In a stretch of my commute I have a nice looking bike lane that unfortunately currently has a couple unusable spots. I'm going about 20mph which is around half traffic speed.

So far I have tried two strategies, both with less than ideal results.

As I approach an unusable patch I signal, merge and take the lane for some 10-20 meters depending on how the merge worked and return to the bike lane where it again meets my standards. But this has in some cases has apparently been unexpected by cars who express their surprise unhelpfully. The bike lane's faults may not be totally obvious to a driver. In other stretches without a bike lane taking a lane hasn't been an issue.

Or as I approach the trouble I skirt the edge of the lane. I hold a line maybe 30 meters before the spot just about on the painted line (there are three spots and one of them the line is not usable so I'm in the lane) This makes me pretty predictable in the trouble spot which I take as helping my chances of being hit since cars typically give me space. But means I have little or no option to maneuver if someone does choose to pass close, so far it hasn't come up.

I'm pretty sure the first option is correct, but doesn't seem to be as well received and I've felt safer in practice using the second.

The question is: Is there a way to make this work better?

  • 3
    Opinion so not an answer: your first option should be right but anything less than a road cone or even a parked car in the bike lane would be completely invisible to most drivers, even well-intentioned ones. I face something similar uphill so slower and acting early is right then
    – Chris H
    Oct 26 '17 at 18:57
  • 10
    Longer term, report this to the local roading authority for action. Not a quick fix though.
    – Criggie
    Oct 27 '17 at 0:14
  • 1
    check if local lavs allow you to use the road.
    – kifli
    Oct 27 '17 at 10:35
  • that sounds like my commute last year. i usually took the lane and sprinted up to 25ish mph. if it was too busy i'd do a little street theater on the lane and ride erratically to make the drivers nervous enough to give me some room :P Feb 20 '18 at 5:51

You don't say where in the world you are, so it's not clear what the traffic regulations are. I'm in the UK, so I'll assume UK-like regulations – bicycles are allowed to use the vehicle lanes even when there's a cycle lane and bicycles are basically supposed to act like cars.

First, regardless of regulations, you've missed option 3, which is to slow down to a speed where the cycle lane is usable. You don't say exactly what the problems with the cycle lane are but, unless they're so dangerous that the highway authority needs to have fixed them yesterday, you should be able to slow down for them. By approaching what you know to be bad sections of the cycle lane at speed, you are severely limiting your options.

Second, you mention motorists being surprised when you enter their lane. In jurisdictions that I'm familiar with, signalling a turn means "I intend to manoeuvre when it is safe to do so." In particular, it does not mean "Please make space for me – I'm gonna turn!" If you are signalling, it would be nice for somebody to make space for you, but that is not an obligation and a car rapidly braking from its 40mph to your 20mph is asking to be rear-ended. If your lane change is causing surprise, it suggests that your manoeuvre wasn't safe and that you were using your signal as a request for space rather than a notification of intent. After all, if there had been enough space for you in that lane (i.e., a long enough gap in the traffic), motorists wouldn't have had to react to your presence at all.

  • From my experience (Spain) whenever there is a bicycle dedicated lane and a bicycle is riding outside of it, as soon as this is noticed, there is no considering regulations (yes it's allowed to ride outside) many of the motor vehicles will honk , some others will pass very close in retaliation (it DOES happen) other will shout at you to get in your lane , others will stop the car and threaten with bodily physical aggression
    – gaurwraith
    Feb 20 '18 at 15:38
  • That's a good summary of the situation in the UK (so +1). But if the bike lane is blocked by a parked (legally or otherwise) car, there is no slowing down to a safe speed, and slower makes pulling out harder. Another situation I face daily is the need to move into a right turn lane before a roundabout. I have to do this early to find a safe gap given traffic doing 40 in a 30 limit, but that's not courteous.
    – Chris H
    Feb 21 '18 at 17:32
  • 1
    @ChrisH Agreed about parked cars. The problem isn't precisely stated in the question but I imagine they'd have said something like "a couple of places where cars are regularly parked" rather than "a couple of unusable spots" if the problem was parked cars. Feb 21 '18 at 18:01

I'm not sure what the rules are relating to your locale. But here in the UK I find it safer to 'indicate' and merge with other traffic well before any interruption to a cycle lane. As you state, drivers don't like surprises and from their perspective the cyclist may appear not to be riding safely if darting out unexpectedly. I take the same approach when passing parked cars and other obstacles. Give plenty of warning to drivers with no sudden changes of direction.


But this has in some cases has apparently been unexpected by cars

That means that, whatever the legality is, you're doing it wrong!

If you need to exit a bike lane to rejoin the normal road, it's pretty likely that you can't do it safely at speed. I'd recommend slowing down, if necessary coming to a dead stop, and wait for a gap in the traffic before you pull out.

I see two other options:

  • Use the cycle lane as intended by whoever designed the cycle lane. If this means slowing down a lot, then you'll have to slow down a lot

  • Don't use the cycle lane. Stay on the road the whole way. You're then not surprising drivers by exiting the cycle lane. I have done this rather than use impractical cycle lanes many times

NB UK-based answer but I think my advice is fairly general. It only wouldn't apply in locations where cyclists must use a cycle lane when provided. But I suspect OP is in the UK anyway, as I don't know of anywhere else that people use both mph and metres!

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