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):
- Drivers give you more room
- You are more visible
- You avoid dangerous debris and obstacles
- It’s an easier, more enjoyable ride
- 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.