The city I live in isn't especially well designed for cycling.

There are some streets with parallel parking on the sides, and in this situation it's safer to ride in the middle of the lane as to force cars to pull right over to pass, (or wait), rather than trying to squeeze past on the same lane.

However I get the feeling that this antagonises some motorists, even though it is the safest way to ride.

Is there a way to ride safely, while minimising motorist antagonism?

  • 4
    Which country/state do you live in - there are different passing rules/expectations of cyclists in different places in the world. In the Uk, where I live, I always take the lane, I commute into work along an A road, with some tight bends at time, in relatively high traffic. Taking the lane gives me space to avoid debris/potholes, keeps me visible and prevents cars overtaking unsafely.
    – 7thGalaxy
    Apr 10, 2014 at 7:40
  • In most (probably all) states in the US you're legally entitled to "claim" the lane if needed for safety. The basic rule is to ride as far to the right as safe and practical (leaving the cyclist to judge what that means), and Moz outlines why "claiming" the lane is often the best way to meet these criteria. Don't feel bad about the way you're doing it, just have a little consideration -- pull over to allow traffic to pass when it's reasonable, eg. Apr 10, 2014 at 11:05
  • 1
    The answer also depends on what city you live in. Bike friendly cities generally have stricter rules. In my city, Chicago, we have parallel parking on virtually all streets and marked bike lanes on many streets that run right next to those parked cars. The current penalties for "dooring" a cyclist is a $500 fine (set to go to $1,000 shortly) and you are responsible for all damage and medical costs. In Chicago, motorist are generally pretty forgiving of cyclists, but blocking them is not considered a good idea.
    – Gary E
    Apr 10, 2014 at 15:45

3 Answers 3


In my experience, no. The problem is that however polite you try to be you're taking the lane so you're in their way.

My commute takes me over a narrow one-lane-each-way bridge that's a bit of a choke point, so it's busy. It's also a raised bridge, so sight lines are very poor. Since I ride it twice a day I've had the chance to experiment with some different approaches. Normally I ride during daylight, so I'm only considering that at the moment, but I have dynamo powered lights that are always on (they don't flash).

1: ride normally, take the lane
Result: most motorists are fine, perhaps 10% follow closer than I'd like (within 3m), occasionally one will (illegally) overtake, often failing to allow the 1m separation that I like, but since I have room I simply move away from them.

2: ride "politely" as close to the side of the road as I can
Result: 5-10% of motorists try to squeeze past me, often pulling back in before they have actually done so and forcing me to brake to avoid being hit. Some of them are aggressively close and these are the only times I've been abused.

3: take the lane, but turn my daylight-bright blinking lights on
Result: very few motorists follow too close, only one overtaking motorist and that was when there was clearly no oncoming traffic (still illegal, but relatively safe)

4: ride on the (narrow) footpath
Result: rather than being scared of misbehaving motorists, I'm now illegally terrorising pedestrians (of whom there are quite a few). I've only done this a couple of times, both because the road was packed with cars and I really didn't feel up to fighting for my place on the road. I don't feel good about it.

5: take the lane, lights on, helmet camera
Result: sore neck, as for (3) above.

I've basically stopped experimenting with this because the results are, in my opinion, conclusive. I turn my lights on when I leave the bike path a couple of hundred metres before the bridge (bright flashing lights on the shared path are, IMO, rude and unnecessary), or when I leave home (the bridge is ~1km from home). So I'm always using the flashing lights when I'm on the road.

  • 2
    +1 for #3. In my city, the blinking lights are the difference between routine honking and aggressive behavior from motorists, and 100% of drivers patiently waiting to change lanes when passing. Apr 10, 2014 at 20:15
  • 2
    Daylight use of bike lights is underrated. Regarding #2, are you in a country where traffic drives on the left side of the road? If so, that would be a good point to clarify. I can't imagine that more people would try to pass if you were on the left side of the lane, but I'm from the US where we drive on the right.
    – nhinkle
    Apr 14, 2014 at 3:55
  • @nhinkle edited to make it clear.
    – Móż
    Apr 14, 2014 at 3:58

Some tips I've gathered from being on both sides of the fence. Since you're specifically asking riding safely and minimizing motorist antagonism, there are some which will work but might not appeal to your sense of justice/fairness:

  1. Even higher visibility. One way of antagonising drivers is to appear at the last moment, since they won't have time to plan ahead. To avoid that, make sure you're aware of vehicles behind you, signal early and move out early. You could add an additional rear light on our helmet or backpack (which might even be visible over the top of a parked cars). During the day you might want a flashing light with daylight-visible brightness.

  2. Be patient. Pull over, let the cars through first, wait for a gap in the traffic. If you need to take the lane for a long stretch, look for places to pull over part way. Maybe even get off and walk past the danger stretch.

  3. Adapt your route to avoid hot spots
  4. You can safely pass parked cars up close if you slow right down. I'm talking about cycling at walking pace, and ready to brake and watching closely for opening doors. This is necessary anyway if you're filtering through stopped traffic.
  5. Don't take the lane when it's unnecessary.
  6. If you're out on training ride with your mates or with a club then everything else counts double - there are more of you to start, and you have a free choice of route so much less reason to be riding on the least suitable roads.
  7. Finally, get on with it. If you've got no choice, you're taking the lane and you know you've got a line of traffic behind you, put your best foot forward and catch your breath when you're clear again.
  • Shouldn't 5. be "take the lane when it's necessary" instead of "unnecessary"? Or do I misunderstand something? Apr 10, 2014 at 13:26
  • @BenediktBauer: it's "don't.. when unnecessary", i.e. "do only...when necessary"
    – Chris H
    Apr 10, 2014 at 13:52
  • 1
    Ah, OK, then I just read the sentence the wrong way. Thanks for the clarification. Apr 10, 2014 at 13:54
  • 4
    It's not your problem to stop people overtaking you on a bend or similar stupid things. It's not your duty - it can be your problem. I've been hit by a car trying to pass next to a traffic island (their rear door hit my bars as they pulled in). My few% of the blame is that I was too close to the kerb: I had no escape route & it looked wide enough to pass (it was just wide enough to squeeze through without hitting me, but not to do so safely). No harm this time - didn't even scratch the car with my barends - and I was braking so basically hopped off. Lesson learnt: stay wider there.
    – Chris H
    Apr 10, 2014 at 13:58
  • 1
    Downvote because of 5: It is your problem - and you shouldn't allow people to pass you if it's not safe. And it's only safe if the road is either 2 lanes each way - so they can give you enough space (minimum 2 meters) or there's no traffic the other side. Given that taking the lane isn't ever going to prevent them from overtaking safely, and they shouldn't be even thinking about overtaking unless it's safe, I think you should always be there.
    – 7thGalaxy
    Apr 10, 2014 at 14:31

Whenever I hold up a car for more than a couple of seconds, I make a point of giving them a big thumbs up or wave of thanks, just to let them know I'm not being selfish or oblivious to them. I'll also look out for a safer place for them to overtake and swing back into secondary position as soon as I safely can.

Granted this only helps once the irritated driver has been waiting behind you, but I'd hope that in the long run it may help drivers become more understanding. On a city commute, it's not impossible for the same car to pass you several times, so it might directly pay to be polite.

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