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tl-w.gif (842 bytes)tr-w.gif (841 bytes)Frank 'N Fred

In which Fred learns about lane position.

This month I think we should talk about lane position - that is, where to ride on the road. Almost all of our riding is on the road, and like it or not, there are cars out there.

Hey, I noticed! And I don't like it! Can't we do something about them?

Well, I'm pretty sure we can't make them go away. We're going to have to learn how to get along with them. But it's not bad out there, once you get used to it. The key to getting along with cars is lane position. You've got to be in the right place at the right time.

So are you telling me to ride on the right side of the road? Hey, I already know that. I'm not that dumb! Geez!

I'm glad you know that, Fred. It's the most basic rule of all. Yes, you must ride on the right side of the road, but exactly where? How far to the right is far enough? How far is too far? Let's see if we can figure this out.

Oh, right. I can see it now - we'll carry tape measures on all our rides.

No, it's easier than that. First of all, you've got to decide if the lane you're riding in is wide or narrow. And it doesn't take a tape measure! We call it a wide lane if there's enough room for a car to pass you safely in the same lane. It's narrow if the car will squeeze you too closely.

Who gets to decide if it's safe? Me, or him, or you?

You do! Or we do! That is, the bike rider gets to decide! You've got to figure, a driver passes only a few cyclists, but we cyclists get passed by hundreds of cars. We've had more practice, so we're the ones who decide!

And what do we do about it, once we decide?

It depends on the lane's width. I believe in politeness - so if the lane is wide enough, don't hold up traffic. Ride far enough to the right so the cars can get by easily. It helps build good will.

But there's gravel and glass in the gutter!

Oh, no, don't ride in the gutter or potholes! That's dangerous. And definitely ride a straight line, don't swerve in and out of parked cars. All I'm saying is: if you can give them room with no danger to yourself, go ahead and be polite. Three feet to the right of the cars will give them enough room.

But what if I don't have room to give them room?

Then it's not a wide lane, it's a narrow lane, and you do it differently. You ride far enough to the left to make them go around you in the next lane.

A good rule of thumb here is to ride about where the a car's right wheels would normally be. Assuming it's a straight road, that is, and they can see clearly to pass. Sometimes you need to be even further out! If it's really narrow and there's oncoming traffic, you may have to completely block the lane to be safe.

Block the lane?? To be safe?? I'm going to get killed!!

Calm down, Fred. Let's think about this. What I'm saying isn't so radical. If it's too dangerous for a car to pass you in the same lane, you don't let them pass you in the same lane. You force them to go around you in the other lane - even if it means they wait a few seconds - and you do it by being far enough to the left.

After all, what's the alternative? If you let them squeeze by, they may bump you off the road, right? That's what makes it a narrow lane. That would be really dangerous.

But it's not so bad. I've done this for years, and I've almost never gotten honked at, let alone run over. The car drivers can tell what's going on. Besides, for most riding, it really doesn't come up that often.

The only alternative I can see is to get off the road and let traffic get past. And occasionally, I've done that, rather than cause a real traffic jam.

Can't we just skip the narrow roads? This sounds scary.

Well, don't be embarrassed if you have to work up to it gradually. And if you can't pull it off just yet, you're right - you should find an easier road to ride. But after a while, you'll be able to handle it, honest. Just mind your lane position.

Think about it a while, and give it a try. And next, we'll be able to get you away from the curb to make good left turns in traffic.

Left turns in traffic?? I'm going to get killed!!

See you next time, Fred. Till then - stay vertical, buddy.

- Frank Krygowski

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By Frank Krygowski







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