ON THE ‘RIGHT TRACK’
TO BASIC LANE POSITIONING
by John Donoughe, LCI 472
You can have more control of your cycling environment and ride safer just by knowing where to position yourself on the roadway. Most of the roadways that we use for cycling have two lanes, one in each direction, with each lane being less than 10 feet wide.
By definition, the ‘Right Track’ is the area of a lane where the right-side tires of a car normally roll. In this basic lane position, the cyclist should ride no further to the right in the lane than this ‘Right Track’ area. Cyclists can easily determine where this area is on the roadway by the surface wear pattern. The reasons to follow this ‘Right Track’ concept of basic lane positioning are discussed below:
Cycling in the ‘Right Track’ …
- … is OK because there is no regulation requiring you to ride on the very right edge of the road.
- … makes you a real user of the roadway.
- … increases your visibility to other vehicle drivers. You are closer to the line of sight of the other drivers. It moves you away from the visual clutter at the side of the road. Such things like mailboxes, signs, shrubbery, utility poles, and parked cars make up this visual clutter.
- … provides extra road surface to your right which can be used to avoid bad situations. If you’re already at the right edge of the road, there is nowhere to go but off the edge.
- … puts you on the roadway where the surface is generally clean of debris and the surface is in good physical condition.
- … allows you to more easily avoid car doors that suddenly open. It also avoids the unpredictable practice of weaving in and out between parked cars.
- … removes “squeeze room” from the cycling mix. If other vehicle drivers cannot perceive the suggestion of having enough room to just ‘squeeze’ by you, then they will most often wait until there is a safe passing condition. Most of the time, the other drivers will pass by moving completely into the other lane.
- … makes you visible and predictable to the other users of the roadways.
Once I started riding as described above, I noticed that the number of incidents of crowding was reduced dramatically and that most other vehicle drivers accepted me as a proper user of the roadway. I also learned that in some circumstances it is perfectly OK to ride the center of the lane, a.k.a “taking the lane” when I determine that other vehicles should not attempt to pass. This is for your safety as well as the safety of the other drivers.
Riding further out into the lane takes some getting used to. You need to overcome the instinct and belief that it is correct to ride as close as possible to the right edge of the roadway. But, once you make it a habit to ride the ‘Right Track’ you will discover that you can control other vehicular traffic and make motor vehicle drivers resort to the proper driving procedures that they were taught long ago. It is much safer to ride in a predictable, straight line where everyone can see you.