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When I ride on the road with someone (in the country), I try to ride on his side, and then when a car comes, I pull back in. This way, we can talk and have more fun during the trip.

Sometimes, I don't have to time to do this, and I get honked, or overtaken really close (like to give me a lesson), and I feel that I'm not in my right to be side by side with another bike.
Anyway, the Swiss law seems to be on my side but I feel it can be subject to interpretation.

What do you think? What do you do in my situation?

Here are the rules written on the Swiss Touring Club (TCS) website:

French

Les cyclistes ne peuvent rouler côte à côte que dans certaines situations et pour autant que le trafic n’en soit pas gêné :

Groupes de plus de 10 personnes
Sur des itinéraires cyclables balisés ou des routes secondaires
Sur les pistes cyclables
Dans les zones de rencontre

Excepté dans les situations mentionnées ci-dessus, les cyclistes doivent rouler les uns derrière les autres.

English

Cyclists can travel side by side only in certain conditions, and if they don't disturb the traffic:

Groups of more than 10 people
On cycling itinerary and secondary roads1
On cycling lanes
In meetup zones

Except in the above situation, cyclists must ride one after another.

1:This is where the situation I'm describing takes place.

So as you see, it is subject to interpretation. What is a "secondary road"? What do they mean by "disturb the traffic"?

  • 1
    "Disturbing the traffic" basically means getting in people's way. Most countries have classifications of roads according to their importance, so you'd have to look up exactly what a secondary road is in Switzerland but, roughly speaking, "not the biggest, most important roads when considered on the national scale." – David Richerby Nov 9 '17 at 11:38
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    I should note that the rules on this are highly sensitive to local laws. In the US some states permit 2-abreast and some don't. – Daniel R Hicks Nov 9 '17 at 13:12
  • Where I live cyclists are largely despised because far too many 'Assert there right to be inconsiderate'. Clearly if you are getting honked at, drivers don;t liek what you are doing. You may be legally in the right, but annoyed enough drivers stereo type and have a way of getting back at cyclists. Its not rational, but ultimately when you consider what happens when 2000kg of steel and plastic vs a 100kg bag of water at speed, what mindset do you want the car driver to have? – mattnz Nov 9 '17 at 20:45
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    Thanks for all your answers ! I wanted more to create a discussion about what you do in this situation where the rules are subject to interpretation, and when it seems that common sense is asked. – Akah Nov 10 '17 at 8:03
4

EDIT: safety first. Even if you are allowed to ride side by side in exact situation, be ready to pull back if there is any threat that bad driver would try to push you off the road. Have a camrecorder if possible and submit recording after all to local police.

It depends on your local regulations. It would be nice if you would post here apropriate extract from swiss road regulations.

In Poland, where I live, riding side by side is legal under some circumstances.

It is exceptionally allowed for the cyclist to ride on the road next to another bicycle or moped if it does not road traffic or it does not jeopardize the safety of road traffic.

As you can see, it leaves some field for interpretation. Some people say that you can do it only on virtually empty road and when you see any car, you have to ride in one file. Personally I don't agree. When cars does not need to slow down because of oncoming traffic and can overtake with 1m interspace, then you're ok.

From my experience, it is good to know +/- exact contents of your local regulations that apply to bike traffic. Some drivers base on their own imagination of road rules and need to be "informed". On the other hand, it prevents you from breaking law unwittingly, because

Ignorantia iuris nocet

  • 1
    Thanks, I've added and traduced TCS rules, which is a recognized organisation in Switzerland. – Akah Nov 9 '17 at 9:52
  • @Akah so you're ok and if there is enough space to overtake you with interspace required by regulations. You are not even supposed to pull back then. – krzyski Nov 9 '17 at 10:26
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The relevant law text in Switzerland is on admin.ch (quoting German version, the French and Italian versions are also available at that link and just as legally binding. I'm not translating it, but very roughly summing it up below):

Art. 43 Motorräder, Motorfahrräder und Fahrräder; Hintereinanderfahren

(Art. 46 Abs. 2 und 47 Abs. 1 SVG)

  1. Die Führer von Fahrrädern und Motorfahrrädern dürfen nicht neben andern Fahr-rädern oder Motorfahrrädern fahren. Sofern der übrige Verkehr nicht behindert wird, ist das Nebeneinanderfahren zu zweit jedoch gestattet:

    a. in geschlossenem Verband von mehr als zehn Fahrrädern oder Motorfahr-rädern;

    b. bei dichtem Fahrrad- oder Motorfahrradverkehr;
    c. auf Radwegen und auf signalisierten Rad-Wanderwegen auf Nebenstrassen;

    d. in Begegnungszonen

  2. Die Führer von Motorrädern dürfen weder nebeneinander noch neben Fahrrädern oder Motorfahrrädern fahren. Radfahrer und Motorfahrradfahrer dürfen nicht neben Motorrädern fahren.

I understand this to mean that any condition a-d is sufficient to allow exactly two (motorized) bicycles side by side, with the caveat that you aren't ever allowed to hinder the rest of the traffic.

Probably there is some other law somewhere defining what exactly is meant by hindering traffic, but I couldn't find it on the spot.

ASVZ Rennvelo (cycling club of several large Swiss universities) has the following in their introduction document for people interested in joining one of their riding groups:

Die Fahrer am Ende der Gruppe weisen auf von hinten kommendem Verkehr hin mit dem Ruf «Auto!», was heisst, dass jetzt in einer Spur gefahren werden muss und nicht abgelöst werden darf, bis der Verkehr sicher überholt hat. (Gemäss Verkehrsregelv erordnung Art. 43 darf «[...] in geschlossenem Verband von mehr als zehn Fahrrädern [...]» nebenei nander gefahren werden.)

So they are interpreting it in a careful way: You should not ride side by side (to switch to the back of the riding formation) if there is any (motorized) traffic overtaking you.

On the other hand groups like Critical Mass or Vélorution stretch the law in the other direction and regularly ride in large groups (20-600) with 3-10 riders side by side taking up to 3 regular lanes and no one to my knowledge has ever been taken to court for that. Police on bicycles recently showed up at such events so they are well aware of them.

Basically I think this boils down to: Only do it on official cycling roads (marked by brown/red signs, no or little motor traffic) and in large groups. That large group should have someone more experienced who can tell when it's okay and when not.

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