A recent blog posting and associated video at Commute Orlando titled “Helping Motorists with Lane Positioning” got me thinking about what claiming the lane really means and if it is a safe effective strategy. So I tried a few experiments to see how it works out.
The video at Commute Orlando shows the cyclist riding in the middle of the lane on a two way lane road. The critical point here is that the road is a multi-lane road. This is not something I would consider appropriate or considerate to do on a single lane road.
My approach in the past has been to ride wide, i.e., to road at approximately the left motor vehicle wheel track which reduces the likelihood of close shaving but does not encourage motorists to change lanes or that matter to pass as safely as desirable or as per the Western Australian Road Code 2000. The Code states:
124. Keeping a safe distance when overtaking
A driver overtaking a vehicle –
(a) shall pass the vehicle at a sufficient distance to avoid a collision with that vehicle or to avoid obstructing the path of that vehicle; and
(b) shall not return to the marked lane or line of traffic where the vehicle is travelling until the driver is a sufficient distance past that vehicle to avoid a collision with that vehicle or to avoid obstructing the path of that vehicle.
The approach suggested in the Commute Orlando posting is to not ride wide but to actually claim the lane. What can I loose? Getting killed? Well that can happen anyway. Getting a horn blast? That happens anyway.
So I decided to give it a shot. I have three videos from a recent commutes where I rode on multi-lane roads.
This first video was shot on Winthrop Avenue, Nedlands on a Friday evening around 5:00 PM.
With the exception of one vehicle who for some reason left it quite late to change lanes, all the vehicles changed lanes earlier than I expected based on my prior riding wide experience and all the vehicles changed lane. So the first experiment was a big tick.
This second video was shot on Canning Highway, Alfred Cove at around 12:00 PM on a Saturday.
As you can see, I join Canning Highway to the west of the traffic light controlled intersection at North Lake Road so this adds another element to my experiment and boy did it what. First was the reaction of the driver of the white 4WD ute (around the 0.05 second mark) … his driving was on the risky side for sure, coming close to the vehicles in lane two (right lane). He showed signs of impatience. The second interesting reaction was from the driver of the black small car (you can see the vehicle after I passed the lights at about 0.19 seconds). This driver in their impatience, changed to lane two (right lane) before the lights and had to immediately come to a stop behind the turning traffic. Had she waited a few seconds she could have passed me safety after the lights and a lot early than she did. Oh well, her impatience didn’t do her any good. Finally I got a beep from white camper van (at 0.34 seconds). I thought that was funny. Aren’t camper vans meant to be about getting away from it all and all relaxing?
This final video was shot again on Winthrop Avenue, Nedlands but now on Saturday afternoon and heading in a northerly direction.
The interesting aspect with this video was the reaction from motorists once the lights changed. When the lights turned red I pulled up at the lights, positioning myself clearly in the centre of lane one. Despite this a few motorists pulled up behind me rather than changing to lane two on their approach. I expected this to cause a bit of angst when the lights turned green but was pleasantly surprised to find that all the motorists behind me safely, waiting patiently to pass in lane two.
Overall, whilst this is early days I am pleased to report that my experiment has worked well and will be adopting this approach on all the multi-lane roads I ride on. I did try out one more road as part of this experiment; that was the Old Fremantle Traffic Bridge, Queen Victoria Street, Fremantle on a Sunday evening after sunset. I was riding my Giant XTC 2 pulling the B0B Ibex trailer so whilst presenting a different profile was riding slow. The traffic behaved as I had evidenced elsewhere, changing safety over to lane two to pass. This was particularly pleasing as this bridge is not the nicest places to ride by any stretch of the imagination. Sorry no video. I was heading off on a tour the next day and didn’t take the camera.