FAQ: Why do you ride like that?

“Biking in the middle of the lane like that sure looks dangerous.”

Driving in the middle of the lane actually protects cyclists against the most common motorist-caused crashes: sideswipes, right hooks, left crosses, and drive-outs.  A bicycle driver’s top safety priority is to ensure he or she can be seen by motorists with whom they might potentially be in conflict, and bicycling in the middle of a lane is one of the most effective ways to do that.  Most overtaking crashes involve a motorist who attempts to squeeze past (illegally) in a lane that is too narrow to share.

This is the width of a typical lane with vehicles drawn to scale. None of the above vehicles are able to give the required 3ft of passing clearance without changing lanes. A cyclist is far more likely to be sideswiped than run over.

“I thought bicyclists had to keep all the way to the right.”

While most states do say that bicyclists must drive as close as “practicable” or as “safe” to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, they also provide many exceptions to this rule, including:

  • When overtaking and passing another vehicle
  • When traveling at or near the same speed as other traffic
  • When preparing for a left turn
  • Where a lane is too narrow to share safely with another vehicle
  • To avoid any condition that makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge

Many surface hazards – such as potholes, puddles, debris, and broken glass – are more common near the edge of the roadway.

Keeping to the right can often hide a bicyclist from a turning motorist at the critical time and place. Check out this animation to see all the hazards a bicycle driver faces when trying to stay to the right.