In which Fred learns about lane position.
This month I think we should talk about lane
position - that is, where to ride on the road. Almost all of our
riding is on the road, and like it or not, there are cars out there.
Hey, I noticed! And I don't like it! Can't we do
something about them?
Well, I'm pretty sure we can't make them go away.
We're going to have to learn how to get along with them. But it's
not bad out there, once you get used to it. The key to getting along
with cars is lane position. You've got to be in the right
place at the right time.
So are you telling me to ride on the right side of
the road? Hey, I already know that. I'm not that dumb! Geez!
I'm glad you know that, Fred. It's the most basic
rule of all. Yes, you must ride on the right side of the road, but
exactly where? How far to the right is far enough? How far is too
far? Let's see if we can figure this out.
Oh, right. I can see it now - we'll carry tape
measures on all our rides.
No, it's easier than that. First of all, you've got
to decide if the lane you're riding in is wide or narrow.
And it doesn't take a tape measure! We call it a wide lane if
there's enough room for a car to pass you safely in the same lane.
It's narrow if the car will squeeze you too closely.
Who gets to decide if it's safe? Me, or him, or you?
You do! Or we do! That is, the bike rider gets to
decide! You've got to figure, a driver passes only a few cyclists,
but we cyclists get passed by hundreds of cars. We've had more
practice, so we're the ones who decide!
And what do we do about it, once we decide?
It depends on the lane's width. I believe in
politeness - so if the lane is wide enough, don't hold up traffic.
Ride far enough to the right so the cars can get by easily. It helps
build good will.
But there's gravel and glass in the gutter!
Oh, no, don't ride in the gutter or potholes! That's
dangerous. And definitely ride a straight line, don't swerve
in and out of parked cars. All I'm saying is: if you can give them
room with no danger to yourself, go ahead and be polite. Three feet
to the right of the cars will give them enough room.
But what if I don't have room to give them
Then it's not a wide lane, it's a narrow
lane, and you do it differently. You ride far enough to the left
to make them go around you in the next lane.
A good rule of thumb here is to ride about where the
a car's right wheels would normally be. Assuming it's a straight
road, that is, and they can see clearly to pass. Sometimes you need
to be even further out! If it's really narrow and there's oncoming
traffic, you may have to completely block the lane to be safe.
Block the lane?? To be safe?? I'm going to get
Calm down, Fred. Let's think about this. What I'm
saying isn't so radical. If it's too dangerous for a car to pass you
in the same lane, you don't let them pass you in the same
lane. You force them to go around you in the other lane - even if it
means they wait a few seconds - and you do it by being far enough to
After all, what's the alternative? If you let them
squeeze by, they may bump you off the road, right? That's what makes
it a narrow lane. That would be really dangerous.
But it's not so bad. I've done this for years, and
I've almost never gotten honked at, let alone run over. The car
drivers can tell what's going on. Besides, for most riding, it
really doesn't come up that often.
The only alternative I can see is to get off the
road and let traffic get past. And occasionally, I've done that,
rather than cause a real traffic jam.
Can't we just skip the narrow roads? This sounds
Well, don't be embarrassed if you have to work up to
it gradually. And if you can't pull it off just yet, you're right -
you should find an easier road to ride. But after a while, you'll be
able to handle it, honest. Just mind your lane position.
Think about it a while, and give it a try. And next,
we'll be able to get you away from the curb to make good left turns
Left turns in traffic?? I'm going to get killed!!
See you next time, Fred. Till then - stay vertical,
- © Frank Krygowski