Using the Full Lane

This post is making it’s way around facebook currently.  When do you ride in the middle of the lane?

1) Avoiding debris:  About two weeks ago I was riding on Bridgeport Road, where it is one-way, with three lanes.  The right-hand lane is a bit wider than an average lane (it would be nice if they painted a bike lane), so there wasn’t really that much of a problem with sharing the lane.  However, I did come across quite a bit of debris from an accident – glass etc., so I had to move out into the lane.  A car passed by very close to me and then stopped at a stop light. I politely asked the driver to give me more space next time.  She said that I needed to be closer to the curb.  I explained that I was going around glass.  She said she had no way of knowing that and that going close to me was the only way to pass me without changing lanes.  I asked her to be more considerate of cyclist safety as she rolled up her window.

2) Avoiding the door zone:  I do this one all the time.  I also check the driver’s seats of parked cars to see if anyone in them, as I bike by.  The idea of being “doored” scares me.

3) The lane is too narrow:  When I’m biking to and from work, along Queen Street, I ride in the middle of the right-hand lane from Belmont to Fisher Hallman, because the lane is too narrow for me and a car.  There is also the left-hand lane for cars to drive in as they pass me.  Traffic is not that heavy on Queen Street, but 3 or 4 times a week, some driver will drive up close behind me and honk for me to get out of their way, even though the left lane is empty.

4) To give cars more notice to pass safely:  This kind of goes with number 3, I think.

5) To improve safety and vantage point:  I’ve thought a lot about his one recently.  I’ve noticed that, when I am riding close to the curb, I have more difficulty making eye contact with drivers on my right that pull up on a road or in a driveway that is perpendicular to the road on which I am travelling.  If I move out a little bit, the driver sees me, waits, and I can ride past safely.

6) Riding on the sidewalk:  It’s against the law to ride on the sidewalk here.  I do it occasionally, when the roadway seems unsafe or the drivers are particularly aggressive.

7) To share the road and use one lane:  I mostly ride in the middle of lanes on multi-lane roads (see #3).  However, I sometimes bike along Fisher Hallman, between Ottawa Street and Huron Road to get to a friend’s house.  At one point there is only one narrow lane each way and the white line is painted right on the edge of the pavement.  I tried biking near the side of the lane, but got pushed off the road a couple of times.  Now, I ride in the centre of the lane for a short distance until the road widens, because it is the only safe way to bike on this section of road.  A few drivers have been angry.

8) To prepare for a left turn:  I guess this one is obvious.  I do it when I have to turn left.

9) Legal right to the lane:  Even though a bicycle has a legal right to take up a lane, I only do it if I feel unsafe riding near the curb.  My preference would be bike lanes everywhere!!!

I’d like to see the points made in the facebook post and some others about how driver’s can share the roads safely with cyclists as part of the driver’s exam.  What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Using the Full Lane

  1. I’m wary of using the whole lane, but I do it on King Street for the “doored” reason. The driver’s handbook suggests cyclists always drive a metre from the curb just in case they come across debris or grates – then they’re driving in a straight line consistently instead of swerving in and out as necessary. But I still tend to stay close to the curb. Maybe we need to take back the lane to make it more convenient to bike and less convenient to drive. The handbook also says cars must stay a metre from cyclists. Luxury! Bikes should come with flexible rods a metre long, with a flag on the end, and attached to the back of the seat just to let drivers know what a metre looks like.

    1. Thanks for your comments Marie. I know what you mean about being nervous about riding in the centre of the lane. I usually ride out about a metre from the curb, like you mentioned, but I only ride in the centre of the lane when it is narrow (for some reason) and riding closer to the curb feels dangerous. I’ve thought about the flexible rod thing too, but I’ve never gotten anything, because it seems like it would be awkward in some situations.

  2. 1. I find motorists (for the most part) are fine with cyclists riding outside of the bike lane for this reason. With winter around the corner, snow in the bike lane is the main reason I don’t ride in the bike lane.
    2. Again, motorists are understanding here with cyclists riding further out when parked cars are around.
    3. I can’t say I’ve encountered any issues on narrow roads here with people passing.
    4. –
    5. I’m with you on this one. There are many areas where if I see a car coming from a street to the right or a driveway, I move further out so they see me.
    6. I don’t ride on the sidewalk, but that’s mostly because I feel safe on the roads here.
    7. –
    8. For me it depends on the road. If I’m making a left I usually pull over and wait for a clearing to merge left.
    9. Completely disagree with the “It’s the safest place to be” bit. Yes we have the legal right, but I prefer riding closer to the curb, but like you if it’s unsafe I’ll ride further away.

  3. You almost never need to take the *whole* lane, but you should take enough that cars can’t pass you without at least partially leaving the lane.

    Drivers aren’t *trying* to hit cyclists, but they will if they don’t see them. That’s why cycling on the sidewalk is so dangerous – drivers aren’t looking for you there. By logical extension, the more visible you make yourself (ie. taking more of the lane) the safer you are going to be. If you move way over to let a car pass you, some other driver might not see you, and you won’t have anywhere to go.

    Ryan, this video should help convince you. Riding closer to the curb might *feel* safer, but it’s clearly not:

    1. Thanks for posting the video Peter! I think it’s very informative. It outlines lots of reason for staying away from the curb. That being said, I was riding out from the curb, along Queen Street this afternoon. A driver in a Caddy SUV got irate, cursed, swore and tried to push me into the curb. He was also yelling at me to get closer to the curb “where I belonged.” I think he needs to watch the video!

    1. Hey Peter,
      Thanks for the links! The MTO link was quite informative. The improved infrastructure seems like a no-brainer. Increasing safety through legislation is great too! I’m not sure about the best way to go about the education plank of the program. Sure, adding cycling specific info to the driver’s handbook and exam would be great, but that will only reach new drivers. How do we educate people who already have their licenses? I ran into some trouble with this last week. Feel free to have a look at my next post: The 3 Foot Rule Misunderstood!

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