Take the 2-minute tour ×
Bicycles Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people who build and repair bicycles, people who train cycling, or commute on bicycles. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In the city I live in, there's a lot of two lane roads.

I feel much more comfortable taking the lane, as to not have a car come up from behind and clip me while overtaking.

However, when I encounter congestion ahead, I can safely ride between cars, (because I'm the one judging the spacing).

This seems rude to be riding in a way that I'm not allowing people to overtake me (unless using a different lane to), but then allowing myself to overtake others. Are there any etiquette guidelines concerning this technique?

share|improve this question
2  
I'm used to that being described as "taking the lane" rather than "riding primary" (which I don't recall ever seeing before). It might be worth switching the term to the one more common in this site. –  Mσᶎ May 5 at 0:25
1  
@Mσᶎ "Primary" and "Secondary" are terms of art from recent British cycling manuals and state sanctioned training. britishcycling.org.uk/cycletraining/article/… –  Samuel Russell May 5 at 5:34
2  
@SamuelRussell I can only guess that some bureaucrat felt that making up new terms would justify a hefty fee? –  Mσᶎ May 5 at 6:25
1  
When passing traffic islands round here, taking the lane appears to be the only way to stop the cars squeezing through a gap that isn't wide enough to be safe, and sometimes is physically narrower than their car. I've had many near misses and been hit once (when I was tucked in to the side of the road from making it easy to be passed on the preceding uphill and couldn't move out again before the island). –  Chris H May 7 at 9:52
6  
Keep in mind that it is not rude to inconvenience others for your safety, but it is rude to inconvenience others for your convenience. –  Daniel R Hicks May 7 at 16:05

4 Answers 4

In general, yes it is rude. But there can be times when it's acceptable.

I'm sure we all understand that you are trying to maximize your own safety. It is a tricky balance to achieve. Especially since how you ride depends on the local driver and cyclist cultures, and local laws.

In many places we cyclists struggle for respect and acceptance by the motoring majority. There are multiple overlapping factors / factions involved:

  • The might is right faction. For whatever reason: permanent inferiority complex, transient anger, whatever. Logic will never prevail here, but don't give them a reason to target you.

  • The cyclists don't obey the rules faction. Reinforced every time a driver sees a cyclist run a red light, ride on the footpath, or in many cases / places - split lanes, take up a whole lane, ride without a helmet, ride with no hands (on the handlebars), pop a mono, have fun, you name it. To them, if a cyclist does anything they as a driver can't do then it should be banned: the rules are written and unwritten.

  • The cyclists are unpredictable faction. These people may appreciate that every cyclist is freeing up road space, but cyclists vary in experience and predictability. And in peak inner-city traffic it can be hard to know where we are: "Did I pass him yet? I can't see him; did he turn off? I don't want to hit him ...".

In summary: obey the local rules.

For example, I ride in 4 different conditions, when I'm not in a bike lane or on a bike path:

  • Inner city, generally with heavy and congested (0-40kph) traffic. The drivers generally see lots of bikes, and have learned to accommodate. Because their max speed and mine match, I take a full lane when it's available. At lights, there are "bike boxes" painted on the road in front of the stopped traffic. Bikes are expected to start from there, so that they are visible to the traffic behind. So bikes often filter through the lanes when the traffic is stopped. This example supports taking a lane, but it is a limited case.

  • Inner city, traffic dominated by recreational and fitness cyclists (Kew Boulevard, for those who know it). The speed limit is 50kph, so on the downhills we usually take the whole lane. Elsewhere, we mostly use the bike lane, unless there is too much bike traffic to fit.

  • Outer city (the 'burbs). While the traffic here has greatly improved in the last decade, taking a lane is putting your life in their hands. Some drivers are very bike aware, completely changing lanes to overtake. When other drivers see that behavior, they often copy it. But some drivers can look you in the eye and just not see you. Taking a lane is dangerous because to these drivers you simply don't exist. It only takes one to take you out.

  • Outer city on regular cycling routes, with no bike lanes. If alone, I ride about a meter out from the curb, to avoid all the broken pavement and any rubbish. The local law says vehicles must drive "as near as practicable" to the side of the road. I only take a lane when it would only be for a short distance, and the motorists are aware of me, and safety depends on it. If in a bunch, we would take a whole lane unless it was unsafe.

The third example sounds more like your case. The other examples show how the local conditions and expectations can change things.

share|improve this answer
1  
Some good stuff here andy - but I'm not sure about your third point 'the burbs' - I'd argue that it's always safer to take the lane, to stop opportunistic overtakes where there's not enough room, and because they're more likely to see you if you're in the middle of their sight, than if you're pushed up against the kerb. You're also less likely to be seen by cars pulling out, more likely to hit a drain, and often have to bob in and out of parked cars. All in all, better to take the lane. –  7thGalaxy May 7 at 10:41
    
@7thGalaxy yes, everyone has to make their own judgement using what they know of local conditions / laws / behavior. My opinion is formed from my experience where I ride. But when you say "more likely to see you", I worry about the time they don't. It only takes once. Your point about drains and parked cars is strong; that's what I mean by "local conditions". –  andy256 May 7 at 11:20

"I can safely ride between cars....", You an judge spacing

"a car come up from behind and clip me while overtaking." Car drivers cannot judge spacing.

Is this dichotomy the root of the issue? Your (mine as well) perception is that because you are in control, you are safer than when not in control. Turn this around, and the car driver feels lane splitting is less safe than him passing you. Hence apparent rudeness on your part.

I invite you to explore this as it is the most likley reason you feel its rude.

And to answer the question, it is rude to purposely slow someones progress then pass them, especially if you pass them illegally (Which lane splitting is in many duristrictions), regardless of if its a car, another bike or a runner.

share|improve this answer
    
Yes, I feel that my judgement of spacing is inherently better than a motorists. "Turn this around, and the car driver feels lane splitting is less safe than him passing you. Hence apparent rudeness on your part. " - The rudeness is more that I'm holding traffic up by riding slowly, but not being held up myself. –  dwjohnston May 5 at 1:20
    
I therefore refer you to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusory_superiority#Driving_ability –  mattnz May 5 at 2:53
    
To be fair - surely cyclists genuinely are more aware of their space, how much they're moving about, etc. –  dwjohnston May 5 at 2:57
1  
I think that the biggest thing to take into the consideration of what happens when the passing party makes a mistake. If a car clips a cyclist travelling 30 km/h faster than the cyclist, the cyclist could end up dead. If a cyclist passes a car, and hits the car, you might scratch the paint, or at worse, break off the mirror. The cyclist or his bike would probably be hurt more than the car. The non-offending party (in the car), will have no physical damage. –  Kibbee May 5 at 14:34
3  
Cars are wider and the driver is on the other side of the car relative to the cyclists ... so it's safe to assume that the cyclists is a better judge of spacing the the car driver. –  mtahmed May 5 at 17:27

As @mattnz mentions, it is most likely illegal to split the lane in the manner you describe. While traffic laws differ from place to place, almost any locale with defined lanes will have a law saying that riding/driving between lanes (for longer than it takes to change lanes) is illegal. I strongly advise you to check and follow your local laws. Almost any violation of traffic laws is going to be considered rude.

That said, it often is legal to pass on the non-traffic side of the road. That is, pass on the right where people drive on the right and pass on the left where people drive on the left.

When legal, whether or not it is rude depends largely on what happens after you have passed all of these cars. If you're only passing all of this congestion to turn onto a side road and get out of their way, it's probably not a big deal.

If you pass all the congestion and take the lane again (such as you might be able to do at a traffic light or stop sign), then you just passed all of these cars only to slow their progress and force them to pass you again (which creates more congestion) and is certainly rude.

share|improve this answer
    
Actually, some localities apparently allow motorcycles to pass between cars. It's highly dependent on the rules in your area. –  Daniel R Hicks May 7 at 0:58
    
If you pass all the congestion and take the lane again ... then you just passed all of these cars only to slow their progress and force them to pass you again ... and is certainly rude. You've just described a decent proportion of the bike lanes in the UK (where technically you can only enter a bike box on a red light if you do so from the bike lane, which is one reason why it's common to see short stretches leading up to traffic lights. Also there's a good chance several of those cars were already braking for the lights when they passed you - now whose overtaking is poor? –  Chris H May 7 at 9:48
    
If you don't take the lane, and get passed by cars only to be held up by them when it gets congested a few hundred yards further, then the car drivers have gained absolutely nothing, have possibly endangered you by passing too close, and are now holding you up unnecessarily. Avoiding that situation certainly isn't rude, and it is certainly rude of drivers to insist that you put up with that situation. –  armb May 7 at 15:39
1  
@ChrisH I think I see where we're bumping heads. The problem is that the OP hasn't given us enough information. I read the question as asking about short-term, temporary congestion, such as you encounter at major intersections on the edge of the metro area of a major city at rush hour. You seem to have read it as talking about the general congestion in a dense urban area. The OP hasn't actually indicated which type of congestion they're talking about. –  jimirings May 7 at 16:50
1  
Yes. "It depends on local conditions" is the right answer. "It is certainly rude" is, in some conditions, just wrong. –  armb May 7 at 16:57

It depends on local circumstances. Often, it's the only sane rational way for cyclists to behave. In other places, it's rude because you didn't really need to take the lane for safety. In still other places, it's the rational safe way for a cyclist to behave but will be seen as rude anyway because it violates local expectations.

And some drivers will see it as rude anyway everywhere, because some drivers see the very existence of cyclists on the road as offensive.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.