‘Taking the lane’: hit or miss?

09.01 | 3 August 2011 | | 6 comments

A Guardian ‘bike blog’ questions why ‘taking the lane’ is regarded as safe practice for cyclists, yet lambasted by other road users.

‘Taking the lane’ or taking ‘primary position’ is essentially riding in the centre of a lane. According to the Guardian blog, cyclists do it when passing parked cars whose doors may suddenly open; to prevent traffic overtaking dangerously in narrow roads; and when manoeuvring or turning.

The Guardian refers to a London cycle blogger (Sam) who recently wrote about how a taxi driver threatened him when he took the lane, and was told by a police officer that he shouldn’t ride in the middle of the lane.

Taking the lane is a practise recommended by ‘Bikeability’, as cyclists are safest where they can see the road and be seen. If in doubt, says the blog, primary position should be the default road position.

David Dansky, head of training at Cycle Training UK (CTUK), said: “The guidance we give cyclists is to take the space they need. The potential hazard is that drivers behind might not understand what you are doing.

“The courteous thing when you are riding in that assertive position is to look behind you and make eye contact. You still get drivers who don’t understand, but as more and more people get on their bikes you get more understanding from drivers.”

Chief inspector Ian Vincent, Cycle Task Force, said: “There is no specific Metropolitan police service guidance on cycle safety. We refer cyclists to the Highway Code and Transport for London’s (TfL) cycling safely page, which recommends cyclists ride assertively, away from the gutter.

“If the road is too narrow for vehicles to pass you safely, it may be better to ride in the middle of the lane to prevent dangerous overtaking.”

Click here to read the Guardian bike blog in full.


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    “However, to have a pedal cyclist in this position will definitely increase his safety as it would a powered two wheeler but the drawback is that the cyclist could not keep up with traffic flow and would not only cause congestion but quite a few motorists would become somewhat frustrated that their progress has been slowed by a pedal cyclists.”

    Firstly, in congested urban areas, average cycling speed is faster than motorised transport. Secondly, if you are held up a few seconds whilst waiting to pass a cyclist safely, then you’ll just have to wait. In the same way you’d have to wait to pass a horse, a tractor, a milkfloat or any other form of transport that might be slower than you.

    Dominic, North Wales
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    And finally, why should pedal cyclists be allowed to believe that they deserve free and unhindered passage along the whole of the queens highways, be it on or off the road, on the pavements, on the walkways and bridges, on pedestrian precincts, on pedestrian crossings etc. the list goes on. By what [god] given right do they believe that they deserve all that.

    Its about time the cyclist lobby grew up and stopped acting like spoilt children both on and off the roads and acted like adults and rode within the law.

    Bob Craven, Lancs
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    David, your response is uncalled for on several accounts. It will soon be seen that a 20 mph limit will be imposed on all town roads etc by 2015. Also the average speed of a bicycle is less that 12 mph and I do not see many motorists , bus drivers etc. willing to stay behind any such slow moving vehicle for long.

    What I did say if you read it again is that a pedal cyclist will definitely increase his safety. But that would be to the shagrin and expense of ALL other road users and be I believe unacceptable to most other road users.

    If allowed to happen it would again be that cyclists [a very very small minority] will once again have been made a special case at the expense of all other road users.

    Don’t talk to me about pedestrian crossings I have yet to see a pedal cyclist stop at one.. And in my opinion if they want to ride over such a crossing on their bike from one footpath to another, they should get off their bike and WALK. IT IS ALSO HEALTHY AND LESS DANGEROUS TO OTHERS.

    Not Cyclophobic…… but tired of their constant moaning and believing that they are a special case and saviours of the universe.

    Bob Craven, Lancs
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    @ Bob Craven: so motorists will get held up by slower cyclists, will they? Where is the problem in that? Why should they be allowed to think that they deserve free and unhindered passage to their destinations? You’ll be telling us next that they should not be expected to stop for pedestrian crossings, just in case they are made a few seconds late for their precious appointments.

    David, Suffolk
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    It’s alright teaching cycists to be assertive and take the middle of the lane. As a motorcyclists for over 45 yrs I would recommened this position for several reasons and one of them is that the motorcyclist or scooter rider can make progress and ride up to the speed limit and thereby cause little or rather no obstruction to following traffic.

    However, to have a pedal cyclist in this position will definitely increase his safety as it would a powered two wheeler but the drawback is that the cyclist could not keep up with traffic flow and would not only cause congestion but quite a few motorists would become somewhat frustrated that their progress has been slowed by a pedal cyclists.

    They are also aware that cyclists have become a very special case in many other ways with a lot of monies been spent on special lanes, front space at traffic lights, use of bus lanes,unrestricted use of pedestrian streets and more recently the freedom to cycle the wrong way down one way streets etc. etc. without any accountability whatsoever. If they cause or are involved in an acident resulting in someone’s death they can just ride off with impunity and suffer no consequences. Being unidentifyable they regularly flout the law.

    Freedom costs, in terms of responsibility, and it’s about time they were reigned in and brought to book, no matter how green they may be considered.

    But these would be seen as the ravings of a cyclaphobic. I can assure u that I am not – just want equality and common sense to prevail against what may be considered PC.

    Bob Craven, Lancs
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    This is also recommended by the superb book Cyclecraft. It has saved my skin on quite a few occasions, otherwise mr impatient would attempt a dangerous squeeze past (such as passing traffic collards).

    Dominic Woking
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