Using the Full Lane: A response to Darryl at LovingTheBike.com

Yesterday, I read a great post by Darryl on LovingTheBike.com titled, "Cyclist May Use Full Lane... But Should We?"
Darryl raises some very good points that I agree with. He seems mostly concerned that riding down the center of the lane could lead to more accidents, either by distracted, negligent drivers who don't see the cyclist, or aggravated drivers who want to take their frustrations out on a cyclist.

This is a subject I think about quite often, and I've been meaning to write something similar because I feel very much the same way as Darryl. There are certain roads I ride on where traffic is traveling at speeds much greater than the posted limit, and I'd rather not be in the middle of the lane when a distracted driver comes along at 60+ mph. Take the Weatherly Plains Road, for example -- a two-lane stretch that runs for about 4 miles between Beaver Meadows and Weatherly.
The Weatherly Plains Road, image from Google Maps
The Weatherly Plains Road is a popular road with cyclists. As such, drivers along this stretch are used to seeing cyclists on it. However, the traffic tends to go above the speed limit, so most cyclists stick to the shoulder. If I'm reading him correctly, that's exactly what Darryl is saying, that this is one road where we probably shouldn't take the lane, even if the law says we can. However, I think we probably should, and I have a few good reasons why.

The way a driver passes a cyclist begins with where the cyclist is riding. We tend to only see things that are directly in front of us, so by riding in the lane, I stand a better chance of being seen and easily avoided. If I stick to the side of the road, however, I increase the chances that a driver will hit me without even knowing I was there. Furthermore, even if they do see me, by hugging the shoulder to stay out of traffic, I'm sending a message to drivers that says, "The lane is all yours, take it," so they do. And, of course, they pass as closely as possible without slowing down because I told them they could. It all starts with me.

Assume for a moment that I'm in the lane and a car is approaching from behind. The driver should easily see me which should cause them to change lanes to give me 4 feet of space, as required by Pennsylvania law. (I understand this deviates greatly from state to state.) In another scenario, if a car is approaching from ahead in the other lane, the car behind me should slow enough to allow the oncoming car to pass us both before attempting to change lanes and overtake me. Perhaps this is annoying to a driver... I can sympathize, I drive a car, too. But I'd much rather they be temporarily annoyed than for me to be permanently dead.

Keep in mind, I'm not talking about hogging the lane and adopting an attitude that everyone should should go around me, I'm talking about riding defensively and having the confidence to adopt a more assertive stance that reduces my risk of being hurt or killed. If I take the lane, I am showing the driver that I am a part of regular traffic and that they are to treat me as such by slowing down and giving me space. In return, I will do my best to make their passage as convenient as possible. I understand that I am a slow moving vehicle, and I apologize for the inconvenience, but there must be a mutual amount of respect for us each to share the road properly.

Think of it like this: would it be any different if I were in a truck pulling a wide-load? Or a road maintenance vehicle, or farm equipment, or a horse-drawn cart (as seen in many parts of rural Pennsylvania)? It wouldn't; it's not different at all. Those vehicles are often moving slower than traffic, yet aren't expected to pull over for every impatient driver who comes along. And neither should cyclists. In fact, I believe it would be a detriment to cyclists everywhere if we did.

Darryl, I completely understand where you're coming from, there are a lot of distracted drivers out there, but I respectfully disagree. I think we should use the full lane, and I think we should do it as often as possible, if only to increase the awareness that we are out there, too.

2 comments:

Loving the Bike said...

Great article....nice to see you taking what I said in our post and running with it. I'm definitely not against the "May Use Full Lane" idea, but there's just something about them that makes me feel like they aren't the answer many of us are looking for.
What matters most is cyclists feeling safe on the roads and if taking the lane makes that happen, then I'm all for it.
Keep up the great riding and writing.


Darryl

Dale Culp said...

Thanks, Darryl. I think if we had wide, clean shoulders to ride on, this would be something of a moot point because we could easily stay out of the traffic flow. But, that's a subject for another day. The best we can do at this point is raise awareness.

Post a Comment