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Right where he should be

The cyclist in the above picture is riding right where he should be. I'm sure the driver of the dark colored SUV behind him doesn't think so. He probably thinks he should be another 18 inches to the right where the asphalt meets the cement gutter.

If the cyclist was riding there in all probability this driver would pass in the same lane and just about squeeze the cyclist off the road. You can see where the SUV's wheels are in relation to the edge of the asphalt on one side and the white line on the other that there is not enough room to safely pass a cyclist within the lane.

The term is called "taking the lane," which is precisly what this cyclist is doing. Any newcomer to cycling needs to learn this strategy as quickly as possible. Maybe you have decided to commute to work on a bicycle; either for economical reasons or for your health, or both.

Assert your place on the road. You are not cycling in traffic, you are part of traffic and your bicycle is a vehicle like all the other vehicles on the road. Also I should point out, subject to the same rules and laws pertaining to public highways.

You don't have to be an ass to be assertive, but at the same time you should not be expected to compromise your own safety by trying not to inconvenience others.

Returning to the above picture you can see it is only a very slight inconvenience for the passing driver to signal and move over to the other lane as the truck is doing. Let's say traffic is heavy and both lanes are full so the driver behind can't move over. Then he must wait behind the cyclist until he can move over.

It is possible the lanes will widen further on down the road; then the cyclist can opt to move over a little and drivers can pass safely within the same lane.

Car drivers need to realize that in heavy traffic you are going to be delayed anyway, and if you squeeze past the cyclist you place a human life at risk, and for what? You will be stopped again at the next light. Remember there are no fender-benders if you hit a cyclist. Bones break and people bleed.

By taking the lane the cyclist is also making himself highly visable. The most common car/bicycle accident is caused by drivers approaching from the opposite direction and and not seeing the cyclist, they make a left turn in front of them.

If the cyclist is on the extreme edge of the road and in the gutter, chances are there will be a car along side, or just in front of him hiding him from the view of the turning motorist.

By being in the position of the above cyclist, the turning driver can see him, and chances are there will be another car following closely behind the cyclist so the oncoming diver will not even consider turning at that moment.

The second most common accident is the "Right Hook." (Left Hook in the UK.) This is where the motor vehicle passes the cyclist then immediately turns right; the cyclist either runs into the side of the car, or in in a worse case the vehicle runs over the cyclist. This is less likely to happen if the cyclist is a little distance out from the curb.

By avoiding just these two most common accidents you make your cycling experience safer and more enjoyable; you can do so by taking the lane. Let me point out however, that taking the lane should never be abused and used just because you can.

If you can see traffic a hundred yards or so ahead of you then you are not really delaying anyone, you are simply making yourself visable by having that space in front of you.

Motorists need to realize there are going to be more and more cyclists sharing the road with them, and for every cyclist that means one less car which in the long run will ease conjestion.


Footnote: The excelent photo that illustrates this point so well is from Mighk Wilson's blog


Reader Comments (11)

great advice...this should part of the standard ciriculum for drivers ed..

May 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

Hi Dave,

I love your blog and have learned a lot from it...

Quick question...if you're on a two lane road (one lane in each direction, separated by a double yellow line) and there is a solid white line on the right and there is a wide gutter (by this I mean the white line is a good 3-4 feet away from the curb, giving you a good 2 feet or so clearance from road debris along the curb/edge of the road) is it still best to "take the lane"? There is a road near me like this and II usually ride in the gutter in this situation so that cars can pass. I do tend to stay closer to the white line than the curb so as to be more visible.


May 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

You mean where there is a 2 or 3 foot shoulder past the fog line. It is OK to use this but bear in mind that some motorists drive with their wheels on the shoulder and tailgate at the same time. They won't see you til they hit you.

In this situation I like to ride right on the white line. It forces the driver to move over alerting the guy behind them that there is something ahead.

It would be good to hear other viewpoints on this one.

May 8, 2009 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Yes, Dave, you got it. Good point re: tailgating...I hadn't really considered that. I tend to do the same thing...ride right on the line or just off it to the right (like an inch off.) I do this for two reasons: 1. to remain visible as you describe and 2. as a way to build up 'goodwill' toward cyclists. We all know the stereotypes motorists can have about cyclists so, while I will be assertive when necessary, I try not to ride in a way that makes others think that I think I "own the road."

(Part of building up goodwill is signaling, waving 'thanks' to cars who yield...even if they're supposed to. It never hurts to say thanks.)

I too would be interested to hear other perspectives though.

May 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

This advice, along with learning not to weave in and out of parked cars, should be taught to all children in elementary school. That way they have the good habits as they grow older. Also so ,when they become motorists, they'll know it and respect it.

May 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrevdak

Common sense also dictates riding routes more friendly to bicycle traffic. I wouldn't ride on a busy throughfare during rush hour, if motorists would be stuck behind me with no chance to pass. However, taking a less traveled route would make more sense, especially if there were a free lane where motorists could pass, as in your example. In any case I completely agree that being assertive, taking the lane, and following traffic laws as any motor vehicle would is the best safety strategy.

May 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterD Dau

Again GREAT 'real world' gleaned cycling advice!
Recommendation, equip ANY road bicycle with a RED colored, FLASHING, REAR mounted light then operate CONSTANTLY (day or night) when such cycle is employed for transportation.
1) My understanding is ALL 'slow moving' vehicles traveling America's roads are required by D.O.T. to employ some form of RED colored flags or FLASHING 'hazard' lighting [Amber, Red] in color.
(D.O.T. mandate, a 'bicycle' is speed limited to 19MPH!:-)
2) Cyclist identification to ALL persons or vehicles approaching from the REAR and Rear Quarters of bicycle.
Notice, 'Steady State' vehicle lamps draw 'questionable' attention apparent by recent red 'strobing' vehicle or white colored (again strobed) intersection lighting proliferation.
Rubber NOT Rider Down,

May 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWillima R. Walling

1) THANK YOU. Seriously. I've been wanting to see someone express this in writing for years.

2) Whoot. Squarespace!

I'm glad I found your blog. =)

May 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDawn


1) The photo is of Mighk Wilson, Bicycle & pedestrian coordinator for Metroplan Orlando, FL and League Cycling Instructor. Article with image and Mighk Wilson's blog.

2) I prefer the phrase "Controlling the lane" versus "Taking the Lane", a cyclist on the road is already "in the traffic lane". The next question at any particular moment is the cyclist "Controlling the lane" or "Sharing the lane." John Frankin uses the terms "primary riding position" — meaning in the center of the traffic lane — and "secondary riding position" — meaning about 1 meter (3.2 feet) to the side of moving traffic, but not closer than .5 meters (1.6 feet) from the edge of the road. John Franklin advocates the primary riding position as the normal position and the secondary riding position only when it is safe, reasonable and necessary to allow faster traffic to pass.

May 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdanc

great post. and I agree with it. here in San Francisco most drivers are pretty respectful about it more than often, but there's always many exemptions.
What I find funny is often times a desperate driver will try to honk, rush pass me to make it on time for the next red light. pathetic.

It still upsets me that people ride in the sidewalks even if there are bike lanes!! we have a wonderful B-AFUL that everyone should completely understand and use. Share the road education goes out equally for both parties, cyclists as well as drivers. let's all get along :D

thanks dave /xo.meli

May 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermeligrosa

Thanks for the link, Dave!

To Willima's comment about red flags and lights: the individual states govern that, not the federal government. In some states horse-drawn wagons are required to have reflective orange and red triangles, but not bicyclists. Bicyclists are only required to have red rear lights, red reflectors and white headlights at night. (Not all states require red rear lights; all require red rear reflectors.) Unless they were exceptionally bright they would be useless during daylight hours anyway (except in rainy or foggy conditions).

June 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMighk Wilson
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