Crossing the double yellow line - gimme 4 feet!

Did you know that, in Pennsylvania, drivers must give cyclists 4 feet of space when passing? Neither did I, until a few days ago.
This is exactly the kind of situation I'd like to avoid. Image source

I'd read that in some states, 3 feet of space is the rule. That sounded like a good idea to me, as I've had some pretty close calls, and I wondered if Pennsylvania would ever get a similar law. Imagine my surprise to find out that we already did; it went into effect on April 2, 2012. In fact, we even get an extra foot in the deal. Here's an educational video to tell you all about it.

Ok, did you watch the video? Did you? Riveting stuff, I know. I just wish I could have hauled out a film projector, loaded the reels and found a really uncomfortable desk/chair-hybrid thing to sit in to complete the effect. Maybe even throw in some jittering frames, film grain and the always classic, "film gets jammed and starts to melt" effect to make it real. 'Cause I'm all about keepin' it real.

So, a couple of things blew my mind while I was reading up on all of this, like the fact that it's totally ok for drivers to cross the double yellow line in order to fulfill the requirements of the 4-foot rule. That's something that even California's Governor Brown doesn't like too much. But then there's the bit about "taking the lane."

I try to avoid unpleasant conversations, and it seems like pretending I'm a car by riding in the middle of the lane is the first step towards having an unpleasant conversation. However, as I've learned, I'm not pretending to be a car when I do so, I'm simply exercising my right to the road, same as any other vehicle. (think: large load vehicles, tractors/farm equipment, horse-drawn carriages, etc.) Of course, cyclists are still required to avoid becoming an impediment to traffic, which means getting over to the right as far as they can safely go. Just because a driver must give us 4 feet of space doesn't mean we get to be dicks about it.

It seems weird, but it's safer. Riding in the lane keeps cyclists visible to drivers, and it keeps us away from some of the fun stuff we're bound to find on the side of the road that could damage our tires and put us in a world of hurt. And, again, drivers are encouraged to go around us to give us 4 feet of space -- even if that means crossing the double yellow line.


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