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View Full Version : How narrow does a lane have to be for you to take the lane?



lordofthemark
03-08-2016, 02:58 PM
Assume no seg infra, no rideable sidewalk, etc. The choices are to ride in the center of a general travel lane, or on the right edge of it (let's also assume no parked cars, so just in from the gutter)

I routinely ride on the far right here for example

https://www.google.com/maps/@38.836701,-77.1048373,3a,75y,101.19h,75.74t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sLiHCJsbQZgztNfWb3FtLSg!2e0!7i1 3312!8i6656!6m1!1e1

I am not a good judge of these things, but I guess it must be about almost 16 feet (I guess just too narrow to allow parking on the right). Ditto on two way streets with no center line and very light traffic (not uncommon in residential areas where I am more likely to be riding in the street to begin with)

On more common lanes, I almost always ride in the center. I will "release" the lane periodically (assuming one lane in each direction), if traffic is stacking up behind me, and there is what seems to me a safe place to do so (a very long stretch of the parking lane with no parked cars - sorry, I know I said assume no parking) If it is a steep uphill, and I am going to be going painfully slowly, and it is one lane in each direction, I will ride the sidewalk (again, sorry for violating my initial assumption) or will avoid altogether.

So forgetting what I do, when does a lane allow, to you, safe and comfortable riding on the right? 14 ft? 12 ft?

bentbike33
03-08-2016, 03:30 PM
I will take the lane unless there is enough space for a vehicle to pass me (i.e., without it crossing the center line) while giving me about a 3-foot margin AND a little space to bailout to the right (i.e., I don't have to ride on the white line to allow safe passing distance within the lane).

I don't know how wide such a lane is, but your example looks wide enough.

Steve O
03-08-2016, 03:56 PM
It also, for me, depends on sight lines. If I can see way ahead and there is no oncoming car, I will shift to the right side of the lane as a way of signaling to drivers behind me that I am comfortable with their passing, even if the lanes are narrow. They can then swing wide and everything's cool.
And vice versa: if there is not room for a 3-foot buffer, and a hill or curve obscures the view ahead, then I will take the entire lane, sometimes even to the left of center, to send a clear signal that I have no intention of allowing a car to pass with insufficient space. Then when we clear the hill or curve and it's clear ahead, I'll shift over and give the car a little wave. My intent is to engender good will. I'm not taking the lane because I'm an entitled jerk; I'm just taking it for the time and space I need to keep us all safe.

dasgeh
03-08-2016, 04:10 PM
In Virginia, it's now legal for cars to cross the yellow line to pass bikes. So I generally bike with my front wheel about 4-5' from the edge of the lane unless there are two lanes heading in my direction or I can see a reason a car shouldn't cross the yellow to pass me (e.g. oncoming car, curves). In that case, I ride in the middle of the lane, and maybe even a little left.

Tania
03-08-2016, 04:19 PM
It also, for me, depends on sight lines. If I can see way ahead and there is no oncoming car, I will shift to the right side of the lane as a way of signaling to drivers behind me that I am comfortable with their passing, even if the lanes are narrow. They can then swing wide and everything's cool.
And vice versa: if there is not room for a 3-foot buffer, and a hill or curve obscures the view ahead, then I will take the entire lane, sometimes even to the left of center, to send a clear signal that I have no intention of allowing a car to pass with insufficient space. Then when we clear the hill or curve and it's clear ahead, I'll shift over and give the car a little wave. My intent is to engender good will. I'm not taking the lane because I'm an entitled jerk; I'm just taking it for the time and space I need to keep us all safe.

What Steve said. Gah! :eek:

I'll also take (and keep) the lane if it's two lanes in each direction. I do this routinely on Gallows before the bike lane starts - heavy traffic and no one actually does the 35 mph speed limit and they will routinely try to squeeze by me (sharing my lane) if I don't take the entire darn thing. It's only for maybe 1/2 mile though if that. Conversely, I try not to be smug and split the lane (when lacking a bike lane) during rush hour when traffic gets backed up - I'll wait in line like everyone else.

Steve O
03-08-2016, 04:51 PM
What Steve said. Gah! :eek:
That's three.
11179

dkel
03-08-2016, 05:43 PM
And vice versa: if there is not room for a 3-foot buffer, and a hill or curve obscures the view ahead, then I will take the entire lane, sometimes even to the left of center, to send a clear signal that I have no intention of allowing a car to pass with insufficient space.

This! ...And yet that often doesn't stop them, oncoming traffic or unseen dangers over the crest of the hill be damned.

DismalScientist
03-08-2016, 06:47 PM
My position depends on my speed telative to traffic. The faster I am, the more to the left. On a quiet street with or without a centerline, I take the middle of the lane. I will move right if a car is behind and it is safe to pass. On a two lane (in each direction) I take the middle of the right lane unless that lane is wide enough for safe passing when I am 3 feet from the curb. I will be in the parking lane if it is empty for long stretches. On door zone bike path, I tend to stay at the left edge. I never let a car pass me in the right lane at an intersection where right turns are possible. If I think it is safe for a car to pass and the driver seems hesitant, I will wave them around.

dkel
03-08-2016, 08:31 PM
I don't detect any snark in Dismal's post. I'm not quite sure what to think.

DismalScientist
03-08-2016, 10:28 PM
It's because I was sober.

cvcalhoun
03-08-2016, 11:03 PM
Assume no seg infra, no rideable sidewalk, etc. The choices are to ride in the center of a general travel lane, or on the right edge of it (let's also assume no parked cars, so just in from the gutter)

I routinely ride on the far right here for example

https://www.google.com/maps/@38.836701,-77.1048373,3a,75y,101.19h,75.74t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sLiHCJsbQZgztNfWb3FtLSg!2e0!7i1 3312!8i6656!6m1!1e1

I am not a good judge of these things, but I guess it must be about almost 16 feet (I guess just too narrow to allow parking on the right). Ditto on two way streets with no center line and very light traffic (not uncommon in residential areas where I am more likely to be riding in the street to begin with)

On more common lanes, I almost always ride in the center. I will "release" the lane periodically (assuming one lane in each direction), if traffic is stacking up behind me, and there is what seems to me a safe place to do so (a very long stretch of the parking lane with no parked cars - sorry, I know I said assume no parking) If it is a steep uphill, and I am going to be going painfully slowly, and it is one lane in each direction, I will ride the sidewalk (again, sorry for violating my initial assumption) or will avoid altogether.

So forgetting what I do, when does a lane allow, to you, safe and comfortable riding on the right? 14 ft? 12 ft?

In Maryland, you're supposed to ride as far as practicable to the right if the usable portion of the lane is at least 13 feet wide. If the lane is less wide than that (or if curbside parking or other encroachments narrow the width usable for travel to 13 feet or less), you can take the lane:

http://www.cphabaltimore.org/2012/11/where-noted-cyclists-use-of-full-lane-now-legal-in-md/

mstone
03-09-2016, 04:56 AM
In general I can identify 13 feet by eye about as well as drivers can identify 3 feet...

dkel
03-09-2016, 06:48 AM
It's because I was sober.

I'm so sorry.

TwoWheelsDC
03-09-2016, 07:38 AM
In Maryland, you're supposed to ride as far as practicable to the right if the usable portion of the lane is at least 13 feet wide. If the lane is less wide than that (or if curbside parking or other encroachments narrow the width usable for travel to 13 feet or less), you can take the lane:

http://www.cphabaltimore.org/2012/11/where-noted-cyclists-use-of-full-lane-now-legal-in-md/

I've never seen a legal exegesis of this...I assume that the law states you have to ride FRAP on the "roadway", which means to the *left* of the fog line, right?...I think many cyclists means you have to ride at the very edge of the pavement, or at least on the shoulder, which I don't think is technically part of the roadway.

Terpfan
03-09-2016, 08:22 AM
As a general rule of thumb, I try to take the middle of the lane (or even slightly left of the middle). And, to be perfectly honest, I don't really care if I were riding in MD or elsewhere and the law said otherwise. I've had enough people try insane things to know that if you leave them an inch, they will see it as a couple miles of space. Besides, there are always reasons you need to move one way or the other (potholes, glass, dooring threat, double-parked vehicles, etc) so that extra space can make all the difference.

TwoWheelsDC
03-09-2016, 08:23 AM
As a general rule of thumb, I try to take the middle of the road. And, to be perfectly honest, I don't really care if I were riding in MD or elsewhere and the law said otherwise. I've had enough people try insane things to know that if you leave them an inch, they will see it as a couple miles of space. Besides, there are always reasons you need to move one way or the other (potholes, glass, dooring threat, double-parked vehicles, etc) so that extra space can make all the difference.

If ever questioned, just say "the middle of the lane was as far right as was practicable to ride." Use that ambiguity to your advantage!

TwoWheelsDC
03-09-2016, 08:25 AM
As a general rule of thumb, I try to take the middle of the road. And, to be perfectly honest, I don't really care if I were riding in MD or elsewhere and the law said otherwise. I've had enough people try insane things to know that if you leave them an inch, they will see it as a couple miles of space. Besides, there are always reasons you need to move one way or the other (potholes, glass, dooring threat, double-parked vehicles, etc) so that extra space can make all the difference.

If ever questioned, just say "the middle of the lane was as far right as was practicable to ride." Use that ambiguity to your advantage!

Amalitza
03-09-2016, 08:25 AM
I agree with everyone else, "it depends".

*It depends very strongly on sightlines.
*It depends on both my speed (I'm more comfortable close to the curb if I'm moving slower and "dodging" debris, parked cars, etc means "very slowly with plenty of time to check for cars behind me moving to the left") and the speed of the cars ("3 ft" may be the law regardless of speed, but in practice I'm more comfortable being passed closer by slower moving traffic).
*It depends on whether there is one or multiple car lanes in my direction of travel.
*And on routes I'm familiar with and have ridden previously, it depends on my experience with how drivers tend to treat me on a given stretch of road. I don't know how to predict it on routes I'm not familiar with, but there are places where drivers are just more patient and will wait for a good passing opportunity, and places where absolutely everyone is impatient as hell and will pass aggressively if given the tiniest hint of an opening.

Vicegrip
03-09-2016, 08:52 AM
It's because I was sober.There is a simple fix for that. Let me know if you need help and we can work on it together.

I take the lane when a passing car will need to cross into poor sight line oncoming traffic. I don't want a car coming back into me mid pass when they see an oncoming car which I 100% think drivers will do. I take the lane when there are lots of parked car doors or blind side street or ped intersections. I have a dislike for car doors for some reason* I try and not ride on fast roads and cause undue slowdowns. I don't care what the laws are or what my rights are I ride with the goal of not getting hit/hurt. I ride with the expectation that the drivers don't know the rules or don't care for them and don't always pay enough attention. Groaning "I had right of way" from the ditch does little.

*Getting doored hard into a pile when I was a kid and the driver trying to blame me might have something to do with it

Crickey7
03-09-2016, 09:22 AM
Center of the lane, with rare exceptions. It just seems to reduce negative driver interactions, a lot.

ShawnoftheDread
03-09-2016, 09:43 AM
Do I want to know what vicegrip's footnote means?