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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  • Josh Zisson December 5, 2012   Reply →

    Great post, but you should definitely mention that biking in the middle of the road is NOT legal in many states. Massachusetts gives bikers full rights to the road, but few other states do. I’ve been planning a post on the subject for a while.

  • Robert Winters December 5, 2012   Reply →

    Nicely stated, and I love the drawings!

  • Ryan Surface December 5, 2012   Reply →

    Great Post love the driver in the first frame and the license plates are awesome. Nice work.

  • Lee Hollenbeck December 5, 2012   Reply →

    In response to Hollys comment. Yes, sometimes there is some leapfrogging. Filtering to the front is not illegal in MA. It is not nice to be right hooked. Use your turn signal every time, right? I will sometimes filter to the front depending on traffic speed or if a bike lane is there. Share the road and it helps if all road users are patient. In heavy city traffic, bikes are usually quicker than cars.

  • Brent Cohrs December 5, 2012   Reply →

    Love it!

    I shared this as part of the discussion for my week long series on safer cycling in Chicago.

    It all begins at http://www.chicagonow.com/easy-as-riding-a-bike/2012/12/perfect-become-the-enemy-of-the-good/

    Keep up the great work – you said it all so perfectly!

  • John John December 5, 2012   Reply →

    This person has shamelessly ripped off your post, with the smallest of credit right at the bottom:


  • Kagi December 5, 2012   Reply →

    The Massachusetts DMV could probably get people to pay extra for license plates that say what the cursive writing says, there…

  • Joe December 5, 2012   Reply →

    I love these. Thank you. Do you mind if I post one on my blog; of course I’ll give you credit and link it back to you. Here’s a link to my blog http://www.urbansimplicity.com.

  • Ian December 5, 2012   Reply →

    Wow, you have nicely positioned bike lanes in Boston! That car door is hardly intruding into it at all.

    Not like the ones in this part of LA, where any car door will extend right across the entire bike lane (even from a well parked, modestly sized car).

  • Rebecca Albrecht December 5, 2012   Reply →

    I love all of your cartoons but this has to be one my favorites!

  • Perry December 5, 2012   Reply →

    Great post. I was actually hit today by a driver who was as confused as the first driver in your post. I am shaken but ok. I am still baffled that she made the decision to try and squeeze by me. I do wish auto drivers would be required to take full road tests every 5 years.

  • Kevin Love December 6, 2012   Reply →

    I’ve been called a “dickhead” once or twice in my life, but the cyclist in the stencil on the road actually does seem to have a penis for a head.

  • Robert Prinz December 6, 2012   Reply →

    Not sure about MA, but here in CA one can also take the lane anywhere a right turn is permitted (intersection, driveway, parking lot, etc) helping to avoid traffic coming from the right but also the dreaded “right hook” from traffic behind. We can also take the lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic (downhill, at stop lights, or in gridlock), or on the left hand side of the road on one way streets.

    In an urban environment, this means that there is almost constantly an excuse for leaving the bike lane or the right hand side of the road, so a cyclist should never feel constrained or trapped by that little white line.

  • Rai December 6, 2012   Reply →

    I’m a biker and, even before I started biking on the roads, I didn’t have a problem with cyclists as long as they were following the laws. If they’re biking, then weave onto the sidewalk without slowing down, I’m annoyed. If they don’t stop at stop signs. If they don’t make any effort to indicate they’re turning, weaving in and out of traffic (and not enough space between the vehicles to easily do it). Yes, drivers freak out, but its not just the drivers

  • Steve December 7, 2012   Reply →

    I noticed the license plate on that hondaish SUV was casually drawn at Massachusettsish. As much as I love your cartoons, now that the winter is settling in, could you make a strip of what you wear riding when it’s 40, and 30, and 20… help us chicken winter riders out with a Bikey Face guide to cold weather riding?

    Your doing a great job as a positive advocate for us riders, and a mentor for the correct way we should ride.

  • Heather December 7, 2012   Reply →

    I think I definitely relate to the girl in the first picture, because this is what I have come to expect all the time from motorist when I am riding my bike in the road. I have been honked at, been told to get off and stay off the road, and have been looked at like I was a danger to them and all the other motorists who I was carefully sharing the road with. I have been fortunate to say I have NOT been hit by one yet.

  • Jon Webb December 7, 2012   Reply →

    I wish there was a book with all your car-related drawings in it that would get passed out during drivers ed. Teenagers might actually read them and remember. Also, there should be posters based on your drawings at the driver’s licensing centers.

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