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Thread: Question about law concerning two cyclists riding abreast

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    Default Question about law concerning two cyclists riding abreast

    Let me preface this comment by noting that I generally do my best to let cars pass me - both because I try to be considerate when I'm on my bike and because I would prefer having aggressive drivers in front of me rather than behind me. Let me also note that the encounter with the Park Police officer I describe was friendly and I am by no means angry.

    This afternoon, I was riding side by side with a friend on Sligo Parkway in Maryland. He was in the shoulder and I was next to him. Several cars ended up behind us, one of which was Park Police, who told us that we were not allowed to ride side by side.

    We had thought two cyclists could ride side by side and queried the officer upon catching up to him at the light. He looked up the rule on his laptop and read it to us: Cyclists cannot ride side by side if they are impeding traffic.

    Question 1: This law was a surprise to us. Upon coming home, I looked up the rules in DC, and apparently the same rule applies. Is this a rule in most states?

    Question 2: The officer told us that we were impeding traffic because the cars behind us had to go across the double yellow line to pass us. I responded that even if we were riding single file, cars would need to go across the double yellow line to safely pass, especially if they were to give us the required three feet. However, he did not agree. I am perplexed by the rule. As a cyclist, I have a right to ride in the lane. To pass me safely, cars will always need to cross the double line. Whether I am riding single or double file is irrelevant. In fact, I might add that riding double file can be safer because it prevents cars from trying to squeeze by in the same lane. The rule just seems to be wrong headed. Has it ever been challenged?

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    This article's a bit dated, but in 2016, 21 states had laws saying cyclists may ride two abreast only if they are not impeding traffic.
    https://www.bicycling.com/rides/a200...e-single-file/

    Advocates have worked to change the laws on riding two abreast in some states. A new law in Virginia, which I don't think is one of the 21 states mentioned in the Bicycling article, goes into effect on July 1st allowing cyclists to ride two abreast at all times.

    https://www.vabike.org/bicyclist-saf...0too%20closely.
    Last edited by dbehrend; 04-27-2021 at 10:20 PM.

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    yes such rules are stupid, but changing them requires giving cyclists something and most legislatures don't want to be seen giving in to the all powerful bike lobby. the best thing to do would have been to simply take the lane in single file and not gotten into an argument about the stupid riding abreast rules (which are generally misunderstood by police, to the point of people actually having been cited for riding by themselves with cars passing them...) let the idiocy of the rule speak for itself as they fume about you still being on the road preventing them from driving like maniacs as god granted in the constitution.
    Last edited by mstone; 04-28-2021 at 09:41 AM.

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    Basic road cycling etiquette calls for switching to a single line whenever there are cars back. Insisting on riding two abreast while holding up traffic sends the wrong message and perpetuates the "cyclists do not care" stigma.

    Double yellow means no passing when I last checked the traffic laws, so the notion that a car has to completely cross the double yellow to overtake a cyclist makes no sense. When put in this situation, a driver has two choices; 1) wait, or 2) squeeze around the cyclist without infringing on traffic violation, and I suspect the driver will most likely choose the latter as I would do the same. Three feet? Are you kidding me? Expecting a typical driver to know what three feet looks like is akin to a three-year old understanding the meaning of life. As I like to say, relying on traffic laws will kill you, every time.

    The sense of road entitlement is pervasive among both drivers and cyclists, and to me this is so woven into the cultural fabric here that I don't expect any real changes, regardless of what the law says.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ImaCynic View Post
    Basic road cycling etiquette calls for switching to a single line whenever there are cars back. Insisting on riding two abreast while holding up traffic sends the wrong message and perpetuates the "cyclists do not care" stigma.

    Double yellow means no passing when I last checked the traffic laws, so the notion that a car has to completely cross the double yellow to overtake a cyclist makes no sense. When put in this situation, a driver has two choices; 1) wait, or 2) squeeze around the cyclist without infringing on traffic violation, and I suspect the driver will most likely choose the latter as I would do the same. Three feet? Are you kidding me? Expecting a typical driver to know what three feet looks like is akin to a three-year old understanding the meaning of life. As I like to say, relying on traffic laws will kill you, every time.

    The sense of road entitlement is pervasive among both drivers and cyclists, and to me this is so woven into the cultural fabric here that I don't expect any real changes, regardless of what the law says.

    The new law passed in Virginia requires drivers to change lanes to pass bikes if they cannot give 3 feet otherwise (and on a standard width lane, they cannot, even if cyclists go single file to the right). They have the right to cross a double yellow line when passing a human powered device such as a bicycle.

    This is the law in Virginia.

    And yes, I don't expect drivers to be good at estimating distance. That is why I usually take the center of the lane, and why riding two abreast is good.

    Will that create issues on two lane roads in rural areas? I dunno. Personally I almost never ride on two lane roads in rural areas except for the Great Pumpkin Ride.

    Where I am much more likely to ride two abreast is on a street where we will be ahead of any given car for only a block or two, before reaching a bike lane or a turn - or on a road with two lanes in each direction, where cars can pass crossing the white striped line.

    Note if OP was riding on Sligo Parkway in Chillum, that road has no center line per google street view.
    Last edited by lordofthemark; 04-28-2021 at 01:09 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lordofthemark View Post
    They have the right to cross a double yellow line when passing a human powered device such as a bicycle.

    This is the law in Virginia.
    Again, why is there a double yellow? It usually means that there is insufficient line-of-sight for safe overtake. By passing this law, a driver may legally be able to cross it, but it does not reduce the danger involved in doing so. If an oncoming car appears during the overtake, the driver will likely swerve back into its own lane, right where the cyclist is. This kinda sucks for the cyclist, but hey, it is legal!

    This is yet another unintended consequence of passing something that they believe it is safer for all. It is not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ImaCynic View Post
    Again, why is there a double yellow? It usually means that there is insufficient line-of-sight for safe overtake. By passing this law, a driver may legally be able to cross it, but it does not reduce the danger involved in doing so. If an oncoming car appears during the overtake, the driver will likely swerve back into its own lane, right where the cyclist is. This kinda sucks for the cyclist, but hey, it is legal!

    This is yet another unintended consequence of passing something that they believe it is safer for all. It is not.
    Double yellows are striped based on space needed to pass motor vehicles, often large, generally fast. The amount of space needed to pass a cyclist is much less, and often the double yellows are striped conservatively.

    Note Illinois passed a law similar to Virginia's in 2017. If it has created major problems, I have been unable to find that in quick googling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lordofthemark View Post
    The new law passed in Virginia requires drivers to change lanes to pass bikes if they cannot give 3 feet otherwise (and on a standard width lane, they cannot, even if cyclists go single file to the right). They have the right to cross a double yellow line when passing a human powered device such as a bicycle.

    This is the law in Virginia.

    And yes, I don't expect drivers to be good at estimating distance. That is why I usually take the center of the lane, and why riding two abreast is good.
    New question - Virginia law still requires a single rider to stay to the right unless necessary for, say turning left, or when it is unsafe not to take the lane. That would still apply, I think. Only riding with a buddy next to you gives you the right to take the lane at any time. Do you think I'm reading this right?

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    Somehow an earlier response by me did not show up, so I will try again.

    I was biking on Sligo Parkway between New Hampshire and University. This is a two lane road. Some sections have a double yellow line and visibility is not great, so drivers simply need to be a little patient. It is their responsibility to wait for a safe place to pass. If visibility is good enough and it is safe to pass, I will move to the right to give them more space. If I were to hug the right throughout, some drivers would try to squeeze by.

    Lest I give the wrong impression, this is a pretty good road to bike on. Especially now, there are a fair number of cyclists using the road, so drivers are used to seeing bikes. Most drivers are courteous and respectful, and I try to be the same, as do most other cyclists I see on this road. One sometimes encountered aggressive drivers during pre-pandemic rush hour, but that seems to have improved significantly over the years. And occasionally a driver will yell at a cyclist to get on the winding multi-user path even though signage clearly indicates that the road is to be shared with cyclists.

    Calling a cyclist an impediment in the situation I described seems inappropriate and conveys the wrong message to drivers. I am entitled to take the center of the lane (and I am a reasonably fast cyclist). By the same token, any car driving slower than the maximum speed would be an impediment whenever faster cars pulled up behind him.
    Last edited by Mark; 04-29-2021 at 05:31 AM. Reason: Some mistakes in what I initially wrote

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    Quote Originally Posted by baiskeli View Post
    New question - Virginia law still requires a single rider to stay to the right unless necessary for, say turning left, or when it is unsafe not to take the lane. That would still apply, I think. Only riding with a buddy next to you gives you the right to take the lane at any time. Do you think I'm reading this right?
    Not sure.

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