Social Question

ames83's avatar

Are bicyclists allowed to ride in road lanes?

Asked by ames83 (80points) August 26th, 2009

I was driving and a bicyclist was riding in the road lane and went into the turning lane. He held his arm out to signal that he was making a left hand turn, waited for the light to turn green then made the turn and then gradually got over to the side of the road. Is this allowed?

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30 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

You betcha.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Yes!! He did exactly what he should have.

DominicX's avatar

Yes, it is in the United States AFAIK. Some streets even have marked lanes in the middle of the road for bikes making left turns (in California, at least). I’m too chicken to do it, though, so I always cross with the pedestrians and what not.

rottenit's avatar

Yes, the actual rules vary from state to state but in most cases they have the same rights as cars.

ames83's avatar

Really? Even though he used the hand signal and everything, that just seems unsafe. This was a very busy intersection. So you can do that not just when making turns, but always? The speed limit was 45…

nikipedia's avatar

It is extremely unsafe because most drivers are not respectful or aware of bicyclists.

When I ride I assume I am invisible to cars because most drivers are so oblivious.

Sorry for being a self-righteous cyclist.

sjmc1989's avatar

Of course! Your supposed to share the road.

tedibear's avatar

Yes, as long as they obey the rules of the road, they have every right to be there.

ames83's avatar

@tedibear39 but when the speed limit is 45 and they are going way under (obviously they can’t go the speed limit) thats not obeying the rules of the road. I’m sure people would try to go around them and that is really dangerous.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s unsafe because drivers think they own the road. They don’t. Bicycles have a legal right to take up a lane, whether they obey the law or not. Drivers who honk at bicyclists in the road because they don’t like the bicyclist blocking their lane are pretty much assholes. Drivers tend to do far more egregious things than bicyclists ever do, only they have 1500 lbs of metal to back them up.

I’ve been honked and yelled at to “ride on the sidewalk, asshole!” Fucking idiot. It’s illegal for bicyclists to ride on sidewalks in my town. We are moving vehicles with equal rights to the road.

However, most drivers don’t seem to see bicyclists. Yesterday this dumbkopf looks to right while pulling out of a parking space into the lane on his left. Just as I was passing. He nearly ran into me. He didn’t even look. If I had been a car, there would have been a hell of an accident.

So mostly I ride defensively, assuming that people don’t see me. It must be kind of funny to see me yelling and screaming “Yo!” as I go past cars that look like they are being driven by oblivious idiots. And this is in a town that is supposedly one of the most bicycle friendly because we have lots of bike lanes. Not that anyone pays attention.

I wish drivers would learn how to be patient. If someone is walking down the road, do you blow past them because they aren’t going 45 mph? Is it dangerous to pull out and go around them? No more dangerous than passing a bike. Wait until it’s safe and then pass. What would you do if it were an Amish horse and buggy? Honk at them? Get angry because it’s dangerous to pass them? People who hate bicyclists because they take up the road ought to take anger management classes. Share and be patient. Maybe even feel guilty that you’re not riding. Instead you’re burning all kinds of fossil fuels, contributing to the warming of the planet.

Phew! Glad to get that off my chest!

Lightlyseared's avatar

@ames83 the speed limit is the maximum, you are allowed to go slower you know. Other road users are allowed to overtake bike riders when it is safe to do so just as they are able overtake cars when it is safe to do so. It would only be dangerous if the car driver was an ignorant impatient idiot who thought that only he had the right to be on the road and everyone else should stay at home.

ames83's avatar

@daloon I hope you don’t think that I have a problem with bicyclists or something. I love bike riding and they have every right to be on the road. It’s great to ride you’re bike and exercise and save gas i’m all for that. I’m just concerned about the safety of bicyclists that ride in road lanes. Like you said drivers cannot be trusted. Personally I don’t feel safe riding my bike on an extremely busy road and I would feel 100 times less safe if I was riding in a lane.

ames83's avatar

@Lightlyseared but how much under the speed limit are people on the road really allowed to go? I have heard of people getting pulled over for going too slow. I would just think the same rules would apply for everyone on the road.

ames83's avatar

@daloon by the way I would never honk at an amish horse and buggy and anyone who would is just wrong!! :^/

wundayatta's avatar

@ames83 Actually, the advice my local bicycle association gives is that you should take up a lane. It is supposedly safer because the driver can’t help but notice you. If you just ride on the side, they blow by without even seeing you. In my town, they are supposed to give us two feet of clearance.


If you ride in the middle of the lane, they might honk and yell at you, but they usually won’t drive right through you. When you ride on the side, they far more often don’t pay attention and are more likely to hit you.

I think it’s good to be concerned for the safety of bicyclists, but to legislate them off the road for their own good is not the right policy. In any case, if you force them onto sidewalks, then the pedestrians will (rightfully) complain about their safety. If we’re talking about building separate bike paths that go everywhere—I’m all for that! I don’t need to deal with cars and pedestrians. But that’s not going to happen, so we have to share the road, as unsafe as it may be.

ames83's avatar

@daloon Good point. yeah seperate bike paths everywhere would be awesome. What about bicyclists riding in the road lane at night? is that allowed?

forestGeek's avatar

@daloon – your right about taking up the lane. I’ve been clipped by a driver trying to pass me in the lane because I was hugging the right lane edge. Good to be seen.

I’ve been commuting to work for 6 years now, and though I agree that there are many drivers who hate cyclist, the blame is partially on the cyclist as well. Despite that cyclists are required to follow the same laws as the vehicles, far too many cyclists don’t think those laws apply to them or just don’t care. Running red lights, weaving through traffic, riding up the shoulder to get in front of the line of cars at a stop light, etc., makes all of us cyclists look bad to drivers. And it’s not just the “fixies”/messengers either, as this includes the spandex logo-jersey wearing racer types as well as the yellow-vest reflector safety nuts. Until this stops, I don’t expect drivers to have much respect for cyclist!

wundayatta's avatar

I’m sort of curious as to how analogous this is with how much drivers respect pedestrians. Pedestrians can jaywalk (and do) or cross against the light when no one is coming (or even when they are coming). Bicyclists in many areas are allowed to ride on sidewalks as well as on streets.

I don’t have a problem with cyclists passing between the lanes when a light is red. I think people should be given more consideration for the effort needed to propel oneself. It is a real hardship to stop at a stoplight when you’ve got momentum going up a hill. Or going anywhere, for that matter.

I think it’s an issue of safety and courtesy. People can pass through intersections without stopping at lights or signs if there is no traffic coming. Drivers have all kinds of power. It’s not a big deal for them to stop and start. It’s quite different for cyclists.

However, I don’t think it’s cool for cyclists to scare pedestrians. On the other hand, pedestrians shouldn’t just step out between cars without looking to see if it’s really safe. They also should pay attention when a bicyclist rings a bell to warn them they are coming. Pedestrians often seem to only be concerned about cars, and will step out right in front of you when there are no cars around. It’s like they don’t see you, or hear you, or anything.

Actually, the difference I’ve noticed is that when you ring a bell at a pedestrian, a woman is much more likely to look around than a man is. I don’t know if the men don’t hear us, or if they are ignoring us. I’d think men would be plenty alert to their surroundings—insofar as it is important to hunters, and not as crucial for gatherers, and insofar as one can make a generalization about the roles men and women generally take on in our culture.

I know that a lot of people don’t agree with me on these issues, and do think bicyclists should obey all the rules that are designed for motorized vehicles. I think that the fact bicycles are not motorized means that rules more appropriate for them should be implemented. Some regulations for motorized vehicles just don’t make sense for bicycles.

nikipedia's avatar

@forestGeek: I think sometimes it makes sense for some cyclists to break some of those laws. For instance, I often ride up the shoulder to get in front of cars because I’m worried that if I don’t get right up there, they won’t see me. And sometimes I am forced to run a red light: there’s a stoplight outside my apartment complex that I have to ride through to get anywhere, and the green light is so short that I can’t clear the intersection before it turns red!

forestGeek's avatar

@nikipedia – I agree that sometimes it definitely makes sense to break those laws. I’m sure we all do whether we drive, ride or walk. For cyclists, this is especially true when a stop light is activated by a vehicle instead of a timer…we’d be waiting a long time! ;)

I think the riding up the side thing bothers me because I’ve been on both ends of it, as a driver and a cyclist. Too many times I see the bikes ride up to the front, passing 4–5 cars, then taking the lane and I’m not sure why that seems ok to a cyclist. I must be missing something, because it seems like it’ll just piss-off the driver, just as it does to me when I’m driving. It’s safer and makes more sense to take the lane in the back of the line.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no saint wandering this planet, but I’ve been hit twice now, the first was a hit and run by a pissed driver. I want to see drivers and cyclist get a long. I guess I just believe that to expect respect, you should show respect.

@daloon – I agree with you about the pedestrian thing, they don’t seem to care if I bike is coming at them going 20mph. I hit one once, and I doubt he’ll ever do that again! :)

ames83's avatar

So yeah it is true then that Bicyclists don’t have to follow all road rules. Like mentioned you wouldn’t stop at a stop sign in areas where there are no cars. Ive seen one road that has a turning lane and a lane to go staight and in between the two lanes there is a lane for bicyclists to ride. In this case I feel like the person on the bike could easily be overlooked if the person decided to get over into the other lane.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Where I live, bicycles are considered vehicles and must abide by the rules of the road.
As a teenager I got a ticket on my bike for failing to stop at a stop sign on a road where it was just me and motorcycle cop.

The speed limit is the maximum speed of a road. You can drive under that.
Bikes can still ride on roads. It is the responsibility of the driver to share the road.

robmandu's avatar

In some of the more heavily biked areas around Dallas, the police are very stringent about enforcing the rules of the road… for both cyclists and motorists.

Such as:
– One lane for one vehicle: a car cannot pass a bicycle when it has a solid yellow line in its lane. Regardless how slow the bike is going.
– Cyclists must come to a full and complete stop, even for stop signs at “quiet” neighborhood intersections.

It can be annoying, but on the other hand, it is fair. And the rules are evenly applied.

dynamicduo's avatar

Here in Ontario bicycles are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk, they must ride on the road. They are treated like any other vehicle on the road, they have all the rights that a car does. They must have a bell and a light on their bike.

They should follow the rules just as a car does, and they can be given tickets if caught breaking rules. It is dangerous to not follow the rules of the road because drivers make assumptions, such as the assumption that the guy on the bike is going to stop and wait at the intersection and not go straight through and almost get hit (thanks, old guy who did this to me last week). In fact, our Ottawa Police have been on a blitz giving out tickets to both bicyclists and cars that endanger them, and more tickets have been given to bikers than cars!

wundayatta's avatar

@forestGeek And not only pedestrians. Dogs! I wish their owners would teach them to look both ways before crossing the street! A couple weeks ago I slammed into one when it suddenly decided to cross right as I was going past. It ruined my bicycle (cracked frame) and a brand new camera I was carrying in a case on my hip.

There is a leash law in town, but it was a quiet back street (the kind bicyclists love because we don’t have to deal with cars), so the owner didn’t see the need to keep the dog leashed. She told me later that when the dog saw another bicyclist, she shied away. Still, I doubt she looks when crossing streets.

As to crossing intersections or running red lights—I’ve noticed that cars in my town seem to wait after the light turns red on me. I think they have a slightly delayed green. But they often wait longer than that if they see a bicyclist. We’ve all had experience with messengers blasting through intersections when they have a red light. So I think many drivers are leery of bicyclist behavior. I really hate it when a car has a green light, but they still wait until I come to a stop before moving. If they move, I can run through after they’ve gone, if there are no other cars. Lately, it’s seemed like a game of reverse chicken. Who is going to move first instead of who will stop (or turn) first.

emilyrose's avatar

Have any of you read this? link

billdsd's avatar

Anyone who wants to understand bicycle safety rather than just speculating about it should read this free online book:

Better yet, take the Traffic Skills 101 class taught by the League of American Bicyclists. You can find a provider near you through their web site.

Unfortunately, most people just assume that they can tell what is and isn’t safe. In reality they can’t. Bicycle safety is not intuitive. You have to study it to know it.

Bicyclists have to obey all of the rules of the road, just the same as motorists. The laws usually vary slightly between bicyclists and motorists, but only very slightly and only for a few specific things. Check your local laws. Most states have theirs online.

The middle of the traffic lane is actually the safest place for a bicyclist to be because that is where motorists are looking. That means that motorists always see them when they are there. Bicyclists are often not seen when they are off to the side, even when they are highly visible. It’s called selective attention or something like that. Drivers do not run into bicyclists in the middle of the traffic lane for the same reason that they don’t run into the back of buses. They see them and they know that they can’t pass without moving over so they either move over or slow down and wait for a safe place to pass.

Most states have “far right as practicable” laws, which require bicyclists to keep far right as is safe to ride. This generally requires that the right lane be at least 14 feet wide. Narrower than that and it’s unsafe to try to share the lane. These far right rules also usually have a lot of exceptions for safety like avoiding hazards on the right side, debris etc. BTW, right lanes that are at least 14 feet wide are rare in my experience.

billdsd's avatar

I forgot to mention, bicyclists are not required to go the speed limit. By law bicyclists have a right to use the roads to travel and they can not be required to travel at a speed higher than they are capable of sustaining. Some cops have not understood this, and have found their tickets getting overturned in court.

The fact is that it is very easy to move over to pass a bicyclist safely. Only psychos get upset about it.

billdsd's avatar

A few people are pointing out that drivers cannot be trusted. It’s true that drivers cannot be trusted to do the right thing or to have good judgment. However, drivers can be trusted to behave like drivers normally do. That book and that class that I suggested take this into account. The techniques are based upon how drivers do or don’t pay attention and what they notice and how they behave given various scenarios. The result is that when you adhere to these safety techniques, you are always seen, always predictable and you stay out of ambiguous and therefore dangerous situations.

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