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Cycling in the Right Lane
I love to ride bikes - I've been riding for years. I think people use cars too often when they ought to use a bicycle. Should you ride your bicycle on the right side of the road? That is the topic for today.
I suppose the depends on what kind of city you live in, and I am speaking from my experience in various cities in Texas. In super-urban areas with a high density of pedestrians, it may be a totally different situation. I've never lived in that kind of world. This article applies mostly to towns, suburbs, and medium sized cities. My advice for if you live in a major city is to not to.
I remember several years ago, initially reading the local city ordinances in my city, and learning that in fact bicycles were considered "vehicles" for all intents and purposes. As such, the law stated that they are meant to be in the traffic lane, going with traffic, and following all the laws that apply to automobiles.
I remember looking it up on YouTube and watching videos where people explained why the law is the way it is, and why riding your bicycle in the right lane was the correct way of doing things. The gist of the argument is that riding your bike in the right lane puts you where motorists *expect* you to be. The key hazards for riding your bicycle in the left lane were listed as:
- Motorists don't look right before turning right on red / at stop signs, and thus will not see you approaching from their right side
- Motorists will often drive past white lines / stop signs to get a better view, or pull out of driveways and they are always looking left at that time, and thus will not see you
And that's basically it. The main reasons why the lawyers and body-suit cyclists say you should ride your bike in the right lane is completely hinged on whether or not *motorists* will see you.
Well, I can speak from my experience of *trying* that method.
Motorists will see you. But not only will they see you -- they will yell at you. They will throw things at you. They will chase you down and threaten you. And worst of all, they will *still* NOT see you.
It's YOUR life. Take ownership of it, and protect it by riding your bicycle on the left side of the road. Use the sidewalks, but have respect for pedestrians and slow way down when you get near them. Ignore the bicycle lanes - don't use them, they are a death trap. And don't even think about owning a whole lane on the main road.
The key strategy to protect yourself when riding in the left lane is to be aware of the risks mentioned above and work around them. The key risk is that you'll be going fast and a car pulls out of a blind alley at the moment you ride past it. Try to look through trees and around buildings to see if a car is coming from a parking lot / back road. Slow down to walking speed if there is a road somewhere in front of you where a car could pull out and you wouldn't have time to stop.For example: If you are coming to an alley / intersection where you can't see around a large building, and a car could come out -- you need to be going slow on your bike.
They teach this concept in truck driving schools. You need to be able to stop an 18 wheeler on time, so, depending on the level of visibility of the wider area, you may need to go slower than the speed limit to have that stopping ability. The same is true on bicycles. Again, the key to surviving on a bicycle is *NOT* the right lane, and putting your life in the hands of stressed out motorists playing on their phones while they are speeding and late to work. The key is taking ownership of your *own* safety, and basing your bicycling decisions on *YOUR* awareness, not anybody else's.
This law and philosophy about riding your bike in the right lane is completely nonsensical and formulated by the speculations of lawyers assuming that humans are computer programs that will follow rules and have the same base-line level of awareness. YOU can beat the system by having a higher level of awareness than the motorists.
At the end of the day, it's better to get hit by a car going 10 miles an hour at a stop sign / driveway than to get hit by a car going 40 miles an hour in the right lane.
Basic rules for surviving on your bike:
- Avoid automobiles like the plague
- Avoid pedestrians like the plague
- Always assume that every motorist is not paying attention.
- Always assume that every motorist is thinking about running you over for fun.
- Never cross a major intersection at the intersection -- Go three blocks away from the intersection and cross there.
- Never travel along a major road -- Go three blocks away from the road and follow a minor parallel road.
- Never expect to be treated like a vehicle. You don't get right of way at a stop sign. Act like a pedestrian and you shall live.
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