Taking the lane vs keeping left - the marginalisation of bicycles


This is a really interesting (but long) history of road rules and line marking and marginalisation of bikes on the road, from the US.


 We have similar rules here – a somewhat contradictory “bicycles are vehicles” and definition of lanes as for only one line of traffic, but rule 129 (1)  A driver on a road (except a multi-lane road) must drive as near as practicable to the far left side of the road.  Part (2) is an exception for motor bikes.  Existing “Share the Road” messages and signage seem to reinforce that the bikes should move over to the edge to make room for the car to pass.

 So the question is, with this thinking so ingrained in our culture, how can we change attitudes, or at least let drivers know that there are legitimate safety reasons for using the lane? 

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True on both counts. But like anything, situational awareness should factor into pushing a legal right.


Like you, there is no way I would ride two abreast with my Mrs (who is not a strong rider) to the shops or cafe. The speed differential is too much. On the commute by myself I largely travel at general traffic speeds making it less of an issue to 'get out of the way', but also makes it much harder to avoid doorings and gutterings at such speeds.

At 15-25 km/h with the Mrs she rides ahead and I sit behind shepherding. Would never take the lane in such circumstances.


At 15-25 km/h she can ride at traffic speed if she were to ride during peak hour(s)

I take the lane in the CBD whn I am travelling at general traffic speed, but move left on open roads when I am well under the general traffic speed. This is usually on 2 lane roads where I would be an absolute nuisance if taking a lane. I also ride behind the Mrs.

My wife and I ride two abreast a fair bit of the time when we are cycling together, but it is certainly situation dependent. On quieter streets there is no reason why we can't ride next to each other and talk and so we do. If there are particular places where we really want to make our claim on the lane obvious, at pinch points for example, we would do so as well. On wider streets where you are able to ride outside the door zone but still allow cars to pass we will generally ride single file. If there are two lanes, though, I'm happy for us to claim one for ourselves. We continually communicate the position changes as we ride. We use the same principles riding together as we do riding by ourselves - priority number one is our safety and that means claiming the lane that is what we will do.

I generally ride a fair bit faster than her, so doubling up and having a chat is a good way of making sure I moderate my speed, and it makes for a more enjoyable experience too.

The vehicular cyclist approach as put by Forester and Allen etc was to ride far enough out so that you are comfortable when motorists pass you. That is subjective, admittedly. It also varies from road to road, time of day, etc. Try riding in the track that car left wheels are taking. If that doesn't work, ride out a bit further. If that doesn't work, maybe the road and drivers are just too aggro and you need to ride in the door zone or far left but exercise caution until you get to somewhere better, or forget about that road.

Last week I offered some advice to someone who was hugging the kerb and suggested she take the lane to be safer. As if to illustrate my point, as we were speaking she almost came off the bike as there was a hole in the gutter she didn't see. She was also wearing all black and little to no lighting but you know, one thing at a time.

Like most others have said I take the lane when cycling at the same speed as cars but move to the left if practical, ie no parked cars, etc. At one point where Oxford St meets Queen Street I move right over to the right as a way to insist that cars overtake me properly as on this stretch (between Queen and Ocean) cars speed up as though they are already on Syd Einfeld Drive. It can be scary. 

I'd tend to turn at Queen Street to avoid that section, though whether that's the best idea depends on time of day and destination. Sometimes Queen Street is packed out with semi-attentive 4wd eastern suburbs coffee mums chatting on their phone and looking in the shop windows.


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