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Friday, April 27, 2012

Taking a lane...

We know that cyclists are supposed to ride as close as practicable to the right hand edge or curb.  However, many times that is not practicable- parked cars, turning cars, objects, dangerous road conditions, etc.  When it is not practicable, a cyclist can move over to safer road and continue riding.

This language piqued my interest recently: "Substandard width lane" means a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle ... and a motor vehicle to travel safely side by side within a lane.  [An exception to riding as close to the right edge or curb]- When reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions, including ... substandard width lanes.

Intriguing, correct?  This statute (§ 346.80) permits a cyclist to take the lane (even if there is only 1 lane for that direction of traffic) when the lane is too narrow to fit a cyclist and car side by side.

When is it too narrow? Well, a car needs to provide 3 feet of room when passing, or driving next to, a cyclist.  So, too narrow would be a car and cyclist cannot fit in a lane with the requisite 3 feet of room between the cyclist and car.  If the car and cyclist cannot fit in the lane together, with the 3 feet, then the cyclist can take the lane until it is reasonably safe for the cyclist to resume riding as close to the edge or curb as possible.

Now, the riding two abreast without impeding traffic still applies, but when you are riding on the crappy, horribly maintained Honey Creek Parkway (or any other shitty street in Milwaukee, of which there are plenty)- go ahead and take that lane!  Move over to avoid those enormous potholes and do so with confidence.  (Move over safely, obviously- look behind for cars/ other cyclists).  Be confident that you are abiding by the law, even when cars honk at you and yell at you to move to the right.

The moral of the story, too narrow of a lane is an unsafe condition which allows a cyclist to TAKE THAT LANE!