car driver to look out and give right of way to slower road users who use the roadways. If Im doing 15mph down the middle of the lane, then you know why. If you tailgate me or even try or attempt to make me move out of your way I will stop and kick the shit out of you or if your lucky I will let you go and just call the police. Your choice how you respect cyclists will ultimately determine your fate…especially if you threaten us with your 4,000 pound death boxes.

  96. FrankieJ says:

    Most of my ride to and from work is on multilane roads, so I find that it is easier and safer for me to control the lane, which would be a more correct term.

  97. D. J. says:

    I found this post when searching for information about how to safely commute on city streets, but I have to say that while “claiming” the lane may be legal, it seems to me that it’s a rather selfish thing to do. Where I live, there are very few main traffic arteries that back up quickly and severely if there’s an obstruction of any kind. Even a fast-moving cyclist would effectively “block” a lane, adding just another bit of stress and aggravation to the morning commute for a lot of car drivers. I’d never condone any hostile behavior on the part of the drivers towards the cyclists, but I do have to wonder about the mindset of a person who’s perfectly okay with putting themselves above all the other people trying to get where they need to go. I generally try to behave with decency even if it means I might lay down some of my rights on occasion, and I don’t see how claiming a lane is always compatible with that rule of thumb.

  98. Chris says:

    True, but you also have to remember that a bicycle is considered a vehicle, which in term the same rules regulations and responsabilitites apply. I dont usually back up or bother traffic too much except when im on a real narrow lane then I ride down the middle. Most lanes where I live are less than 10 feet wide, leaving me not much choice but to use the right-third or the middle most of the time. Im not at all worried about holding up traffic when I ride since I am usually at or above 20mph most of the time.

  99. John says:

    Commuting by bike is more like kayaking down a river than is commuting by car. On the river you pay attention to what the water is doing. Sometimes you get right in the middle of the fast current – because that is actually where it is safest to be. Sometimes you shift over to a back eddy – because at that moment that is the safest place to be.

    Commuting by bike you have to know when it’s time to claim the lane – for your own safety. You have to watch the flow of cars and the changing of traffic lights. Adjust your speed and position to stay safe while also behaving decently to the other road users.

    It’s more than just riding, it’s more about paying attention. And being lucky.

  100. peteathome says:

    It’s not selfish to put your safety above a temporary inconvenience to other road users.

    In general, you only need to claim the lane briefly and this has little impact on traffic. If a road system is so saturated that this causes a major backup, the road system has bigger problems than bicyclists claiming a lane. It’s obvious that the bottlenecks where you have to claim the lane need to be fixed. A backup like that could just as easily be caused by almost anything. A brief sunglare, somebody avoiding a pothole, butterfly effects.

    Now if you have alternatives, perhaps quieter side streets that don’t add to your distance, then, sure, avoid these saturated roads and possibly aggravating other road users.

    But, in general, a bicycle has a lot less impact on other road users than another car. Most of the time you are sharing a lane and thus helping traffic flow compared to if you drove a car. This needs to be balanced against you causing a short slowdown.

  101. Chris says:

    I live within a mile of sevreal side streets, but I choose not to use them cause they are uneven and hide manyb driveways and other side roads, which is dangerous since they are not looking for bicycles in they’re blind spots. Id rather be in a position on a main road where I know I can be seen and can go a little faster, plus sevreal of the main roads here have been paved over, this providing a smooth ride..and they are most direct. I dont try to back up traffic or piss people off, im just trying to get to where I need to go. I am part of traffic just like automobiles..and sometimes I can move with the traffic flow at 30-40mph..making it even safer for me to travel.

  102. JIMMY says:

    LOL…claiming the lane. In my state it is state law for cyclist to stay as far to the right as possible. This “claiming the lane” is not legal and would more than likely get you either killed or severely injured.

    It these types of attitudes that make motorists hate you people. Funny thing is I am an active rider but had rater go ride in peace on trails (Mnt. biking) than to try to risk my life just to “prove a point”. A very stupid point at that!

    What I don’t get is those of you who do NOT own a car and think you deserve the rights to the roads even though you don’t pay any taxes specifically designed for road upkeep.

  103. Andrea says:

    The point of “taking the lane” is not to prove a point or to be an asshole it is to be seen. To make sure that the cyclists is noticed.

    The point is not to make friends the point is to stay alive because in a war man vs car – car will always win.

  104. John says:

    1. We ALL pay for the roads. Here in Texas, we pay them partially through our highly regressive sales tax. Yes, I know gasoline is taxed and some of that goes to roads too. But, since my bike does less damage to the road surface than does my car – I could make the argument that I actually deserve MORE of the road when I am cycling. I don’t claim that – of course, because that would be silly. The argument that cyclists don’t really have right to use the roads because they don’t pay for the roads is stupid even if it were true. What would we do with pedestrians then? Do pedestrians pay special taxes for those sidewalks?

    2. What makes some motorists hate cyclists is that some motorists are hateful people. They behave just as badly to other motorists – it’s just that low speed collisions between cars are usually less dramatic than low speed collisions between cars and bikes.

  105. Kate says:

    I’m a motorist and a cyclist. There are times–like every time I take the car to work-when I get really hacked off at cyclists because they are entirely unpredictable, weaving between cars, making left turns from both the left and right sides of my car, while I’m trying to make a left turn and not hit anybody. When I take my bike to work, I attempt to use common sense as to where I am on the road-sometimes “taking the road” and sometimes realizing I am just tying up tons of motor traffic by doing so. I also “take the road” in a left turn, and then get toward the right as soon as I can. The motorists don’t want to hit us, but I can see why they get annoyed when we don’t seem to follow any rule at all and they can’t predict our actions. That’s what pisses me off when I’m driving rather than biking.

  106. kate says:

    I’m still relatively new to commuting on my bike, having just celebrated my 1 year anniversary riding to work as much as possible. There are no bike lanes here but my commute is from one town to another (8.5 miles one way, with most of that on country roads) and there’s an alternate route that eliminates a huge amount of traffic so I’m very fortunate. There have been many worthwhile comments so far that will certainly be factored into my future commutes through the town areas. I’m not in great shape and am one of those slow, plodding bikers, averaging only about 10-13 mph right now. I’m trying to get faster but have been staying more to the right than I probably should be, based on what some of you have been saying. Always felt staying somewhat out of the way on the town streets was my best bet but now I realize that it may not be the safest decision. Guess it’s time for an attitude change on my part. Anyway, thanks for the tips you’ve posted. I don’t know any experienced bike commuters so this past year was spent pretty much making it up as I pedaled along.

  107. Chris says:

    I have recently changed a few of my riding habits I sapose. I still continue, however, to use main arterials whenever I can..especially since I recently bought a $800 road bike specifically designed for smooth roads and not potholes or very uneven surfaces. If I use my commuter bike I take side streets or use sidewalks or bike paths if I feel the need, since its designed for such use. But 80 percent of the time I ride in traffic, often on roads with a 45-55mph speed limit. I use the right side of the road whenever it is wide enough( over 13 feet) and ride in the middle if its narrower than 11 feet, in most cases. Its just some people just dont honor a cyclists rights these days. Im not sure why but thats the way some people are. I try to avoid them if I sense they are a threat to my safety. Otherwise I enjoy cycling and will do so for a very long time.

  108. gear says:

    If my commute looked anything like the ride pictured above the article, I’d probably take the lane too.

    I ride with trees on the sides of the road so I am passing in and out of shadows as are the drivers who pass me. I sometimes don’t see things (like pot holes) because they are hidden in the shadows, I bet the drivers also miss seeing things in the shadows.

    There is only one lane per side where I ride not two or three like in the picture.

    Cars regularly drive at speeds of 50-60 when they pass me.

    Honestly if I were out in the middle of the lane I’d get hit within a week by a driver who didn’t see me there. Other riders in my area must feel the same way as no-one rides in the middle of the lane.

    I’m all for cyclists rights but I’m not willing to risk my life to prove a point. I’ve made it to work and back safely without incident for sixteen years by riding to the right side of the lane, I feel no need to change.

  109. Anonymous says:

    My own experience is that it depends a lot on the community, the roads, and the time of day one is cycling. Some towns/intersections/times of day, it’s no problem changing lanes to make a left-hand turn; others, you need to do a three-point turn — as a pedestrian, if necessary (unclip a foot and “scoot” across the street; reorient the bicycle and wait for the light change). It also depends on being aware that *you*, the cyclist, might be posing a hazard to *all* vehicular traffic on the road. If cars are routinely moving dangerously close to the next lane (or partially into that lane, moving dangerously close to traffic in that lane) then regardless of whether you are claiming the lane or riding the shoulder, YOU are a hazard and have the moral responsibility to GET OFF THAT ROAD as soon as possible.

  110. peteathome says:

    Anonymous, come on! A driver passing in an unsafe manner is the hazard and is the one who should get off the road. Nobody is forcing that driver to drive in an unsafe manner. The driver is totally responsible to drive his vehicle in a safe manner. If a driver of an automobile cannot safely pass a bicycle, then it is the driver’s legal and moral responsibility to wait until it is safe to do so. The need to travel as fast as possible is not a moral justification for unsafe behavior.

    Now – as part of sharing the road and general polite road use, and in some states by law, if there are cars waiting behind a bicycle to pass for a significant amount of time, than that bicyclist should pull over periodically when it safe to do so and let them pass.

  111. Anonymous says:

    Actually, it is considered unsafe to drive, bike, whatever at a speed less than the “going speed” of traffic at that time, on that thoroughfare. So if you are bicycling at say 15mph on a 40mph road, and the motorists are all going at 30-45mph in the right lane, YOU are — legally, as well as functionally — the hazard, whether you are in the lane or in the shoulder, so long as your presence causes any unsafe change in motorist behavior.

    Now, if the road is empty, or if you are cycling in an area with particularly friendly drivers (and I have ridden in such areas), you can signal to change lanes to avoid a mandatory right turn or to get into the left-turn lane before the intersection, and the motorists will slow to allow you to share the road in that manner. One needs to be aware that this is NOT universal motorist behavior. Where the rules of the road are the rules of mass and momentum — which is most of the time — cyclists are not nearly as safe as crossing deer.

  112. John says:

    Anonymous, it seems you have a few key terms misunderstood.

    You say:

    “Actually, it is considered unsafe to drive, bike, whatever at a speed less than the “going speed” of traffic at that time, on that thoroughfare.”

    Then follow with:

    “So if you are bicycling at say 15mph on a 40mph road, and the motorists are all going at 30-45mph in the right lane, YOU are – legally, as well as functionally – the hazard,”

    Not true. Regardless of the validity of your first statement, it is perfectly legal to be a slow moving vehicle on most roads (farm vehicles, bicycles, mopeds, etc).

    -John

  113. Chris says:

    I simply dont understand what-so-ever how I am a hazard while riding my bike down a public roadway. Come on. Honestly do you seem to think that vehicles traveling less than the posted speed limit are a hazard? If I, lets say, am walking down in the park at 4mph while bikes are going 15-20mph past me using the SAME path..am I a hazard to them?? Being a hazard makes no sense especially since I am a legal road user like any other vehicle on the road. If you seem to think I am a hazard then tractors and other slow moving vehicles must be a hazard as well..as you seem to think that anyone who travels under the speed limit to be considered a hazard. Man you have got to learn some things about vehicular laws my friend, since NO ONE who uses a public roadway, no matter how slow or fast they go is a ‘hazard’.

  114. Chris says:

    I regularly use the right third of most lanes where I live, since they are usually less than 13 feet wide. If I feel that a motorist will not provide enough safe clearance between myself and them..then I move and react appropriately..making sure they move over legally..even if it means controlling the entire lane just to make sure they dont endanger my life needlessly. I dont make a habit of riding in the middle of the lanes..exceptions being if its a narrow lane then I will ride down the middle..making sure no one passes in the face of oncoming traffic or does something stupid, like cut right in front of me to gain 5 seconds of their travel time. Absolutely pathetic.

  115. Chris says:

    About 90 percent of the roads where I live are in terrific shape. Some side streets are pretty shitty, with potholes and very uneven surfaces. I try to avoid them as much as I can, since I ride a bike costing over 1,000 dollars, I dont wanna screw it up really. Riding down main roads is safer quicker and is alot more direct then uneven side streets, which in my view, save you no more time then using main roadways.

  116. peteathome says:

    Anonymous does not have even a basic understanding of vehicle law. There is no point in having a discussion with him/her.

    I’ll stupidly attempt to correct Anonymous.

    Unless there is a minimum speed limit, which typically only occurs on limited access highways (i.e., Interstates), there is no law stating that you can’t travel less than the average speed on the road, as long as you are a legal road user and not deliberately traveling slower than you are capable to deliberately impede traffic.

    Bicycles are legal road users on all roads except for a few that restrict certain classes of vehicles, primarily limited-access Interstates, and even on those there are exceptions.

    The idea that one has a legal and moral obligation not to slow down traffic, and if you do, you deserve to die, is an interesting inversion of all traffic law.

    The reality is that all traffic laws, in every state in the USA, requires road users to wait to safely pass slower road users, whether the slower vehicle is a tractor, Amish buggy, or a bicycle. Full legal responsibility is on the passing vehicle, not the vehicle being passed. If you pass in an unsafe manner and injure the operator of the slower vehicle, or crash head-on into a vehicle coming in the opposite direction because you unsafely crossed into oncoming traffic, YOU are fully responsible under the law.

    And in my opinion, fully morally responsible, too. There is no moral imperative to go as fast as possible at all times regardless of other’s safety.

  117. Chris says:

    Yes finally someone who understands vehicular laws. Id say about 75-85 percent of motorists think bicycles are not considered vehicles. In my opinion that is just retarded because motorcycles use the road..should they not be considered vehicles simply because they are not 4,000 pound steel cages capable of killing people or doing serious harm to anyone who is in their path. Sadly most motorists will never see bicycles as vehicles and will continue to show Blainent disregard to people that are not driving 2 ton death cages that kill people. Also where I live i can ride more in the middle of the lane as long as its not wide enough, to safety share with an automobile. Thats just how bicycle laws are, to protect riders from 2 ton death cages that clog our roadways.

  118. biz says:

    after reading through all of these posts, i find it quite humorous how pompous cyclists can be. don’t get me wrong, i am a cyclist and when i worked jobs that i could commute to i would ride 40-50kms a day. nowadays i need a vehicle with tools for work, but i still enjoy getting out(either mountain or road) several times a week.

    this blog makes it sound like “claiming the lane” is the thing every cyclist should do in every situation, as a motorist as well i think that is ridiculous. i live in a fairly bike friendly city though(vancouver), where there are several designated bike routes throughout. still, i think there are always options for a safe route where you are not impeding traffic. and some of you are actually saying that, rather than using an actual bike lane meant for us the cyclists, you would still rather ride in the traffic lane? are you serious?

    i think many cyclists get way too bent out of shape over crap like this. personally i choose routes that are either designated bike routes, or roads with bike lanes. i stay out of traffic 90% of the time, while sometimes i do need to take the lane i hardly see the point of doing it all the time. the picture above is a bad example as well, it looks like downtown where i live(one area where cyclists do take the lane, and are encouraged to do so). most roads with shoulders/bike lanes i take have traffic going considerably faster than i and would back up far too easily if i was hogging the road.

    i am all for recognition of cyclist’s rights on the road, but you people are swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction. i think the majority of the people here need to learn to share the road, just as much as the majority of motorists need to do the same…..

  119. john says:

    biz, Did you read the same blog I read? It seems that most cyclists on here generally agree that finding safe routes is preferable to playing around with serious traffic. But, when a cyclist must ride in traffic it is actually safer to be assertive (not aggressive). A cyclist being assertive actually helps drivers because drivers will know what to expect.

    And yes, sometimes a cyclist MUST ride in heavy traffic. Vancouver may have great cycling lanes, but many places do not. I have one car, but it is shared by three people. I usually cycle to work using the safest route possible and I even ride on a trail part of the way. Part of the route is still in fairly heavy traffic, though. Austin has some crappy roads, and we are one of the better cities in the US for cycling.

    Law abiding cyclists CANNOT impede traffic because law abiding cyclists ARE traffic (excepting those place where cycling is prohibited,of course). Sometimes cars have to slow down. Boohoo for those drivers if they don’t like it. Hell, sometimes when I ride I have to slow down for cars. That’s just the way traffic goes.

  120. biz says:

    yes i did read the same you did. and from the responses i read, it sounded like a number of people will ride in the lane most if not all of the time, and dont care if there is a lineup of cars behind them.

    i agree that there are a number of situations that require assertive riding, and may be a minor inconvenience to drivers. but i also know there are many roads around here that do not lend themselves to taking the lane. one way roads, roads with meridians, or roads that are busy enough that taking a lane will seriously bottleneck traffic. these are roads to avoid, not commandeer.

    last week i was driving down a busy corridor through new west, this route is one of the main routes in and out of the city and relies on both lanes each way being open at all times. this day it was heavily backed up, much more so than usual. finally, at the last stretch i saw the problem, two doddling cyclists were taking up the outside lane and as a result all the traffic had to funnel to the inside lane. these two cyclists were completely oblivious to the fact that the huge traffic jam that extended for blocks behind them was their fault.

    john, from your post you appear to be a cyclist who takes steps to find the most appropriate route and effectively share the roads for everyone involved. my post was aimed at the posters with attitudes and behaviors similar to what i described above.

  121. Ed W says:

    So, let’s see if I understand this right. Some of you believe you have the right to use the public roads, and you choose to exercise that right. Some of you, while saying you have the right to use the roads persist in believing that your rights are somehow secondary to other road users, mainly automobile drivers.

    This leads to the ever-popular question of whether you still have a particular right if you choose not to use it. From my point of view, the answer is ‘no’ you no longer have the right to travel as you wish. You must accept your role as a second rate road user, subject to the whims of passing motorists, ignored by law enforcement, and ridiculed by your betters. Please move to the back of the bus and do not speak unless you’re spoken to by a parent or guardian.

    That’s pretty harsh, but if you want to assert your equal right to use the public roadway, you have to give up the idea of being somehow less than equal to all the other users out there. You have to learn to truly share the roadway – not as an aggressive, dangerous rider – but as one who’s learned that safety ALWAYS over-rides convenience regardless of how many wheels are under your butt. You have to learn to ride your bike as if it were a vehicle, or as an advocate I met once said, you ride a meat powered motorcycle. Believe me, unlearning fears and superstition isn’t an easy process, but it’s far better than cowering in fear on the edge of the road.

  122. Rick says:

    Ride with lights on day and night.
    I have a “look at me” front light and two Planetbikes superflashes on the back, th front and one of the back is on always during the day.
    Makes a big difference!

  123. Steve says:

    The reality is that cyclists do have “secondary” rights to use the road. Most road maintenance costs come from the various taxes that motorists are subject to while cyclists are not.

    This is not to say that cyclists don’t have every right to use the road, but should be more considerate of motorists and the fact that you’re driving a slower vehicle. If you’re in the 3rd of the lane, then move over if traffic flow is being interfered with. When traffic is clear then move back.
    You’ll get a lot more respect and consideration from motorists in return.

  124. peteathome says:

    According to the Federal Highway Administration, 92% of the funds that pay for local roads come from property, income and sales taxes.

    Considering that bicycles do very little damage to the roads compared to automobiles, bicyclists are dramatically overpaying for the use of roads through their property, income and sales taxes.

    In any case, there is no legal concept of primary vs. secondary rights to the roads.

    A bicyclist’s number 1 concern should be their personal safety, with their number 2 concern being the convenience of other road users. I hope you aren’t saying a bicyclist should risk their life so as not to slow you down?

    I totally agree that a bicyclist should let faster traffic pass them when it is safe and convenient for them to pull over. As long as they can make reasonable progress while doing so. In some situations, there is a constant flow of other traffic, so they could not move at all if they pull over whenever someone is behind them.

  125. John says:

    Thank you peteathome, you beat me to it. Yes, we cyclists really do pay for more than our share of the road.

    And OF COURSE it’s polite to move over sometimes to let people pass. This is true no matter what you are driving.

    The argument that the more I pay for gas the more rights I have is as stupid as it is wrong. If it were true, then I would go out to my car, let most of the air out my tires, install rusty spark plugs, and attach a parachute to the roof rack. I would drive in second gear with the AC turned on full blast and the windows wide open. Then I would own the road and you would be required to worship me as a god.

  126. Jon Thomas says:

    Yes, I have always “claimed the lane” and I started touring and commuting in 1972. We have the same right to the road as any other vehicle, but it is also important to remain wary of the other vehicles and take nothing for granted. Knowing that you had the right of way will do you no good when you are on your back in a hospital. An now amount of settlement will compensate you for a permanent loss of mobility. Besides having all the rights, a lot of riders I see forget that we also have all the responsibilities of other vehicles. Like obeying traffic signs, I can’t tell you how many commuters I’ve seen blow through stop signs cause they didn’t want to loose momentum. We can be every bit as big a hazard to the cars as they are to us.

  127. Jim Board says:

    I couldn’t agree more!

    After just returning to bike commuting after a lay-off for a few years, I have slotted straight back in to, “claiming the lane,” just as I have always done. I have never felt safe cycling in the gutter (I should say I’m writing from the UK, so any unfamiliar terms are entirely my responsibility!) and feel that any inconvenience a car or truck driver experiences from having to slow down for a while is massively outweighed by the inconvenience I might experience by being knocked off or injured!

    I have always tried to be as considerate a road user as possible and, so far, have never been an accident victim although I have come unnervingly close once or twice. However, my partner, who rides less confidently, has been knocked off twice, sustainng a, “moderate,” head injury which resulted in her having to take 4 months off work to recover. So let them slow down I say.

  128. steve says:

    As a recent witness to a cyclist being hit from behind by a vehicle whilst riding in a bike lane I can assure you there are not many sights as horrific. For anyone, driver or cyclist, to think their precious time on this earth is more important than anyone else’s is narcissistic. Shoes come in different sizes so everyone can wear them. I’d hate to be in either one of the victims shoes of this accident and the the 20 seconds of lack of concentration could last a lifetime for both. Keep driving, keep cycling……keep your eyes on the road!

  129. Jack says:

    I do a variation on taking the lane which I did not see mentioned, but there are so many follow ups I might have missed it.

    I ride about where a cars right tire would be. When I hear a car approaching, I glance back over my left shoulder and then move to the right. This seems to communicate to the driver that I know that they are there and I am giving them as much room as I can to pass. So I move as far right as conditions allow. If there is gravel spilling out onto the road from driveways, etc, I stay more to the left. Also if there is none else around (either another lane they can use at least partially to pass or no oncoming cars) I stay more to the left.

    This works well for me although for my commute I drive my car about half way until the roads are wider. The roads nearer my house are more like country roads with suburban traffic. I regularly get passed in my car when I am going “only” 5 MPH over the speed limit during the commute times. If 50 MPH is so slow that people pass even with oncoming traffic, I just don’t feel safe on my bike.

  130. More cycle lanes everywhere. I’d also like to see an express cycle lane just for us cyclists that want to go faster than everyone else….. Hang on that’s a motorway! 🙂

  131. Das Ubergeek says:

    I live in Orange County, California, and we do actually have a “motorway” for bikes. It’s called the Santa Ana River Trail and it goes, completely separated from traffic, through some of the worst traffic in the county (from Corona in Riverside County, 30 miles (50 km) or so to the beach at the border between Huntington and Newport Beaches). Paved, with underpasses under each road and freeway it crosses, and only horse, bikes and joggers allowed, and a road surface actually better than the arterial roads, it’s like bike paradise and it goes right past my office… but first I have to get there.

    I use it for my bike commute to work (lengthens my ride from 4 miles to 5.5) because though I have no problem on roads (and most of the arterial roads here are at least 6 lanes and have speed limits in the 50 mph (80 km/h) range), I absolutely hate fencing with OCTA buses who are dropping and picking up every quarter mile and belching fumes into my face.

    One thing that’s not been said here is that if you are going to use the bike lanes on roadways (and I only use them when they’re not in the door zone), you should move to the centre of the lane when the bike lane ends at a junction. One of the places I bike has two lanes plus a bike lane in each direction, but the bike lanes end about 100 feet from a major junction (Sunkist Avenue and Ball Road in Anaheim, if you want to go look at Google Earth). At the junction there is a left turn lane and two through lanes — and I have found that I get so many grateful looks when I move to the LEFT of the righthand lane in order to allow right-turners to proceed through on the red light. South of there I claim the lane — far enough out that I’m visible, but not the centre of the lane — because it’s windy and hemmed in by trees and buildings and I don’t want to fling myself into the gutter — the traffic volume is such that people can easily “borrow” a third of the left lane.

    Only a couple of people have ever given me grief in six months’ commuting (when someone honks, I turn around, wave, and yell, “Hey there, Pat!”) and I feel so, so much safer than riding in the gutter or, God forbid, on the sidewalk — but when I turn left into Cerritos Avenue to head toward the hockey rink and the river trail, I stay right because it’s a huge, wide outside lane. (I wish more roads had these instead of bike lanes.)

    Safety first, and it takes cast-iron you-know-whats to get out into the lane for the first time, but it takes about ten seconds to fall in love with the feeling of being visible. And if you drive your bike (yes, “drive” your bike) with respect to others on the road, you will find that people will respect you back and do things like let you move left in front of them to make a left turn. Take the lane when you need to, don’t when you don’t need to, be as predictable and visible as you can, and the #1 rule of the road: Don’t Be An #%@ Hole.

  132. looieloi says:

    I started claiming the lane. I have well over 10,000 commuting miles. I normally ride the same route, same time — and people were accustomed to seeing me. However, after working out of town for 8 weeks — I came home to a hostile road — I was getting buzzed fast and close. After I started claiming the lane — it stopped. I had always heard of this practice, and “…really did not agree with it”.
    I am now convinced.

  133. Your safety is the primary concern. Wedged up against the curb isn’t always the safest place to ride your bicycle however blatantly taking over a lane only causes resentment and anxiety in the motorist which could lead to a hostile confrontation and one the bicycle will loose.

    I personally ride the white line – It provides enough room to maneuver inside the bike lane yet is most often far enough away from the accumulated debris next to the curb. The white line also is close enough to traffic that you are slightly more visible yet not as annoying as if you were directly in the lane. Expect the unexpected – motorist will and do drive incredibly close when they pass. If you have to move out into the lane- look back first to see if it is clear. I’ve seen so many riders just go for it and that’s nuts.

    Have I been hit – yes. Have my team mates been hit – yes. Does it hurt – like hell but we’re all back on the saddle again. Your friends at http://www.yikesid.com want you to ride safe. What did that Hill St. Blues show say — it’s a juggle out there, be safe. Think first. Be smart. Ride safe.

  134. I would suggest a single speed instead of a fixed gear for the most simple. I commute on a fixed gear, but having a freewheel might be easier for anyone getting back into biking as an adult. They don’t have to pedal constantly, even through the corners.

  135. Having a free classifieds is a great idea. Especially for traffic generation

  136. If I feel that traffic is giving me enough room, I’ll stay as far right as possible.
    http://www.magnetmaterialyl.com/ Permanent Magnets

  137. Really important to take the lane IMO. I cringe when I see so many cyclists weaving in and out btwn parked cars. Accident waiting to happen. Be brave–take the lane. We are traffic!

  138. plh says:

    I commute 14 miles round trip. Part of it is on a bike path which is nice. But a major portion on busy suburban streets. I don’t take the lane. I have trouble seeing how it is safer. But I’ll think about it as I am rideing.
    I have very little trouble drivers. I stay to the side enough so that cars can get past. I got hit once but that was from playing fast & loose with a traffic light. Since then I am extremely cautious. For example when making lefts at a traffic light, I cross to the opposite corner then re-cross to complete the left. Especially important on busy multi lane streets IMHO.
    I get a lot of flats but I think that is because I take weekend bi-psycho rides of 50 mi. + , along all kinds of bumpy rural roads. Also I tend to keep using tires & tubes that really are beat to crap.
    Bike commuting has become very important to me, along with extended psycho rides. I have gone from 38″ to 36″ to 34″ pants. I want to keep doing it, and I couldn’t do it as a paraplegic.

  139. Rob says:

    I tend to disagree with your ‘claim the lane’ mentality.

    I’ve ridden in vehicles with drivers and watched their reactions as they approach a cyclist that has ‘claimed the lane’. Most drivers display some form of low level road-rage. And I’m sure the next car, who’s view is obscured by following the first car to close, is displaying their own rage as they wonder why the car in front of them has just slowed down. Also, you mentioned how most people are oblivious to car/bike road laws.

    With this being true, cars/trucks are much bigger than bikes. Accidents on the street are much more unforgiving than accidents on the side-walk. I’ll gladly take the stress of watching out for pedestrians on a side-walk over hoping that a car is watching out for me on the street.

  140. peteathome says:

    Rob, I understand your not wanting to anger drivers, but the reason sidewalk riding is so dangerous has nothing to do with the stress of looking out for pedestrians ( although you might be ticking off a lot of pedestrians when you do this – sidewalk rage?) or minor accidents due to the sidewalk environment.

    NO – it has to do with where most car/bike accidents occur: at intersections. No matter how pissed off the driver behind you might be, it is EXTREMELY unlikely they are just going to run you down. Where you get run down is when you are crossing an intersection. Cars turn right or left without seeing you off to the side and KABOOM. And it’s not just intersections of two streets that are risky, but cars turning in and out of minor intersections like driveways.

    Riding on the sidewalk makes car/bike collisions something like 4 times more likely than riding in the street. It is one of the most dangerous ways to ride.

    You CAN safely ride on a sidewalk if you do a couple of things:
    1) Travel slowly so you don’t freak out the pedestrians or crash due to sidewalk hazards such as poles right next to the sidewalk or uneven pavement. Sidewalks are just too narrow to go too fast on.
    2) Exercise caution crossing any driveway, but especially commercial driveways. Cars may cross the sidewalk at speed without checking for anything moving faster than a pedestrian. Remember, cars are not only exiting onto the street by the driveway, they are also turning into the driveways from the street.
    I would recommend slowing to pedestrian speeds and checking very carefully before you cross to be positive no cars are turning into it from the street or entering the street from the driveway.
    3) Dismount and cross as a pedestrian with the signal at intersection larger than a driveway. Be very careful about people turning into the intersection even though you have the right of way.

    Following these rules will get your death rate down to a pedestrian level, which is still somewhat higher than a typical bicycler.

    Be careful and good luck

  141. Rob says:

    It’s beyond my fear of just angering drivers; it’s the result of angry drivers that don’t have situational awareness of what’s going on in front of them, beyond what they can physically see, which worries me. This is why the call it an accident. No one (99% of the time) WANTS to hike a cyclist. Being on the road provides this opportunity–especially in the dark, on icy, snowy roads.

    In my city (Anchorage), it’s legal for bikes to ride the side-walks (except in business zones). I pulled up a map of bike/car accidents in the Anchorage area from 1998-2002. While most accidents do happen at intersections, not a single one I found happened in the cross-walk area–they all happened on the confines of a main road. Albeit, I only looked at the data for my 8-mile commute route.

    If it’s truly safety first, a bike rider on the side-walk controls much more of their fate than a on-road rider. And, you are correct, controling that fate means exercising the cautions you suggest above, which I’m willing to do. On a road, I depending on others to exercise caution.

  142. Chris says:

    I used to ride along the Right egde of the roadways. 4 months later I moved out to control the lane. It worked but all i was aparently doing was making driver’s angry. Since then I now ride along the side, but not along the curb..to allow driver’s to pass, but not to make them squeeze by with unsafe clearance. In Ohio most driver’s dont know the bike laws..so they unknowingly pass within inches sometimes..almost giving no room Unless the lane is real narrow, then dont hog the entire lane. Use the Right- Third of it at least, and if the lane is too narrow then ride in the center..make cars go around you, since there wont be enough safe clearance for them to pass anyways.

  143. I have really enjoyed browsing your posts.Someone on Yahoo Answers referred me here and I love it.

  144. kooldoff says:

    Tim,
    I think you are completely right about this; I have been doing this in heavy traffic while pulling a trailer (we deliver Meals on Wheels )
    and have had a much better and safer experience!

  145. kellan says:

    Thanks for the insight. I’ll try it on my next commute. Wish me luck.

    (I’m the one usually hugging the curb, trying to avoid the sewer grates and broken glass).

    Cheers!

  146. Joonas says:

    One point when commuting in cities is that when people are opening their car doors you’ll hit them if you don’t claim the lane and have enough distance from parked cars…

  147. Jimbo says:

    You people are nuts. DO NOT RIDE IN THE ROAD. ROAD=CARS. I have had so many near-accidents because some biker mistakenly thinks he’s a automobile. I know biking is good for health/environment/whatever (I bike too!), but stay out of the road! This is not 1885, and cars go fast and are much larger than bikes. Common sense people!

  148. plh says:

    @Jimbo: Yes! I completely agree. I communte to work & also drive. I don’t want to be bumper food. I always keep to the side. I used to get a lot of flats from riding over to the side with all the broken glass, staples, nails &ct. but I put on Kevlar belted tires (Bontrager hard case in my case but I am sure other brands are fine) replaced the rim tape & havn’t had a flat in over a month. (I usd to get them at least 2-3 times a week).

  149. Paul says:

    This kind of flak from rude drivers is to be expected. How have these cyclists caused these near accidents you speak of? Perhaps you weren’t paying attention? It isn’t as if bicycles are moving too fast for you…

  150. tmana says:

    I might suspect that the presence of a cyclist so distracts Jimbo that in order to avoid, he drifts off into the next lane without paying attention to other motorist traffic *in* that lane. It pays to keep in mind that many motorists do not want to share the road (not even with other motorists).

    The flip side of the coin is, if you can’t do traffic speed, you need to think twice about taking the lane (rather than the shoulder, or an alternate route) — especially if there is not a reasonable alternate lane for faster-moving traffic.

  151. Chris says:

    To tmana: Bicycles are legal vehicles..and have their place on the roadway. No vehicle has to maintain the speed limit. Its perfectly legal to go under the speed limit. No one has an obligation to go the speed limit. Its the sole responsibility of motorists to look out for bicycles and other slow moving vehicles, and other motorists. The last person that hit me lost their license for 1 year and had to pay for my injuries cause they felt that I didn’t need to be on the road. This kind of thinking will get people hurt or killed. Its not worth the trouble. Take a breath and give cyclists their space..it only takes a few seconds and your past them and on your way. Deal with it, and ride/drive safe!

  152. tmana says:

    Chris: just as motorists need to look out for cyclists and pedestrians as well as other motorists, we need to look out for motorists, as well as other cyclists and pedestrians. All well and good for someone having to be without license and pay for your medical bills — but so much better not to have had the accident in the first place! You are worth more than the cost of medical bills, lost time at work, limited mobility, limited ability to provide for your family, limited ability to interact with friends and family…

    Taking the lane — or the route itself — is as much an exercise in judgment of the overall traffic of that lane or that route as it is in awareness of other users of that route. Just as a motorist going well below the “going speed” of traffic can be cited for unsafe (or hazardous) driving, so can a cyclist taking the lane in those traffic conditions, or a cyclist whose actions cause motorists to drift off into the next lane to avoid becoming party to a car-bicycle accident, only to become part of a near-miss car-car accident.

    Put differently: share the road means just that. Just as at times we need to cede the road (or sections of a particular road) to pedestrians, to emergency vehicles, or to parades and other civic functions, so too there are times we need to cede the road to the prevailing motor traffic and seek an alternate route.

  153. peteathome says:

    “or a cyclist whose actions cause motorists to drift off into the next lane to avoid becoming party to a car-bicycle accident, only to become part of a near-miss car-car accident.”

    How would a bicyclist “taking the lane” do this ( assuming they don’t dart out into the lane at the last minute)? Seriously, if a driver can’t wait until it is safe to pass or pass in a safe manner, should they really be driving?

  154. Chris says:

    To tmana: I have at least 3 alternate routes in which i can take to avoid traffic. They are not maintained for bicycles(potholes, parked cars, etc..). Main arterials are safer for me, and allow me to get to my destination quickly and efficiently. Its upto the motorists to look out for me and every other vehicle on the road. I am much smaller than a car and cannot do nearly the damage a 4,000 vehicle can. Bottom line= cars bikes slower vehicles all have equal rights to the road. Case closed.

  155. tmana says:

    Pete: in most cases without on-street parking, cyclists “taking the lane” are riding in the curb-most third of that lane, keeping a safe distance from the next lane of traffic and — traffic conditions permitting — allowing a faster vehicle to pass. The motorist tries to maintain speed, but does not see the cyclist with enough time to slow, or has enough vehicular traffic behind him that it is (arguably) safer for him to hit-and-run against the cyclist (or scare him off the road) than it is to cause a multicar collision. What the motorist will generally do is move towards the traffic-side of the lane to try to pass the cyclist. Sometimes this causes said motorist to drift a foot or two into that next lane, posing a potential hazard to at-speed traffic in that lane.

    This sort of behavior tends to be most common on those “main arterials”, particularly during rush hours and on weekends. It is not limited to those roads and time slots, as I have experienced it on the less-traveled/slower-speed parallel roads I prefer — just that there is less overall traffic, less motorist speed, and therefore less overall hazard. I am also more likely to encounter sympathetic motorists on these roads — motorists who slow to allow me to change to the left lane to turn, or at the crossroads, yield their right-of-way to go straight for me to make that left safely.

    FWIW, I’d rather steer around potholes (or through, if I must) and deal with the occasional jerk driving 15 mph faster than me (or trying to) than deal with dozens of angry commuters driving 35 mph faster than me (or trying to). Your mileage, obviously, varies.

  156. peteathome says:

    Why would a motorist not be able to see a cyclist riding 1/3rd of the way out from the curb in enough time to slow down or to make a safe pass?

    I can easily see a bicycle more than a block ahead of me when I’m driving on multi-lane streets ( assuming there are no tight curbs or I’m not cresting a hill. In those cases, I of course slow down. One of the first things I learned driving was never to overdrive your “sight line”. Same for night driving – never drive faster than you can stop if something enters your beams).

    My vision isn’t particularly good. Again, if a driver can’t handle something as simple as this, should they really be driving? I would hope not, although I know there are some impaired or otherwise unsafe drivers out there. I have a couple of elderly relatives who were driving LONG after they should have stopped.

    But I have almost never had a problem with this. Maybe my experience is difference than yours.

    If you think these impaired drivers are common, then the proper approach is to figure how to get these people off the road. Driving a multi-ton piece of equipment should not be done by someone who can’t see or pay attention to what they are doing.

    You also seem to be implying that cars are following each other WAY too close so that if a car slows down a bit, they are all going to rear end each other. If I’m going 40 mph, see a bike a block ahead and start slowing to 15mph over a block, I really don’t expect to get rear ended. If I’m wrong, we have some major problems in how we drive. In reality, you are suppose to keep enough distance from the car in front of you that you can safely stop even if he slams on the brakes, a much more extreme situation that a gradual slowing for a bike.

    At night, I’m assuming the bicycle has a decent rear reflector or light and so should be at least as visible.

  157. tmana says:

    It is common in many urban metro areas in the United States to completely forego that “safe stopping distance” rule… in many places, on US-Route or Interstate-grade roads, there are spots where if you leave a single car length between you and the car in front of you, another car will wedge itself in there. At 85mph. On 55mph-marked roads. And the cops can’t/won’t do a thing about it (or risk a thirty- or forty-car pileup with serious injuries and no way to medevac the injured).

    Obviously (at least I hope it’s obvious!),
    I’m not cycling on the Interstate — but US-Route roads are open to all vehicular traffic (cyclists and farm vehicles included), there is not always a paved (or usable) shoulder, and there are areas and sections of these routes where the main commuting (to work, or to shopping) corridors. In those areas, when the volume and urgency of traffic pushes motorists well beyond the posted speed limits, it is unsafe to drive any slower-moving vehicle, (even on the shoulders! — more pedestrians get killed walking the unpaved shoulders of some of these stretches of road…)

  158. Chris says:

    Cyclists are more vurnable road users. Yeah I understand. We are not surrounded by metal and dont have any protection. Cyclists have every right and entitlment to use any public roadway and we can use interstates as well. Bicyclists are not banned from using any roadway unless prohibited by law. I ride on roads with 55mph speed limits. Most people pass me with good clearance, and sometimes I get passed closely but its to be expected since automobiles have blind spots..and its easy to misjudge distance between a car and a bike. Believe me I know I drove for 10 years around cyclists I know what its like sometimes. As I mentioned before cars bikes have equal rights to the road. Last comment.

  159. Warren says:

    Screw the law, safety first. On most long stretches of road along a highway 99.5% of the time there is no pedestrians on the sidewalk. I rather ride there (a SAFE distance from vehicles) let’s face it, it’s 2010 and drivers are more distracted than ever and in general people don’t care they’re especially in our metropolitan cities. My suggestion to cyclist, ride slower and take the sidewalk… if one isn’t available take side streets and the path less traveled by vehicular traffic. It boils down to common sense, unless you live in the country stay out of the roads! It’s dangerous enough when you’re buckled in surrounded with a ton of medal.

  160. Warren says:

    i shouldn’t post drunk… cheers!

  161. Rob says:

    We have had 2 hit and run accidents in my town, 1 killed, 1 in a wheelchair, both cyclist where riding in a well traveled road, 1 was in daylight the other at night. I am also a Truck driver with 2 million accident free miles and I bike to work for fitness.I dont agree or disagree with the author. defensive driving, whether your on a bike or a truck is always number one. Know where everything and everyone is and be READY to take action, ride a sidewalk if you feel safer, ride in the road if you feel you can trust the person behind you to do the right thing. Every day driving truck, I will encounter 5-10 idiots who do not need to be behind a wheel or a bicyclist .

  162. Brad says:

    This is why I am embarrassed to tell people I’m a cyclist. Cyclists are such arrogant assholes! We do NOT ride street-legal vehicles! If we did, they’d have license plates. Get over yourself and move over!

  163. john says:

    The problem with moving over is that it would greatly increases the chance that we get killed!

    And if we get killed, we wont get to cycle on all those roads our taxes (yes, sales tax and gas tax) helped pay for.

  164. peteathome says:

    I can’t tell if Brad is being sarcastic or not.

    Bicycles, of course, ARE street legal vehicles in pretty much every state of the union. Most states do require that the bike have a front headlight and a rear reflector to be legal for night riding, and some states require a bell. Most states require brakes that can stop the bike in a certain distance and that the bike be in good mechanical repair and some even require that it have a seat/saddle ( I kid you not on that last one!).

    But,in general, bicycles are street legal right out of their box.

    The reason cars have license plates is that it is felt in every state of the union that the operation of a high-power, multi-1000 pound vehicle is enough of a danger to others that its use needs to be restricted and regulated. The plate shows the dangerous vehicle is registered and helps track it if it does something illegal.

    Also, cars occupy enough space on the roads and do enough damage to their surfaces that they are directly taxed for some road types – mostly state highways and interstates. Local roads are generally paid for out of the general funds and do not receive any automobile tax revenue.

    Bicycles are generally felt to not poise enough danger to the public to go through a licensing process. Although various communities DO try this from time to time.

    Bicyclists generally do NOT pay special road-use taxes as they mostly use the local roads ( which are paid for out of general funds) and also occupy much less real estate on the roads than automobiles and do no damage to the road surface. It would not be worth the effort to collect the minute amount they would owe for the limited bicycle state highway use.

  165. Brad says:

    That’s a ridiculous argument. The primary purpose of roads is for licensed drivers to operate motorized vehicles. That’s what are taxes pay for. The fact that you can pedal your bike around on them is a bonus. Keep “claiming the lane” and we’ll all end up paying in the form of registration fees, insurance premiums and other insane licensing requirements. All because of arrogant fellows like yourself who can’t just do the sensible thing and move over! You are an accident waiting to happen, but of course, YOU won’t get hurt. It will be the innocent kid on the sidewalk hit by the car that had to swerve to miss you.

  166. tmana says:

    A lot of “street legal” depends on the jurisdiction. According to New Jersey law, a bicycle (definition specifies lowest-height of seat at 25″ or higher, so recumbents and kids’ bikes don’t count) is required to have a white headlamp and red rear lamp each visible from a distance of 500 feet. (Note this is the same distance from which automobile lights are required to be visible.) Near as I can tell, this would require a 4-lumen headlamp, costing about $600 (and being blindingly-bright if turned on when just rolling one’s vehicle out to the street); I have yet to see a bicycle rear lamp (regardless of mounting point) that is nearly as bright as the law requires.

    That said, cycling laws in my jurisdiction are generally not enforced.

  167. peteathome says:

    Lights – The NJ state law is 500 feet away on a dark road.

    I’ve checked the relatively inexpensive lights on my bike. I parked it by the side of the road on a long straight section of road with a lot of ambient street lighting and other visual clutter to see how far away I was visible. I could very easily see it from 1000 feet away, even against other car lights, etc. Probably further, that was the length of the straight piece of road. And frankly, why would you need to be seen from further away – it doesn’t matter if the driver sees you a mile away, what matters is they see you right as they approach you – maybe 1 block of good visibility .

    I have a red led “superflash” on the rear of my bike. The company says it is visible from a mile away. I paid $18 for it.

    The inexpensive “vista lite” tail lights and their even cheaper knockoffs advertise that they are visible from 1/4 mile and can run all winter on just a couple of AAA batteries.

    And most states only require a reflector visible from 500 feet.

    I have a 1 watt LED headlamp ( a rechargeable planet bikelamp with built in NMh batteries) that I paid $40 – it was on sale. When I have it on blink mode I can see reflective signs blinking that are four or more blocks away.

    The headlight is overkill if I only wanted to meet the law. I use it as a primary headlight on dark roads so I can see well and not go over potholes.

    There are numberous inexpensive bicycle headlamps in the $20 range or less that are easily visible 500 feet away. The vistalite “toad” headlight, which runs on batteries and is currently selling for about $8 would do the trick.

  168. Brad says:

    Boy, you can tell Pete is at home!

  169. tmana says:

    I understand about the dark roads: I upgraded from a CatEye EL series to a NiteRider MiniUSB 1-lumen so I could see where I am going. I don’t know about the visibility of the CatEye, but I can see the beam from the MiniUSB straight-on from 100 ft, and when aimed at the road (so I can see potholes, etc.), the corona of the beam probably extends about 40-50 ft. I know I am projecting far enough into the intersection that a car heading down the cross street should be able to see my approach in time to (surprise) stop at the stop sign.

    I’m not convinced my PlanetBike tail light can be seen from more than 50-100 feet.

    I think the 500-foot law is because someone decided “bicycles are cars”, or something like that… but then again, consider the driver going down the main road at 50mph may need that amount of warning to maneuver to “share the road” appropriately.

  170. Chris says:

    @ Brad- In the end your argument about how car driver’s have sole rights to the road is pathetic as well as stupid. Bicycles have always had more rights to use the roadways. Bicycles came out well before cars were invented. Roadways are not and will never been designed for automobiles, which is the number one reason why roads are the way they are now. If you cant grasp the fact that bicycles are just as more vehicles than cars..then maybe you should put up the cars and perhaps ride a bike!

  171. plh says:

    @Chris: Dead right!

  172. Steve says:

    Surely, Brad, you are not that ignorant to think that the taxes bicyclists pay do not go towards roads. Please do some homework before trying to imply bicyclists do not pay for the roads they ride on before trying to argue your false claim. The whole reason for a bicyclist to claim the lane is that it is SAFER not that they have the legal right to……which they do. The reason a vehicle would swerve around a bicyclist is precisely the reason for them to claim the lane. Thank you for supporting this point. The reason bicyclists claim the lane is so vehicles will see them and make a conscious effort to pass safely, nothing more. If bicyclists are arrogant because they want to stay alive then so be it; Just don’t pretend to worry about who pays for the roads we travel or sidewalks “you” drive.

  173. biztyke says:

    Chris: i see where you are coming from, but you are stretching things just a little aren’t ya? roads were originally designed for horse and buggy, which existed long before bicycles did. when bikes came along the roads could accommodate them equally simply because they traveled about as fast as horse and buggy.

    i agree that bicycles have always had equal rights to use the road, and in most areas of north america are considered a vehicle. but to say that roads “are not and will never been designed for automobiles” is ludicrous. today, roadways are primarily designed to carry motor vehicle traffic….everything about them is, from planning to engineering, to construction, to use and law enforcement.

    brad: i can see your point, and i too detect a lot of elitism in cycling. i hardly ever claim the lane simply because the routes i ride are more that safe enough to ride the shoulder(also, i never see other cyclists claiming the lane around here either). that said, in some situations it might be the sensible thing to do. if i was cycling in a dense metropolitan core, i could see it. and you are wrong about one thing, bikes are in fact street legal vehicles in most places…….despite what some drivers might tell you.

  174. peteathome says:

    Amish horse and buddies on the state highways and farm roads in my area are still a common sight.

    The point is – roads are for ALL users to get from point A to B. Even if changes have been made to accommodate higher speed traffic since they were first built.

    Special facilities are often in place for pedestrians – sidewalks, etc. and a few roads HAVE been designed only for high-speed motorized traffic – mostly the interstates and even there bicycles are usually allowed when there is no other route.

  175. Asher says:

    Late to the party again — oh, well 🙂

    “That’s what are taxes pay for. The fact that you can pedal your bike around on them is a bonus.”

    Hm. I suspect most bike commuters pay taxes, too, and since we add less wear-and-tear on the roads, we’re basically subsidizing drivers.

    Not to say this gives us the right to be jerks — but most of us, as far as I’ve seen, try not to.

    Not all riders who ‘claim the lane’ are arrogant jerks. I make a point of getting out of the way if I’m sharing the only lane going in a given direction with cars — after all, if I want them to ‘play nice,’ I have to, as well.

    However, you had better believe that if there are two or three empty lanes to the left, I don’t feel obligated in the least.

  176. Anonymous Coward says:

    Without getting bogged down in the debate, I would add that while occupying the lane is often the safest choice don’t subordinate your common sense to that notion and refuse to make exceptions when warranted! The bare reality is that locations do exist where it will cause trouble. Where I live, because of local mores, blocking the lane on the main arteries would result in virtually uninterrupted conflict with cars–honking, shouting, close passing, etc. Even a confident cyclist would get rattled, making him or her unsafe. It’s not that all those drivers are cretins, it’s that these are high-volume roads connecting suburbs where drivers travel longer distances and customarily maintain speeds of 40-50mph. Most of them will have never seen a cyclist using the lane and will take your presence as completely alien, having no clue how to react appropriately.

    Moreover, the law doesn’t always support occupying the lane. In Arizona, the applicable statute requires cyclists to ride as far to the right of the lane as possible. There is some room for interpretation so I consider a door zone or unsuitable lane conditions as exceptions and take the lane. The point, however, is be aware of local laws before blindly following any advice. It may be bad law, but it won’t support you if you run into trouble whilst violating it.

    To be clear, I’m not advocating riding on sidewalks or in gutters! I’m saying make smart choices about your route to avoid those high risk roads in the first place. Google (or Bing) maps is your friend! By contrast to the main artery scenario above, I ride an almost parallel network of smaller streets where I have plenty of access to a suitable portion of the lane without impeding traffic and risking driver misunderstanding and frustration. I coexist with cars and rarely get even a dirty look.

  177. Bikinbob says:

    I commute to work by bike. I would rather be alive and injury free than right. I’ve had too many friends injured “claiming” their right to the road. Plus bikers shouldn’t have the same rights to the rode as autos they don’t need to be licensed or pay registration and many roads do have minimum speeds. Common sense has to prevail. I live where there are hilly winding rodes even the safest driver can be caught off guard coming around a blind corner and seeing a bike. Claim the rode when safe, if in doubt be safe even if it means walking your bike. Live to ride another day.

  178. Justin says:

    Late to the party as well. But I agree that I’d rather be safe and alive than justified in my actions and dead or injured.

    I do take the road on occasion but only for a very short period and only if absolutely required for safety purposes. I do so when the lane narrows to the point where if I didn’t take the lane it might cause a driver to think they can squeeze past and in so doing would cause them to hit me or another driver in oncoming traffic.

    Once the lane opens back up I immediately get back over.

    I try to never ride on sidewalks. Drivers just don’t pay attention to high speed traffic coming from the sidewalk side when pulling out. However, if it becomes unsafe on the road I have occasionally jumped on the sidewalk for a short bit. I treat it like taking the lane though and try to find the first and best opportunity to get back to my little corner of the road.

    We each have our own methods. Whatever it is, be safe for yourself and for the other drivers and bikers.

  179. Anonymous says:

    I would never argue with someone who says biking in a certain way makes they more comfortable. But BikinBob says many incorrectthings.

    BikinBob:
    “I’ve had too many friends injured “claiming” their right to the road.”

    I think you misunderstand the reason for “taking the lane”. It’s not to “claim” a right to the road, it’s to prevent getting clipped by a car trying to pass in a too narrow lane. It’s to protect the bicyclist. I doubt you’ve had “too many friends” getting injuried in this fashion, assuming they merge into the lane in a safe manner.

    BikingBob: “Plus bikers shouldn’t have the same rights to the rode as autos they don’t need to be licensed or pay registration and many roads do have minimum speeds. Common sense has to prevail.”

    Bicycles don’t need licensing as they are not perceived to be as dangerous as a multi-ton vehicle capable of going 100 mph. Licensing is about showing you know how to operate a dangerous vehicle.
    Obviously, bicycles are generally not allowed on minimum speed roads such as interstates. As to registration fees, I’ll let someone else explain why that would be relatively pointless.

    BikingBob: “I live where there are hilly winding rodes even the safest driver can be caught off guard coming around a blind corner and seeing a bike.”

    Even “the safest driver” is overdriving their sight lines? I really doubt it. A safe driver keeps their speed down to the point that they could stop if an obstruction appears around a curve. Just like they don’t overdrive their headlights at night. You never know if there might be a tree branch or stopped car in the lane. You have to be an idiot to drive this way.

    Now I’m not saying that there aren’t a few unsafe drivers out there. But I think you are projecting the way you drive on other drivers.

    As to getting hit by a driver overdriving their sight line on a winding road – if the lane is too narrow for a car to safely pass you on your bike when you are riding near the edge AND it is too dangerous to take the lane because drivers are driving around the curb without being able to see you to stop in time, then I would avoid that road if at all possible.

    Anyway, a whole lot of fuzzy thinking in your statements.

  180. JimK says:

    I’m a newb to this site, but I have to say I find Chris and Brad amusing. If only God were as full of mercy as they are of … you know.

    Taking control of a lane is a great way to win friends in traffic, but often there’s no safe way to stay close to the curb. I commute year round in Toronto, and to get from home to work pretty well demands that I travel on arterials. Now, in rush hour (oxymoron) people are in a near constant state of anger and will often pass REALLY close in their zeal to get home in time for Wheel of Fortune etc. I can deal with most road debris and potholes, but somebody coming within 6 inches of my bars is a bit hairy, so if I judge the traffic conditions to justify it, I’ll take the whole lane to prevent drivers from doing something dangerous like clipping me as they shoot forward to get around a streetcar. When I do, I try to go around 20 mph to keep things moving – that’s the easiest way to keep drivers sane.

    And by the way, dudes, I have every bit as much right as a car driver to be on ANY street, ANYWHERE, and when I’m riding on the side, it’s not a case of drivers sharing the road with me, but the other way around.

  181. Anonymous says:

    @ plh- You injure or kill me with your 4,000 pound vehicle, it’s all over for you my friend.

  182. plh says:

    @ Anonymous- What I mean is that for all Chris’s bluster about having more right to the road than a car, if the car hits him while he is asserting the rights he claims then he is dead right!
    I commute by bike rain or shine and go out for many long OTR rides on the weekends. My style is defensive. I always drive defensively as ride defensively. I look out for bikes etc. while driving & look out for cars when biking. When I ride at night I look like a Christmas tree. There are limited circumstances when I take the lane which I will not enumerate here, but generally I keep to the right.

  183. RobO says:

    @ Anonymous- Really??

    Yeah, but your dead. A few years of prison versus a few years of dead….

    Reading through this chain, I largely see two main camps: Those with common sense and those that think justice will some day become common sense.

  184. chris says:

    @ anonymous- You can threaten me all you like with your 2 ton vehicle. I don’t really care, I have every right to use the road. I will continue to do so. I am allowed to, by law. I am even allowed to take the entire lane, again, by law. Laws keep people safe and if you were a responsible adult you would share the road with other people and not threaten them with your multi ton vehicle like a pathetic low life as you seem to be!

  185. chris says:

    @ plh- It’s a common misconception to ride far to the right. Doing so put’s you in poor sight lines of driver’s and they generally are not looking for other vehicles in that direction. By riding center your at peak visibility and get treated like a vehicle. Plus driver’s will often try to squeeze past when other vehicles in the next lane are also trying to pass! That puts me in danger of being hit, plus getting cut off by right turning vehicles. Ride to the Right if you so chose to, but I ride in the center of the lanes, for my safety, and to be seen.

  186. Marcus says:

    As someone who has been hit by a car I can no longer justify the risk. To ride on the road as a cyclist you are screwed either way (to the right or taking the lane)! I would love to be able to commute to work by cycling but I have a 2yr old and wife that I can not imagine taking the risk of something happing again and not being there for them.

    Yes I’m bitter about the fact that I can’t do something that I love because people driving cars refuse to allow me the right to ride my bike to work safely.

    But I’m even more saddend for the mother of one of my youth from church that lost her daughter 2 weeks ago because a driver was not paying attention while she and her friends where crossing a road and the driver hit had killed this her.

    I think cyclist and pedesrtian need safe alternatives not matter what the cost is.

    It dose not matter how busy or fast the traffic is on the road all roads are unsafe for cyclist. We need safer options.

  187. chris says:

    @ Marcus- Sorry to hear about the family death and the fact that you got hit. I am a bicycle commuter. I have been hit and seriously hurt by a few driver’s over the past 4 or 5 years. IT makes me pay more attention but it does not stop me from riding the way I do. You just gotta be on your guard more often, and have total situational awareness of what’s around you, and being able to predict driver’s moves and reacting to them. I have 15 years of experience in traffic, so I know what to expect from most driver’s where I live(OH). Just be more aware of what’s around you, and have a safe ride.

  188. Matt says:

    I like the idea of taking the lane. However, I have not commuted to work over the past 10 years because the area that I must commute through is heavily commercial moving shipments to and from the port of Los Angeles. Most of the traffic is 18 wheelers, moving trucks and buses. With all of my lights and yellow and everything else, I’ve still almost been eaten up more times than I’d like to count. I was in my lbs and everybody in there told me I was crazy for trying to take that lane. It really made me feel good to hear and moved to the sidewalk for the mid 3-4 miles of my 11 mile commute. But there are no pedestrians, no poles, no side traffic. Just miles of straight, very wide, sidewalk. When you gotta, you gotta.

  189. plh says:

    I don’t take the lane just to do it but I noticed some of the same things you do. I go through a busy light & get in the right hand turn lane as I approach it I go straight across, then wait for the light to change so that I can complete what is in fact a left turn. That way the people making right turns in the heat of their desperate morning commute don’t cut me off. Were I a purist I would get into the left lane & make the left with the traffic. I tried that once but it gave me the willies.
    I also use sidewalks. In Rhode Island as well as in Massachusetts, sidewalk travel by bicycles is legal, provided you yield to pedestrians.

  190. John says:

    I just purchased a new bike and began commuting to work because the bus service in the Twin Cities Metro is a joke unless you live in Minneapolis, or St. Paul. I do not and I cannot drive for health reasons, I decided to stop waiting for transit to come to me and bought a bike. After a little over a week of trying to use the right side of the rode in the suburb I live in I began taking the lane and have notice cars give me a much wider berth and several of the stoplights along my route get triggered by my bike when I’m headed home at 1am.

  191. Kneeil says:

    I have been a bike rider for many years, and fortunatly we do have a bike lane in my area. However, I continue to see many bikers using the bike lane, but riding on the line that designates the bike lane to the far left. I wonder how they would feel if I drove on the line designating the bike lane…..

  192. Old Guy Commuting says:

    Very Well Said, Anonymous Coward!

    Where I live (Northern California), I’m fortunate to have a route to work that has bike lanes along most of my route, so this isn’t a big issue for me personally as a biker.

    However….

    Many of the country roads near where I live have no bike lanes and minimal shoulders. When driving those roads, I totally understand when I see a biker “claim” the road when necessary, as it really is a safety issue.

    Where I get frustrated with my fellow biker is when they “claim” the road unnecessarily, or do not make reasonable efforts to allow traffic to pass when it is safe and they are traveling considerably slower than the motorized vehicles with whom they are sharing the road. Those are the guys who give the rest of us a bad name, so if you are that guy (girl), then take a hard look in the mirror.

    Regarding the law (or lack thereof), anyone who hangs their hats on traffic laws to keep themselves safe is a myopic fool. Yes, if everyone followed the traffic laws the world would be a safer place, but let he who who has never exceeded the speed limit issue the first citation. Don’t count on people being good drivers, friends.

    Finally, anyone who “claims” the road as their own for any reason other than safety, whether their vehicle is motorized or not, is an entitled moron. But they’re out there (in here?), so it’s best to learn to coexist with them.

    Common sense.

  193. Ok you think we’re nuts! But did you stop to realize that bicycles are not a toy, but are indeed considered a vehicle. We can receive traffic tickets for not obeying the traffic laws just like motorists. Therefore, we have the right to travel on the road just as motorists do!

  194. Alex says:

    Bicycles do not belong on the road! Not unless they’re capable of going the speed limit. Going 35 under a speed limit is NOT safe, ever. Keep riding to parks and trails.

  195. Charles says:

    Alex is a prime example of ignorance. Recently my vehicle had to be sent to the shop because of an idiot motorist hitting a deer and leaving it in the middle of the road while he and some other idiot exchanged insurance information. With a car in the oncoming lane i had no choice but to go right over the dead deer, its antlers puncturing my gas tank. I am forced to commute to my University because I refuse to pay 30$ a day to rent a car for the 2 weeks that it will take for them to order my part from Germany and then install it. In any case, even in the small town that I live in, motorists are completely ignorant and oblivious, as one motorist even stopped to tell me to “ride on the sidewalk” to which i replied “that’s illegal, idiot (toned down for the sake of kindness to others).” Do you have any basis for saying that going under the speed limit is not safe, or is it because you are in a rush wherever you go that you *think* going under the speed limit is not safe? I think you sir/madam are the unsafe driver. Your insurance should drop you. I suggest that anyone who dares to use their vehicle to scare a bicyclist think twice, as some of us bicyclists carry firearms. Your car is considered a deadly weapon, use it in the wrong way and by law you suffer repercussions.

  196. i never even considered taking the lane. I commute along a pretty busy road and there is no alternative. Going to give this a try.

    I’ll report with how much yelling is directed at me.

  197. sarah Rohr says:

    I have to ride partially on a VERY busy 4 lane highway where semi’s go down going 50 some mph as well as cars. There is NO way I’m taking my bike going 5 mph down the middle of the lane (the one obviously closest to the side of the road). I ride on the side of the road farthest from the edge of said lane -far far far away from the road as possible. I have NEVER EVER seen a biker (not motercycle – bicyclist) IN the road itself even on mildly used roads! They stay on the side of the road where we belong for safety.

    Riding in the lane like that is absolute suicide.

  198. sarah Rohr says:

    …. not on a super busy 4 lane highway, you’re not going to be doing this! The author of this article obviously means small 2 lane roads where minimal traffic is.

    If not, he is implying we bicyclists can go down a toll road in the lane as well. pft. suicide.

  199. Daniel says:

    I think this article (and website) is great. Most of my riding is done on 35 – 45 mph roads which is 4 lanes wide. I often ‘explain’ to drivers how riding on the road is the only way of travelling legally. They generally think that I am just saying that to justify my ‘illegal/unsafe actions’. I often refer them to the local PD and/or driver’s handbook for clarification. Locally, many drivers (especially those of SUVs and trucks) cannot properly maneuver their vehicles into parking spaces, let alone around a cyclist. Thus, my riding in the center of the lane forces (yes, I said ‘forces’ because I don’t mind being demanding if it saves my own or daughter’s life) them to take the other lane or wait for a passing zone. Which reminds me– everytime a driver crosses a double yellow line to pass a cyclist (or any vehicle), to think that the vehicle they have passed is driving illegally slow is wrong. In fact, the passer broke the law, not the slower moving passee.

    Alex, I assume you are referring to the posted speed limit. This limit is the MAXIMUM speed limit. To say that all vehicles should be able to travel at this speed is a joke, as this implies that vehicles should be travelling at this speed or more; the latter is illegal for anyone without proper authority (ie: emergency vehicles during an emergency only). Some roads post minimum limits as well. If there is a minimum limit posted that I am not able to maintain, I will not ride there as it is illegal and unsafe. On the majority of commute routes, there is no posted minimum limit, meaning that its perfectly legal to travel at 5 mph (or less). Do you also think the postal clerk, elderly, or young drivers should travel at the maximum speed limit? You should rethink your driving habits and/or beliefs, because frankly your wrong.

    sara Rohr, 5mph downhill is a terrible example to use as a reason we shouldn’t ride on roads. I’m pretty sure I can do at least 10mph on my daughters 12″ single speed bike by coasting. This is a rediculous example. Not to mention most commuters steer clear of “highways”.

    Thanks, as always.

  200. sara says:

    I’ve inched towards taking the lane over the last two years, and found it much easier to ride. This last week I started riding with my 4 1/2 y.o on an attached trail-a-bike, and I ALWAYS take the full lane when she is riding on the back. Why, becasue it greatly increases our visablility – especially hers, and drivers are much more careful and respectful of us when they see I’ve riding with her. We ride slowly, defensively, pull to the side and stop to allow cars to pass, and I politly ask – with gestures and words – for the right of way when I know we need to make a move or miss a light. So far, so good. But, yeah, riding with the most precious thing in the world singing and laughing behind me through morning traffic is a bit nerve-rattling.

  201. Steven Whitfield says:

    Once I started claiming my lane I felt much safer. The fact is in my state the law states for cyclist to ride as far to the right as practicable, not as far to the right as possible. My daily experience has taught me that if I ride as far to the right as possible, I will be buzzed far too close by motorist; therefore, my solution is to follow the law and ride as far to the right as practicable instead. That meant the motorist is forced to at least partially leave their lane to pass me. This ends the buzzing me too close problem. On occasion I’ll get yelled at by a motorist telling me to break the law by riding on the sidewalk, but most often I simply get passed safely.
    Please cyclist, stay off the side walk and properly “claim your lane.” You will be safer for it.

  202. Cheryl says:

    I don’t agree with Alex. We need more bicycles and less cars on the road. Where I live there are a lot of 2 lane pretty roads and a lot of bicycle riders. Cars have learned to be patient when passing cyclists and for the most part are very cyclist friendly. This is the way it should be. I even commute 20+ miles to work each way when the weather is nice.

  203. A safe driver says:

    For you cyclists that think you have the right to be a rolling roadblock, this is straight out of the State of Maine’s law book.
    ———
    2. Riding to the right. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time and place shall drive on the right portion of the way as far as practicable except when it is unsafe to do so or:
    A. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or other vehicle proceeding in the same direction; [2007, c. 400,.§3 (NEW).]
    B. When preparing for or making a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway; [2007, c. 400,.§3 (NEW).]
    C. When proceeding straight in a place where right turns are permitted; and [2007, c. 400,.§3 (NEW).]
    D. When necessary to avoid hazardous conditions, including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, broken pavement, glass, sand, puddles, ice, surface hazards or opening doors from parallel-parked vehicles, or a lane of substandard width that makes it unsafe to continue along the right portion of the way. For purposes of this paragraph, “lane of substandard width” means a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side in the lane.
    ———

    Section “D” will tell you that, indeed, you need not let motor traffic pass if the lane is too narrow, but most lanes are not. You just go ahead and “claim your lane” on a 2-lane country road, and see what happens when a loaded semi truck comes up behind you over a blind hill or corner. You had better be ready to bail into the ditch, because that truck sure as heck can’t just slow down from 45 to 10 mph in 100 feet because you decided to “claim your lane”.

  204. Raj says:

    Alex is correct. I’ve been a bicycle commuter for 6 years, rain or shine, and came to the same conclusions. Early on in my commuting experience, I also rode near the edge of the road and had trucks come so close as to scrape by my handlebars. Motorized vehicles do not tend to move over as they pass you, and it is no fun feeling as if your bike might be dragged by the wind under the wheels of an 18-wheeler while you creep along the side of the road. Once I even had a little old lady drag me (and my bike) along, because she did not see me riding at the side of the road (she was really sorry when she realized that). Over time, I observed that I am safest right in the center of the lane (that is as close to the right as is practical for me, according to the law). Cars and trucks simply have to go around me, and that increases the drivers situational awareness. My ride takes me along four-lane roads, and I have to change lanes like any other vehicle to make left turns from those roads. All in all, I am better off if cars see me behaving like another car. I’m better off being in front of an 18 wheeler rather than being buffeted by winds, at its side. I don’t get many comments when I make a left turn off a four lane road, as one vehicle in a line of cars and then proceed to continue taking a lane. As for those who don’t think that a bicycle can be speedy, I may be somewhat slower than a car on a city street (not by much), but I can sure catch up with a car from one stop light to the next. For all of you commuters out there, you are safer if you are braver and aware of every thing around you.

  205. I love Charles’ reply to Alex! You make a wonderful point. I actually commute every day to work and have only had one incident with a motorists acting like a jerk towards me. After I proceeded to inform of my right to ride my bike on the road, he proceeded to cuss me and call me stupid. I informed him that he was in fact the stupid one because he didn’t know the laws and rights for cyclists. Motorists need to educate themselves about the laws that are in effect to protect cyclists right to ride their bikes. It is against the law to honk at, harrass, cuss at, and/or throw things at cyclists. There is also a 3 feet law in most states that states that motorists must be 3 feet away from a cyclist while passing. We as cyclists also have a responsibilty to follow all traffic laws. If we can learn to share the road, our relations could greatly improve!

  206. Dano says:

    I am a fairly new commuter and am still trying to decide where to be riding. I have 3 stages of my ride.
    1. 1 mile, 25-40mph roads, no problem being on the road.
    2. 1 mile, A rail Trail (I am really lucky I know and this is an obvious choice)
    3. This is the one I am having troubles with it a 3 mile stretch of 4 lane 55mph (this means at least 60mph in Michigan) complete with curbs (I will refer to it as 52nd street). It is pretty rural and I do have a sidewalk along the entire stretch. The side walk crosses 2 major roads, 3 minor and about 2 dozen driveways. I also ride in the morning at 6:00 before any of the rushes if that makes a difference.

    Maybe I just need a “go get um’ tiger” speech but I am leaning towards the side walk. Here is the deal. When I “take a lane” drivers still buzz me (3 of 3 times so far and they are often doing things that would certainly get them pulled over, riding half in the other lane pushing the car in that lane over). When I ride the sidewalk I “feel safer but have a lower percentage of close calls, not to mention the close calls. I can’t get over the thought that “If I make no mistake I could be hit from behind at 60mph if I am on the road claiming a lane,” then think “I can ride defensively and ensure that I am not in the road at the time others are if I take to the side walks, not to mention that if I am hit it will only be at a max 30mph.” Its worth it to point out that Force = mass x velocity^2 this means that for every few mph faster a car is going they are hitting me with exponentially greater force.
    2500lbs x 40mph^2= 4 million force units
    2500lbs x 60mph^2= 9 million fore units
    That more then twice the whacking power between stage 1 and 3.

    These are all the factors and I want to make a good decision.

    BTW while studying the laws in my area it is permissible for me to ride on the sidewalks because I am out of the business zone and are in the industrial zone.

    If anyone has advise please offer

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      Dano: This is only a partial answer to your question. Get a rear-view mirror. I have one that mounts to my helmet, and I always feel safer when I wear it. I can see what’s coming up behind me without having to turn completely away from looking where I’m going.

  207. chuck says:

    something not mentioned here is that claiming the lane will minimize the chance of being “doored” by an unaware parked driver, something I’ve had happen twice.

    some advice for dano…

    look real hard to see if there’s another way. a longer ride on a safer stret is worth it

  208. Ron says:

    Here is the extract for California DMV site:

    1 – When to Take the Traffic Lane

    If there is no shoulder or bicycle lane and the traffic lane is narrow, ride closer to the center of the lane. This will prevent motorists from passing you when there is not enough room. You should also use the traffic lane when you are traveling at the same speed as the traffic around you. This will keep you out of motorists’ blind spots and reduce conflicts with right-turning traffic.

    2 – How Far to the Right?

    Ride on the right, but not so far that you might hit the curb. You could lose your balance and fall into traffic. Do not ride too far to the right:

    When avoiding parked vehicles or road hazards.
    When a traffic lane is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side.
    When making a left turn so that vehicles going straight do not collide into you.
    To avoid conflicts with right-turning vehicles.

  209. Ronnie says:

    I used to live in Lynchburg and miss it. I now live in Vegas.

    The law protects us, but the laws don’t have the power to resurrect us after being run over. I have seen bicyclist on the side of the road being placed on a stretcher. Not a motivational site.

    I usually stick to the side streets, but I am lucky enough to live in a city with bike lanes and paved bike only routes.

  210. Hello Ther says:

    “A bicyclist who is not traveling at the same speed of other traffic must ride in a designated bike lane (see Bike Lane Law Explained) or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. A bicyclist may leave the right-most portion of the road in the following situations: when passing, making a left turn, to avoid road hazards, or when a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and a car to share safely. (see Roadway Position Explained)”

    from http://floridabicycle.org/rules/bikelaw.html

  211. Alan says:

    Most of my ride is at rush hour on a busy four lane 50km-limit city street with a wide right lane. I use my mirror, spend a lot of time looking around and ride as close to the curb a “practicable.” I don’t think it is in my interest to block traffic. For the most part, cars make an effort to accommodate me and I reciprocate.
    It seems to me that this is very much a judgment call dependant on local conditions and specific circumstances.

  212. james says:

    i recently got hit while going on the side walk. some one pulled out before looking both ways. but for some reason i still think riding on the side walk in 40+ mph is safer in my mind. I don’t own a road bike, i don’t have the money. Any way, i think ill try to ride on that road now. I live in a very non bike friendly neighborhood, that’s why its always worried me.

  213. Dean says:

    The reference at http://floridabicycle.org/rules/bikelaw.html also states that their is no legal definition of what is “too narrow” but provides a guide line of 14 ft. (Most roads are 10-12).

    So for most roads, it is completely legal to take the lane as it is considered too narrow to share the lane with a passing vehicle.

    My observation is that most lanes that are 14′ wide will have the bike lane added to it.

  214. Jabba says:

    “Claiming the lane”? You arrogant idiot. You are riding a bicycle, not a car. The roads were designed to carry cars not bikes. It’s people like you that give cyclists a bad name. You are supposed to keep as near to the kerb as possible, and no more than a couple of feet, or just outside a drain. If every cyclist were to adopt your approach then cities around the world would come to a standstill. Don’t get me wrong, I like cycling, but I do it responsibly, with respect for other road users. I do not get on the road and expect everyone to bow to me. Oh and by the way, you should be riding in single file as well – nothing more annoying than 2 or more cyclists riding along having a chat as they go.

  215. Jason says:

    Obviously, once a person becomes more and more familiar with riding their routes, they learn that their position in the road is dependent upon several factors: visibility, traffic, road conditions, weather, and fitness/ability. There’s no one position or one rule that always applies. (And for the random car drivers who’ve obviously never commuted before, you should realize that most cycling commuters have left their house, used the road, and hit the office/gym/coffee-house before you’ve finished brushing your teeth.)

    But for all the crotch-grabbing, chest thumping talk about “the law”, no one’s bothered to mention the universal principle of human decency.

    Fact: Most cyclists don’t want to be an annoyance or block traffic, they will move as safely to the right as possible to allow motorists more room to pass.

    Fact: Most motorists don’t want to face the consequences of hitting a pedestrian or cyclist in the road (because your law, lets face it, isn’t going to overrule the stupidity of driving like a jag-off) and will provide as much room as safely possible when they pass.

    Fact: Some people are sub-human dillweeds that will be jerks regardless of how many wheels they’re rolling along on. And you’ll have to deal with them occasionally no matter what precautions you take. Deal with it.

    So the real key to commuting, by bicycle or car, is to be considerate. Realize that everyone has some place they’d like to get to as quickly, safely, and incident-free as possible, and do your best to help them achieve that goal. The more people who start acting like reasonable, compassionate human beings, the more all of us will enjoy using our roadways.

  216. curt says:

    – nothing more annoying than 2 or more cyclists riding along having a chat as they go.
    some states the law allows that..

  217. Jess says:

    What if you are too slow to ride on the road? I’m relatively new to cycling (biked on and off for fun) and only ride at a speed of about 9-10 miles per hour. If I’m going up a hill, I come to a crawl in the lowest gear on my bike. Basically, I’m not in great shape. I don’t want to get off my bike and walk up the hill because I want to get the hills mastered, but I’m too slow to be on the road. And 10 miles per hour on flat terrain is too slow to be on the road as well.

    What am I supposed to do?

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      What are you supposed to do? Claim the lane, that’s what.

      Just because you’re going 10 MPH does not mean that you don’t have a right to use the lane. Nor does it mean that it is not safer to do so. “Too slow to ride on the road” is in your head.

      I find that having a helmet-mounted rear-view mirror adds to my confidence and safety. I can monitor if a motorist is coming fast behind me — and perhaps not going to respect my right to be on the road — and I can respond defensively.

      Make sure you are dressed visibly — and use bike tail lights at night. Talk to some other cyclists in your area about specific roads, and strategies.

  218. Keithmj says:

    Taking the lane is the safest thing to do. And it is CURB, not KERB. A substandard lane is anything less than 14 feet wide, so you are allowed to take the full lane, drivers can go around if they don’t want to stay behind you. More riders are hit riding far to the right and on the sidewalk. An idiot would be a bike taking the lane at night with no lights on the bike or riding a bike on the sidewalk at night with no lights.

  219. JonO says:

    After reading this post, I tried to claim the lane on my commute this morning. Long story short, I nearly got ran over by 800 speeding cars and one of them even buzzed the tower on purpose. The whole experience scared the hell out of me! Someone needs to develop a smoke screen or oil slick for bikes similar to that old video game ‘Spy Hunter’. That’ll teach those drivers!

  220. Tigerface says:

    I am considering doing a 15.7 mile commute to college on a motorized cruiser. Seven miles of this will take me on a busy five lane road that technically is limited to fifty miles an hour but really ends up being about sixty miles an hour. This concerns my dad, but I guess the rationale on this site is that it would be perfectly fine? Looks like you guys are going even more hardcore and are still alive!

    (Yes, sticking a $185 engine kit on my bike is cheating, but then I can hit 20, 30, 35 mph. I figure it would be little different than riding a motorcycle. I’d be just as exposed and just a little slower.)

  221. Gavin says:

    Well, it’s curb in America and kerb elsewhere.

    Smart-ass.

  222. snuzzled says:

    Whenever anyone honks at me for claiming the lane, I like to pretend they’re honking because they think my bike is really cool and want to let me know.

    A car that has honked at you is a car that has seen you– and that’s what matters.

  223. Bill says:

    The author needs to provide more information about what kinds of roads / streets he is riding on when taking the lane. The author is looking at this as if everyone rides an urban commute, which isn’t accurate. If I took the lane on much of my commute I’d be putting myself in greater danger than not. Most of my commute is on a 2 lane, 55 mph road with blind curves, rolling hills, and a very good, wide (4 to 8 feet), and generally clean shoulder for most of that distance. It would be suicide to consistently take the lange there, not to mention inconsiderate and needless. Telling some newb to always take the lane is irresponsible. Take the lane when it’s appropriate — i.e. – when taking the lane is safer than not taking the lane.

  224. Rose says:

    Actually, this IS illegal in many states. There are laws regarding minimum speed even when it’s not posted on the roads: you are not allowed to go so slowly it impedes traffic.

    If you’re going 15 mph and the limit is 40, you are breaking the law. In my town, you WILL get a ticket for it. The advice in this article is irresponsible, it is advising people to do something illegal and unsafe.

  225. Art says:

    What bizarre and ill-advised advice. “Share the Road” means cyclists are to share the road also. Don’t ever lose site of the fact that roads were built for automobiles, buses, trucks, etc. If you want to “claim the lane” then stay on the bike trail or keep up with the posted speed limit. If you want to ride with the big kids then keep to the right and show some courtesy.

  226. Art says:

    Don’t take stupid advice…keep as far to the right as possible and let faster traffic pass. If you don’t, eventually you’ll be a statistic with a bike lane named in your honor.

  227. Bobby says:

    I agree completely. I ride in Johnson City, TN to and from work and school. Even though it is a college town with lots of bikes, a lot of the roads I travel have no bike lanes. I claim the lane and try to remain civil, even though I get a lot of honks and rude gestures thrown my way.

  228. disabled 100% cyclist says:

    Minnesota you are required to hug the right curb, unless your turning left or swerving to miss objects like parked cars..

    This is one of the big reasons I ride on sidewalks with my bad hearing.

    I have noted in my earlier years drivers got really pissed off when you hog the whole lane, even in slow moving downtown traffic.

    to me a pissed off driver is far worse than a distracted driver. Road rage and 2000lb weapon is enough said.

    Also some areas claiming the lane is illegal when going straight.

    see this is MN Subd. 4.Riding on roadway or shoulder.

    (a) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

    (1) when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction;

    (2) when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;

    (3) when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions, including fixed or moving objects, vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or narrow width lanes, that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge.

    (b) If a bicycle is traveling on a shoulder of a roadway, the bicycle shall travel in the same direction as adjacent vehicular traffic.

    (c) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway or shoulder shall not ride more than two abreast and shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane.

    As you can see your breaking the law to claim the lane when going straight in certain circumstances.

  229. Brian says:

    I’ve NEVER seen a lane that can handle the smallest car and a bike safely.

    Just because we survive it doesn’t mean it is safe.

    In a court of law you would have no problem making the case that it wasn’t safe to share the lane with 2000 lb block of steel passing you.

  230. Brian says:

    Vehicles are generally required to pull over when there is a backup of 5 or more behind them, Bikes should be no different there. We must obey the law we are protected by.

    Bike lanes are a curse. They fill up with debris and put us square in the ‘door’ zone.

    Pull into the lane to avoid someone dooring you and your just as dead.

  231. Tom says:

    Claiming the lane is great depending on the road being ridden. If someone is trying to get a morning exercise on a busy rush hour commute road, taking the entire lane will definitely result in catastrophe. Take the lane but choose WHEN to take it. Being an inconsiderate moron isn’t forgivable just because the person is on a bicycle. bicycle or not, common courtesy is common courtesy.

  232. Chief Redelk says:

    I am 65 years old and I ride almost daily. Sometimes up to 20 + miles.. Here in Minden Louisiana NO ONE has put up signs telling our drivers a bicycle has a right to the road. Our roads are NARROW with no shoulders in most places..I get buzzed all the time. I get yelled at all the time..I do take up my land SOMETIMES and YES I feel it’s the best way to ride most of the time. BUT IF I move over for one car the one behind it will almost hit me most of the time. Our Governor Bobby Jindal SHOULD do something to fix this. Our Webster Parish leaders SHOULD post Signs that is the LAW.. BUT, I do not see any..What can we DO TO get help.. as far as I KNOW I am the ONLY man who shops on his bike. My ride to Wallyworld and back home is about 16 or 18 miles. Depends which stores I visit in town. North Louisiana is HOSTILE to cyclist.. We NEED a bike lane leading from each town to the next one..I would like to ride from Dubberly to Arcadia La. on my bike but Highway 80 east is dangerous.. There are NO bike paths and no shoulders in the country and people SPEED and TEXT while driving… This country is behind on this and it’s needed badly. Our president should make each state provide safe bike paths leading from all communities into the local towns and do it NOW..I think IF it were safer MORE people would ride bicycles..Thanks, Chief.

  233. Al says:

    Trucks often need to crawl slowly up hills, too. Some nicer drivers will try to move into the shoulder for it to let lighter vehicles pass, but not all, and not all situations allow for this. Cyclists aren’t alone in needing to slow down for uphill riding.

  234. Michael says:

    This has been eye-opening. I am researching to actually start commuting by bike, and I WAS one of those drivers that is annoyed by cyclist due to the nature of my city and past, though I always steer clear. Now I get it. One step closer.

  235. Matt says:

    Don’t take the lane just to be an ass because all cyclists will pay the price for you.

  236. John says:

    What about Hi visibility vests? I believe they should be compulsory for cyclists. If you take a risk based approach, like in Occupation Health and Safety laws you have to wear to approved standards hi vis vest on a contstruction site or if your working in a repair gang fixing a road. It makes sense that cyclists do the same!

  237. Michael says:

    I live in Trinity County, California and you would be suicidal to claim the lane here. Pedestrians cross the road at their own risk here. Yes, there is some junk and sometimes a dead animal along the side of the road you have to avoid, but it is better than having a logging truck take you out when it comes over the hill and does not have time to slow down.

    This “claim the lane” is good on quiet back roads, but is going to get you killed on major through ways.

    I tend to agree with “A safe driver”
    July 2, 2010 at 4:23 pm

  238. Sandrine says:

    Come down from your entitled planet Jabba.
    Roads are for every vehicle and bicycles are a vehicle, whether you like it or not we have the right to be there.
    Too bad you feel this way because there’s going to be more and more of us.
    Just chill and let us enjoy the ride, you could do it too, enjoy your ride, we don’t ride on highways so when in a city or on other roads just share it.
    Why would it be so hard.

  239. Keithmj says:

    The speed limit is the maximum speed you should go legally, a bicycle going 15 in a 35 is not breaking the law. Unless it is a limited access interstate, which bikes are not allowed on then a bicycle has the right to use the lane at any speed. If more people rode on the road then car drivers will get use to bicycles. If they can go around then you are not impeding traffic. Besides, my life is more important to me than if I am causing a car to go around me or a few seconds in delay. All the bicyclist I have seen that were in a accident were riding on the sidewalks or not taking the lane as they should. And if a semi driver can’t stop for a person on a bike in the lane then the truck driver should not be driving the truck and needs his license revoked, they have to follow laws too and they are not a special class of drivers. There is no reason to hit anything in the road, unless the driver is not paying attention, or the bicycle is not following the law and zips on and off the sidewalk or pulls in front of the vehicle. Why keep making excuses for drivers who should not be driving, if you can’t drive without running over a person or bicycle then stay off the road. Period.

  240. BanjoCam says:

    I have a few questions (spoken as someone who enjoys cycling but drives regularly):

    If you are claiming a lane and come to a red light, with a lineup of say 4 cars in front of you, will you stay claiming the lane and wait fifth in line? I don’t mind if a cycle is claiming the lane but I find it frustrating when I (often stressfully) manage to pass a cyclist only to have them squeeze back in beside me on the right, get to the front of the red light line, and reclaim the lane, forcing me to have to pass again. What’s the rule on this? Also, what does a cycle do when approaching a four way stop, does it count as a car?

    I also find it frustrating when cyclist switch between following pedestrian rules and vehicle rules depending on what’s convenient in the moment. I have lost count of the number of time I have almost been hit as a pedestrian crossing at a green light because a cyclist ignores their red light the other way. I try not to behave this way when I’m cycling.

    Anyway, any info would be greatly appreciated, thanks.

  241. Kody A Busboom says:

    You might want to reread your own post their buckaroo, the wording is quite clear and you clearly did not take the time to fully understand what you are trying to point out

  242. Matt Powers says:

    I absolutely hate people like you.

    When you “claim the lane” what you are actually doing is effectively enforcing a pseudo speed limit at what ever rate you are going. I personally believe that we, as a society, need to start enforcing speed minimums on any road where the maximum is more than 30mph. Slow moving vehicles are very dangerous (thus is why we have speed minimums on the highway.)

    Let’s change the scenario, what if my 90 year old grandmother “claimed” your bike lane and pushed her walker at 2mph down the center of the lane not allowing you to pass. Would this frustrate you? The difference is, my grandmother cares about the rest of society and doesn’t want to slow down the rest of civilization just to “make a statement”.

    Worse yet, what if you were coming around a corner and hit my grandmother from behind? I’m sure there would be a “fantastic” opportunity for lawsuit. This is exactly what I see when people like you are riding in the middle of the road. I don’t see a “statement”. — What I see is someone hoping to be hit by a car to score the great American dream (feverless lawsuit).

    Oh and PS. The top two reasons you gave to ride on the road is to avoid cars. I’m a simple person, but it seems to me that the best way to avoid cars is to ride somewhere that cars generally don’t go!

    I’m curious… If you were writing an article advising people on how to avoid sharks, would you tell them that they need to get out of the ocean? No. You would tell them to swim into deeper waters and “make a statement”.

  243. David Coles says:

    Hi Tim,

    I am fighting a ticket for riding in the middle of a HOV lane designated for use by buses and bicycles. The road has three lanes including the one I am in. I was passing the cars stuck in traffic when I was pulled over and ticketed. I was wondering if you could refer me to any studies regarding safety of cyclists with respect to lane position. I am looking to build my argument over what is practicable or not.

    David

    p.s.
    I am from Canada

  244. lisa says:

    Please ride a bike in traffic for miles. Your comments seem naive and not well thought out. I believe you are angry from cyclists doing things you don’t understand. This would be greatly minimized if you hop on a bike and see why they do it. Sometimes cyclists are in the wrong but the level of your anger is worrisome. If you clip a cyclist even going 20mph, you could permenantly paralyze them. Is damaging some one or even killing them worth the short time you have to slow down for a cyclist?

  245. dirk says:

    If you try this in Florida….you will have the lane quickly claimed from you.

  246. Mark says:

    Interesting point to note that not all bicyclists ride traditional bikes. Riding an electric bike capable of almost 30 mph (though unusual) seems to be less annoying to drivers; there is a substantial difference between going 25-30 in a 40 mph zone while claiming the lane than slowing traffic to 10-15 mph.

    I have found that most motorists in my area simply slow a little, wait patiently and pass in another lane when appropriate. Indeed, as was mentioned, the closer I am to the shoulder on narrow roads, the more likely cars are to pass me in the same lane. If I claim the lane, I do find they pass me at a greater distance. I also, however, yield the lane and take the shoulder when there is enough space in order to reciprocate and allow cars to pass before reclaiming the lane again. Hopefully this will engender positive feelings amongst some drivers.

  247. Dave Sekac says:

    I “take the lane all the time” . I give the one finger salute to cars that must submit to my space. This is my statement

  248. rederic says:

    It’s not everywhere illegal to cross double yellow lines. In Ohio, for one, it’s legal if you are passing a non-motorized vehicle, such as a bike.

  249. Doug says:

    This seems most applicable on two, three or four-lane “urban collector” roads, also called “light-arterial.” 2,000 – 6,000 cars/ day, speed limits of 25 – 35 mph.

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