Most bicyclists understand that when a bike lane is not available they should ride with traffic, not against it. However, many cyclists mistakenly believe that they must always ride as far to the right as possible.
Generally, cyclists riding with traffic should ride as far to the right as practicable. However, this does not mean you must hug the curb or balance on the edge of the road. It means that you should ride as far to the right as you can while remaining safe from obstacles and traffic.
Depending on the situation, it may not be safe to right on the right side of the lane. Sometimes, it is safest to bicycle in the center of the travel lane. This move is often referred to as “taking the lane”.
A cyclist can legally take the lane if he or she is:
- Traveling at the same speed as motorized traffic
- Passing a vehicle that is moving in the same direction
- Preparing for a left turn
- Avoiding hazards like parked cars, potholes or debris
- Traveling in a lane that is too narrow for the bicycle to travel side-by-side with motor vehicles
Taking the lane can be safer in these circumstances because it allows you to establish your position in the lane, which can prevent motorists from passing you when it is unsafe to do so.
Positioning yourself properly when bicycling can help you avoid a traffic citation, but it can also help you stay safe. Knowing when to take the lane can be an important step to help prevent a collision when bicycling.