Can Bikers Ride In the Middle of the Road?

You’ve found the best women’s bike or city bike for sale, and now you are ready to ride. However, you are not completely clear on the laws about riding in the street, explicitly riding in the middle of the road or taking the lane, as they say. Riding in the middle of the road is legal, but it is not always recommended. While riding your bike just off the curb is the preferred riding position, there are at least four times when taking the lane is likely the better option, and, again, the legal one.

1. Narrowing of the Street

Whether you are taking your beach cruiser bike out for a quick morning ride or taking a long trip, not all roads are created equal for sharing. Many cyclists prefer to ride on the shoulder, but there are times when the roadway is simply too narrow and does not allow for adequate room for safe passing. When you are on such a road, it is more prudent to take the lane until the road widens again and other hazards are behind you.

2. Parked Cars

Next, for city riders, parked cars can make it nearly impossible or unsafe to ride along the shoulder. For example, car doors can swing open unexpectedly, leading to an unfortunate and dangerous collision. Therefore, it is often preferable to ride in the middle of the road to avoid such hazards. Also, on roadways with parked cars, the lanes may be too narrow to allow for both vehicles and bicycles to pass safely alongside each other. Therefore, as the cyclist, you need to assess your surroundings and make the best legal choice to protect yourself and others.

3. Heavy, Slow Moving Traffic

When traffic is heavy and slow-moving, it may actually be safer for a cyclist to ride in the lane. However, this should only be done when a cyclist is essentially moving at the same speed as the other vehicles on the road. By taking the lane in this instance, you avoid the risk of cars trying to overtake you, and you remain visible, which is of the utmost importance in heavy traffic congestion where the line of sight can be severely restricted. Also, if riding at night, the middle lane might be more appropriate, but only if your bicycle is lit correctly.

4. Rough Road Surface

Last, a rider may choose to bike in the middle of the lane to avoid rough road surfaces curbside. While a few minor cracks in the pavement might not be hazardous, loose asphalt and significant gaps are. You do not want to risk injury or spillage onto the road. Therefore, if the side of the road is not well-maintained, then it may be better to take the lane.

While it might seem counter-intuitive initially, riding in the middle of the lane is legal. However, it should only be done when the situation warrants it. The preferred and safest riding position in most cases is to ride curbside, allowing adequate space for motor vehicles to pass. Now that you understand the law and the reasons for riding in the middle lane, go out and pick up some gear and get riding.

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