by Eli Post, originally in October 2012 issue of WheelPeople, the newsletter of the Charles River Wheelmen
We ordinarily urge you to stay to the right, out of the way of oncoming traffic, but there are times when riding in the middle of the lane is the safe course of action, one that is also legal.
“Taking the lane” refers to a cyclist riding in the middle of the lane to help control what motorists do on the road. By taking the lane you prevent motorists from passing you within your lane. They are many reasons why you might want to take this action, and here are some of the more important ones. You are on a narrow road, or no shoulder, and it would be unsafe for a motorist to pass you. You are making your way through an intersection and don’t want anyone passing you (and possibly turning across your path). You are traveling at the speed of traffic and do not want a motorist parallelling you in your lane. You are descending at high speed and want extra space for maneuvering. You want to make sure you’re visible to traffic.
To take the lane follow these steps, which assume you are traveling on the right-hand side of the right-hand lane. Look over your left shoulder to see if traffic is in your lane. When clear, signal your move to the center by pointing out with your left hand. If you are taking the lane and passing through an intersection, control the lane until you make it all the way through the intersection.
Taking the lane is both legal and useful, but it doesn’t mean that this is general knowledge. You may get honked at, but smile and keep on pedaling. Finally, when you no longer need to control the lane, move to the right and let the motorists go by.
To read more safety tips from the Charles River Wheelmen, go to http://crw.org/safety/index.php
What are your thoughts on “taking the lane”? In my experience, there needs to be more awareness among both cyclists and drivers that it is indeed legal for a cyclist to take the entire lane. Maybe we all need t-shirts like this guy: