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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My problem has never been with the ones in the middle of the road. My problem is always with the fucking bonkers ones going the WRONG WAY DOWN THE ROAD >.<

Here is my problem with bicyclists in the middle of the lane that is not addressed on your post. I live in a rural area where most streets have a 30 – 40mph+ speed limit and often go ½ mile or more without a stop sign and a mile or more between stop lights. Bikes riding in the middle of the lane can’t keep up with the speed limit and are more likely to cause an accident or be hit. Obviously there aren’t as many bikes on the road in my rural area as there are in metro areas, but… Read more »
Lynn, a cyclist riding in the middle of the LANE, not middle of the road is not more likely to be hit. That cyclist is not going to cause a crash, not an accident because drivers approaching from the rear will see the cyclist. The speed limit is not a goal to be achieved, it is a limit not to be exceeded. The roads are for the use of people, not just motor vehicles and speed differences for road users are allowed for by the rules of the road. I agree that cyclists should obey stop signs, traffic lights and… Read more »
Paul Worden
Here in Australia a bicycle is a legal vehicle. A lot of motorists don’t understand this. Sometimes it’s safer for a cyclist to ‘take the lane’ to prevent cars trying to squeeze past when it isn’t safe for the cyclist. This is particularly true at ’roundabouts’ where a cyclist is faced with trafic approaching from both right and left. If the cyclist takes the edge of the road, cars will squeeze through and may cut the cyclist off and will certainly mask the cyclist from other road users. Too may motorists drive as if the road ahead is clear. They… Read more »
If you honestly think a bike going 10mph down the middle of the lane where the speed limit is 40mph isn’t likely to cause an accident or get hit, then you are dilutional. Cars get backed up and want to pass, and if the person doing the passing isn’t at the front of the line they may not see the bike. Motorcyclists get hit all the time riding in the center of the lane because someone didn’t see them (thus the “start seeing motorcycles” adds), yet you think everyone will see people on bikes? I always keep an eye out… Read more »
It’s not the bike that causes the accident, it’s people driving cars acting like impatient children. Anyone who passes a slow-moving or stopped vehicle without wondering *why* that vehicle is slow or stopped and taking care to account for the possibilities (bicycle, child, animal, giant hole, IED) is an irresponsible idiot. And riding a bike, in the dark, I spot people by the reflective bits on their shoes, the retroreflection of the dogs’ eyeballs, or the light of their cell phone. Almost every bicycle out there has pedal reflectors and/or front and rear reflectors, too, and I spot those. You… Read more »
There are no delusions involved when one can speak from experience and not from imagined misconceptions. The numbers I’ve experienced are a bit different from your imaginary ones, but I routinely ride on roadways with 55 mph speed limits and I travel at 16-18 mph on those roads, in the approximate center of the lane. If the roadway is not multi-lane, I will allow a number of drivers to collect behind me, then provide sufficient space for those drivers to safely overtake, then return to my position. It’s called “catch and release” and ensures that drivers are not delayed overmuch.… Read more »
Rebecca Doll

Hey Bikeyface, I’d like to share this on our local newspaper if I may. We don’t have a budget but we have a circulation of 10,000 and are trying to encourage complete streets. Please let me know if I can pop it into our January issue.
Thanks, Rebecca