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Claiming the Lane – Road Safety and Cycling

Lane Control

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.

8 Responses to Claiming the Lane – Road Safety and Cycling

  1. fred_dot_u August 2, 2011 at 3:43 AM #

    I’m pleased to see that your experiment with Keri’s teaching went well. For those of us who have been riding in this manner for some time, it’s just an ordinary ride on a bike. It’s refreshing to see the positive results for a new rider to these methods.

    You suggest that it would not work on a two-lane road, but I suggest that it does, and works well. One does not want an overtaking driver to perform a close shave and controlling the lane prevents that, quite effectively.

    In many states in the USA, the wording for lane position includes an exception to the far-right regulation, in that the exception allows for full lane use in “a sub-standard width lane” usually defined as 14 ft wide, or about 4.2 meters.

    Keri has referenced the concept of “catch and release” on two lane roads, which also works quite well. Occupy the lane until four or five vehicle queue up, then when safe, pull to the side and wave them onward. This prevents high speed overtaking and also makes the trailing drivers aware of your place on the roadway. Drivers who follow too closely are subject to traffic masking in such a way as to not see you, while catch and release makes your presence more apparent. Catch and release also provides increased protection from distracted (cell phone/texting) drivers, in my opinion.

    Horn blasts elicit a friendly, long duration wave from me, if only to defuse the situation or perhaps confuse the driver.

    Nicely done article.

  2. Karl September 10, 2011 at 6:02 PM #

    Needs a simultaneous rear camera in the video to show the way vehicles approach you from behind and also the video need to run at normal speed.

    • Aushiker September 10, 2011 at 7:19 PM #

      Thanks for your comments, however I am comfortable with the videos as they stand. They achieve want I wanted to achieve given my resources so will not be changing anything.

      • Karl September 10, 2011 at 7:39 PM #

        No problems. Still very informative.

        I have tried riding like this on Manning Road which is dual lane both ways, high speed (70km/ph), often congested and also has heavy vehicles like delivery trucks etc on it. It didn’t quite work for me though. Sure people drove around, but I copped a lot of flak and also a few people seemed to buzz past me on purpose as a punishment for holding them up 1 second and forcing them to go around..

        This, and similar, roads are really too dangerous to ride on unless it is really quiet with no traffic, so in the end I decided to take the quiet (but not necessarily safer) residential streets as I would prefer to hit a car doing 25 or be hit by a car doing 50 rather than 70.

        If only we had good cycle infrastructure like Holland et al. But we all know that isn’t going to happen around Perth any time soon.

  3. Aushiker September 11, 2011 at 8:33 AM #

    I think you have a point here in that some thought needs to go into the roads that one chooses to take a primary position. I have found for example that I get more of a negative reaction on Tydeman Road in North Fremantle. However I find that whilst I have copped some horn blowing/abuse (and one road rage incident before the Police) the drivers still change lanes to pass (including my road rage friend who passed safety twice) 🙂 The safe passing of course being the whole point of my riding position.

    That said I have learnt a few pointers since I made these videos:

    (1) Take a primary position with plenty of notice. For example my left turn into Tydeman Road is often with traffic behind me from the lights. I now give them a little more room to pass and once the few motorists have cleared I take primary position. This seems to make quite a difference. BTW I generally catch those same motorists at the next lights so they gain little if anything :);

    (2) “Primary position” needs to be a little flexible. Taking the centre of lane one (left lane) seems to generate more aggravation on some roads than taking a primary position to the right of the left motor vehicle tyre track but not quite centre of the lane. That is I am skewed to the left of the lane but about 3/4 of the way towards the centre of the lane. I hope that makes sense. That small derivation to the left appears to have a significant impact in reducing negative driver reactions. I do on the downside get the odd passer who does not change lanes, but will pass straddling the lane dividing line, but with good clearance. An interesting physiological impact which may well provide the balance.

    Good luck in finding the route’s that work best for you.

    Andrew

  4. claimthelanec October 12, 2014 at 6:31 PM #

    A valuable experiment in claiming the lane and its benefits, especially on wide multi-lane roads. Lane claiming is all about encouraging safe on-road interaction with other road users. I have linked to this blog post on my own blog. #claimthelane

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  1. Roundabouts and Cyclists - 1DKZ887 - Incident 2013-02 - February 7, 2014

    […] to make sure that at the start of the double white lines, the no-passing lines, that I had “claimed the lane.” The purpose of this action is to discourage/stop the very driving that the driver of […]

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