Middle of the Road

Whenever a person first discovers I bike, they reply with a story. And it’s always the same story.

“I was driving down [insert any road name] when all of the sudden I saw a cyclist in the MIDDLE OF THE ROAD!” Inevitably it always ends with them saying they “just tapped on their horn” or “squeezed by” or “yelled out to the cyclist.” 

And many many times I’ve been the cyclist in one of these stories- the one sharing the road with a driver that isn’t aware of the basic road rules regarding bikes.

What’s worse is that sometimes reasonable people panic at the sight of a bicycle in the lane… and then all that reason flies out the window.

Middle of the Road

So I wanted to explain it to those who have never biked in the city:

Middle of the Road

And there’s more. Bikes are small, but they still need space. Cars should give cyclists the same amount of space when passing as another vehicle, at least 3 ft. However, not all roads allow for that, particularly in Boston:

Middle of the Road

So don’t panic when you see a bike in your lane. Just treat it like another vehicle. If you can pass safely, that’s fine. If not, most likely you won’t be slowed down much if at all. In the city, I find that car traffic slows me down much more than the other way around.

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89 Comments on "Middle of the Road"

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EVERYONE, cyclists and drivers alike should ALWAYS look before they change lanes to be sure that it is safe to do so. If it is not safe they should STOP and wait until it is. Here’s the problem I run into all too frequently when I’m driving … a cyclist in the bike lane comes upon an obstruction — 8/10 times it is a slower cyclist — and they just slip into the driving lane to avoid or pass — without signalling — when a car is too close for this to be done safely. This is not fair to… Read more »
I drive in Cambridge sometimes, and the scenario you describe has never happened to me. I think you might just be a bad driver. You might be driving too fast, or you might have very sloppy lane positioning, or you might not be paying careful attention to the bicycle in front of you; it’s not like cyclists are unaware of cars approaching from behind (cars are really noisy). Since I see lots of people who drive badly in various ways, I think you should consider this possibility. And the horn? You’re using it wrong. It’s a safety device, not a… Read more »
Regarding CMS’s comments on riders leaving the bike lane, I certainly find need to do it (as so accurately depicted in the drawing). But I signal my intention before leaving my lane and after checking that I have room to do so. Horns are great tools to let an errant driver or rider know that you are there, since sometimes they just don’t look before jumping in the next lane. My understanding of traffic laws in Massachusetts is that I have to signal my intentions. A soft tap on the horn seems reasonable if the rider didn’t signal his or… Read more »
@Daniel – people change lanes without signaling often in Cambridge, but I expect it. I’ve never had to “brake hard” for a bicycle, and only rarely for an auto. If you assume such things will happen and prepare for them, they’re much easier to manage (it makes you a better driver, and a better cyclist). And your recommended use of a horn is not actually a legally recommended use of a horn. It may be popular to think that a horn serves some educational purpose, but that’s not what they are for. Read the law, read the driver’s manual. It… Read more »
Island Dave

CMS wrote “I am in favor of sharing the road with cyclists and have myself been the victim of having a parked car’s door open/hit me as I was riding my bike properly so I am sensitive to the plight of cyclists.”

Riding in the door zone is not the proper place to be riding a bike.

Anthony Grubb
Surprisingly, the locals here in rural Virginia give me pretty good space on the country roads. Worst I’ve encountered was Elizabeth City, NC, where the locals told me I’d better ride on the sidewalks because the traffic wouldn’t respect me–and they didn’t! That was over 20 years ago, but I still had flashbacks when viewing the above cartoons–no exaggeration for that town. I finally succumbed to the sidewalks (which is illegal in most places). In fact, I originally entered a Bible college in that town to co-op and take the majority of my classes through the local community college, but… Read more »

[…] Here is a great website dedicated to some Great Illustration regarding Cycling: Here is the First one I saw that was sent form a friend of mine in Calgary. http://bikeyface.com/2012/12/05/middle-of-the-road/ […]


In my town you got to be careful because cars don’t ever notice bikes and we don’t even have a bike lane. I usually end up riding on the sidewalks because it is safer there.

-Aaron, recently watched leadville bike race


[…] cartoons full of funny yet cutting observations about of cycling in the city. Topics range from the rules of the road to gender representation in cycling advocacy to pastries, portraying the magical world that […]