Motorists frequently complain that they can't predict where bicyclists are going.
The more predictably we cyclists behave, the easier it is for motorists to share
the road with us.
Bicyclists have the right to ride in the appropriate travel lane. Because bicycles
are narrow, it is often possible for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely share
the same lane. Where this is possible, the bicyclist must keep far enough to the
right to enable faster drivers to overtake. Where this is not possible, the bicyclist
is legally entitled to the entire lane. Sometimes we forget this and assume the
"bicyclist's inferiority complex." Problems arise when we forget that we have all
the rights and responsibilities of vehicle drivers.
Where roadways have paved shoulders to the right of the travel lane, bicyclists
often assume these are bike lanes. They are not. Paved shoulders are there for us
as a safety net just as they are for motor vehicle drivers.
At a recent out-of-town ride, I had the opportunity to see how and where
"experienced" cyclists rode and the reactions of the motoring public to the riders'
actions. Whenever possible, I rode at the end of a paceline to observe bicyclists
ahead of me. While riding on roadways with paved shoulders, every bicyclist opted
to leave the travel lane and ride to the right of the paved line, on the paved
shoulder--demonstrating that even experienced cyclists don't always know the safest
way to ride. One group of riders, all in single file, frequently had to move out
into the travel lane to avoid debris. Each time the bicyclists unexpectedly moved
into the travel lane, motorists overreacted, moving sharply into the opposing travel
lane and then swinging sharply back if there was oncoming traffic.
When the paved shoulder curved to the right of a turn lane, the bicyclists either
stayed on the paved shoulder to the right of the right turn lane or rode in the
right turn lane. From there, they proceeded through the intersection and onto the
paved shoulder or, when the paved shoulder ended, into the travel lane.
On one occasion, a motorist entered the turn lane, unaware that the group had
intended on continuing forward through the intersection. The group had to stop
quickly, jog to the left, and then continue across the intersection to reach the
paved shoulder. Because of the squirrelly motions of the bicyclists, several
motorists swung wide to the left (overcorrecting) to avoid them. Some bicyclists
also overcorrected and entered the travel lane in front of moving vehicles. It
was no wonder that several bicyclists complained about the traffic. I am sure
several motorists had the same complaint about the bicyclists.
A similar situation occurred when the same group of cyclists rode in an area
designated for on-street parking. When the group of bicyclists approached a
parked car, confusion abounded, with several bicyclists opting to stop while
others attempted to merge into the travel lane.
The confusion and potential for collisions arising from both of these situations
were totally avoidable. When a bicyclist acts as a driver of a vehicle and rides
in the travel lane, motorists are aware of our location. This holds true even on
busy multi-lane roadways. If the lane is not wide enough to safely accommodate
both motor vehicles and bicycles, then the bicyclist should command the lane
(that is, ride far enough into the lane to prevent motorists from passing
dangerously close to the bicyclist). In this situation, the motorist reduces his
speed and chooses a safe time to pass.
To be responsible vehicle operators, bicycle riders must be predictable and give
dear intentions to other drivers of what we are doing and where we are going.
This is a matter of being a safe vehicle operator.
Reprinted from "Bicycle USA", magazine of the League of American
Bicyclists. Effective CyclingTM.
For more information about the League of American Bicyclists, visit
their web site, www.bikeleague.org,
or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.