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I'm new here, and also pretty new to cycling as my main form of travel. Note that I'm from the UK, so we drive on the left. I always ride on the lane closest to the kerb. On one of my journeys I have to go over a dual carriageway, and I noticed that quite a lot of cars overtake me too close for my comfort (like if I deviated a bit to the right, they would hit me). I also noticed that it gets worse if I'm closer to the edge of the road. Because cars try to overtake me in the same lane, rather than waiting for the lane to the right of them to be empty so that they can overtake properly. If instead I am far enough into the lane that there isn't enough room for their car to overtake me on that lane, then these 'close overtakes' occur less frequently.

I don't want to be inconsiderate to drivers by hogging the road and preventing them from overtaking me, but I also don't want to jeopardise my safety by incentivising dangerous overtaking. Is there a guideline on this?

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    This topic is what's known as "Claim your lane". In general, when riding in a vehicle lane, one should stay reasonably far to the right (US) or left (UK) to give motor vehicles more room to pass. This is especially true on a narrow 2-lane road. But, as you're finding, on a multi-lane road, if you do this, people may try to pass in your lane rather than moving into the adjacent lane (or at least part way there). If you find you have this problem in a given situation you may need to "claim your lane" -- move more to the other side of the lane. An especially common problem near turns. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 8 '17 at 3:36
  • You'll never stop all the close passes IME (UK too). I've got a short quiet 30mph dual carriageway (a bit of a road to nowhere) and whether I take the left lane or hit the kerb on that stretch a few drivers are within touching distance every day while many use the whole other lane. – Chris H Apr 8 '17 at 7:39
  • Rather than fight over this lane with cars, can you find an alternative route that avoids this conflict zone? They can't hit you if you're elsewhere. – Criggie Apr 8 '17 at 9:47
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    @Criggie Unfortunately a route avoiding this conflict zone would involve many miles added to my journey, to the point where it's no longer economical for me to cycle there. – mrnovice Apr 8 '17 at 10:39
  • I'll note that traffic laws throughout most of the civilized world (including even the US) require motorists to maintain 3 feet or 1 meter clearance between their vehicles and bicycles they pass. If you observe frequent violations of this rule in a particular area you should complain to the authorities and have them crack down on careless drivers. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 8 '17 at 20:35
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You are already riding considerately by the sounds of it which is great.. I can only advise though on what I used to do. The Highway Code is somewhat vague regarding exact rule for cyclists.. However you ARE entitled to be on the road and drivers ARE obliged to give you plenty of room when overtaking you.

As a racing cyclist (a few years ago now) I would always ride about 2 feet away from the curb, especially on roads that were wide enough for it not to be a problem. This would allow me to clear the drain covers and any recesses they were in, whilst also avoiding the stones & debris which is often laying at the roadside.. I don't think in all my years of road training that I ever had a real problem with drivers.. Well apart from the selfish few that believed that I should just not exist on their road.. But you'll always get those ☺️

Personally I wouldn't advise riding towards the middle of lanes as I know of folk who've been hit directly from behind doing this, as they've just not been seen at all.. as hard as that is to believe.

IMO I'd rather be passed closely than hit directly from behind. This has even happened to my brother as he was stopped at traffic lights on a large motorbike.

On your dual carriageway if there is no cycle track/lane just be careful and aware.. Ride about 2 feet from the curb, wear bright clothing and use a red strobing rear LED light, even in the daytime! Also as the roads are so busy and damaged these days a small camera may be worth considering. Not only would it be helpful in the event of an accident, but it will also assist with any claims to the council for damage to your wheels & tyres etc travelling on todays broken roads..

I have been refunded on a couple of occasions after providing pictures to the council of damage to my wheels and tyres due to hitting large water filled pot holes in the wet.

Take care and ride safe 😉

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    That's actually closer to the kerb than some official UK advice (if I track it down I'll post an answer). My concern with potholes isn't damage to the bike, it's where I end up if I come off (in a famous case a few years ago, someone was killed when thrown off by a pothole into traffic). And you don't know which puddles hide the potholes. – Chris H Apr 8 '17 at 7:37
  • Thanks for the advice. Everytime I do get overtaken closely, I just think how my life is literally in the hands of each driver that passes me - so I wanted to post here to maximise their odds of not messing up. – mrnovice Apr 8 '17 at 10:42
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I'm not sure about what UK law allows and doesn't allow, but the general advice for driving in mixed traffic in urban environments is to imagine that you are driving a car, and position yourself where the driver of your imaginary car would sit. In absolute UK terms, this means you ride as many as 9 feet from the kerb, depending on road width.

Why?

  1. It absolutely shuts down any attempt at passing you in the same lane.

  2. This is the position other drivers will be looking for moving obstacles. They don't expect tiny vehicles close to the kerb, so they won't be looking for them. They do expect vehicles where vehicles normally are, so that's what they are going to look for.

  3. Being further out on the road lets you see further down in intersections, especially when there are visual obstructions. This works both ways too, which means other drivers will see you earlier than if you hug the edge of the road.

Oh, and I personally find this to be especially important in roundabouts. When approaching a roundabout, I exit any bicycle lane I may have used and take a firm position on the driver-seat-side of the road. There are so many things moving when entering and exiting roundabouts that I don't really expect drivers to also remember to look for bicycles squeezing by along the side.

I do recommend getting a strong taillight to alert even sleepy drivers to your presence in the middle of the road. You will also get honked at a lot, but as one of my sources put it:

Don’t worry if a driver is beeping at you. In fact, it’s good. It means the driver is aware of your presence, and has seen you. By the act of beeping, they have made it clear that they are not going to pass you – they are simply taking out their frustration at being ‘held up.’

The following two links explicitly mention the UK, so I assume they're at least somewhat based on UK law.

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Time for an action-camera on your handlebars?

I have one, and do one or two complaints of "passing too close" a year to the local police. You have to be able to provide "supporting evidence" like this:

a close pass

Pic1 Pic2 Pic3 Pic4 Pic5 Pic6 show a licence plate, demonstrate that two following cars passed safely but stayed in their lane, and a shot of the driver's face in the side mirror.

Whether a note from local plod helps modify driver behaviour or not, I don't know. But my local police do act on these reports.

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