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Where Do Bikes Belong?

by Kate Trainor on May 24, 2008

BikesBelong Where Do Bikes Belong?
We at Carectomy view bikes as a legitimate form of transportation, not merely an exercise method or recreational distraction. Bikes are traffic and as the popular pro-bike slogans espouse, “Bikes Belong” and “Same Road, Same Rights, Same Rules.”

One recent editorial in the Washington Post echoes an all-too-frequent perspective of motorists to keep bikes where they “belong”:

Why was his group of bicyclists riding on the road and not on the bike path? A bike path is aptly named "bike path" because that is where bicyclists should ride. A group of cyclists riding on the road is a danger to drivers and to themselves. Cars have to swerve into the other lane to avoid cyclists and risk getting hit head-on by other cars.

Commute by Bike argues the complete opposite perspective. Not only should bicycle traffic not be marginzalized to bike paths – they should stake their claim to the road and take over the lane.

Snipped from Commute by Bike, Top 5 Reasons to Claim the Lane (and why it’s safer):

  1. Drivers give you more room
  2. You are more visible
  3. You avoid dangerous debris and obstacles
  4. It’s an easier, more enjoyable ride
  5. You are making a statement

Commute by Bike’s assessment confirms John Forrester’s findings that one of the side effects of bike paths and bike lanes is to segregate cyclists and to make the meat of the road, as well as some entire routes, off-limits. When a cyclist claims the lane, vehicles don’t simply attempt to squeeze by you in one lane. Instead, if they wish to pass, they must wait for an opportunity to wait until it’s safe to change lanes

In an ideal, bike-friendly environ, I agree with Commute by Bike’s assessment that taking the lane is the safest route. My own personal cycling experiences have led me to adapt my preferred position to the nature of the road and traffic. On a road wide enough to safely accommodate a car and cyclist, I’ll stay far enough right to allow passing but will also make sure that I’m visible. On super-fast corridors, where my speed is far below the flow of traffic, I’m more apt to ride on the shoulder. Although it’s hard, I also do my best to shun my bike-messenger-speed-demon background and wait in line at stop lights and obey traffic laws. Riding safely, predictably, and legally goes a long way to legitimizing cyclists’ presence on the road.

Bike paths are an excellent place to go for recreational riding or for newbies to get comfortable on a bike before they brave riding in traffic. But for cycling to be a truly practical transportation mode, riding on the road is a must for most of us. Check out the classes offered by the League of American Bicyclists.

See also Safer Cycling Video: Take the Lane.

Photo via flickr by richardmasoner.

Related posts:

  1. Bikes Belong Advocates for Cyclist Safety, More Trails
  2. Bikes Belong at National Party Conventions
  3. Bikes, Cars, Helmets, and Psychology
  4. Boston-based Group Advocates for Bikes, not Bombs
  5. Bikes Stream by in Copenhagen
  6. Recent Posts

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous July 7, 2009 at 7:23 pm

I still don’t get it. Bikes have FAR more in common with pedestrians than they do automobiles – (a) speed, (b) size, and (c) mass. Put another way, if I were to drive my car at a speed of a typical cyclist in a 35+ MPH zone, I could get a ticket for obstructing traffic.

I honestly don’t understand the rationale behind keeping cyclists on the roads. Reasons number 4 & 5 above are extremely selfish and aren’t going to win any hearts and minds in your efforts to promote cycling.


2 Admin July 7, 2009 at 10:14 pm

Having spent time cycling in a place where most people cycle on the sidewalk (Japan), I greatly prefer the road. Why? Less transitions from sidewalk to road, more consistent pavement, my speed is closer to that of a car than a pedestrian, cars travel in predictable ways, pedestrians do not, always traveling in the same direction with traffic, never against.

In all the time I have spent cycling, the 5% on sidewalks has resulted in more crashes and near crashes than the 95% on roads.


3 Steve September 3, 2009 at 9:42 pm

I think what it is that you are missing when you say ” I still don’t get it” is that, you do not own the road. In this go fast world of cell phones and giant gas guzzler SUVs more and more it seems that people drive as if they are the only ones that have somewhere to be. They hate motorcyclist as well as bicycles and pedestrians because of no other reason than the belief that their journey is more important, and everyone else should get out of their way. I’m ok that you don’t get it. All I ask is that you try not to run me down while you blast along, talking on your cell phone in your giant pollution spewing iron box.


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