I wanted to share a couple examples of taking the lane. To review, taking the lane when it is not wide enough to safely share encourages motorists to allow you plenty of space when passing. To take the lane, ride in the center or just to the right of center, where your right tire would be if you were in a car. When you are not taking the lane, ride further to the right but allow at least an arm’s length between yourself and the edge of the road.
I had learned about taking the lane, but hadn’t yet put it to practice, when I had to use a high traffic street after heavy snowfall. The street had shoulders but the narrow bridge on it did not. For a couple days I let the traffic squeeze past me on the bridge, but I felt uncomfortable and unsafe. So I took the lane. At once that bridge became a safe place. Traffic easily flowed around me and didn’t crowd me. One impatient woman trapped behind me for a few seconds laid on her horn—but she didn’t try to pass me until it was safe, and she passed with plenty of space.
Rarely, taking the lane raises the ire of a motorist, but the reduction in the number of vehicles passing too close for safety is worth the occasional honk. Remember, it is legal and often safer for bicyclists to take the lane.
I have been taking the lane for a long time, but sometimes I still have to remind myself. Hwy 136 near the Nebraska border has narrow shoulders filled with a rumble strip. Traffic was heavy and semis and big trucks were passing me too closely. I experienced the phenomenon “wind blast” which sucked me in toward their giant wheels and then pushed me off the road. I was terrified and there was no way to get off the road for the next 8 miles. I took a deep breath, scanned for traffic, and when it was clear, I moved over further into the lane.
Immediately things calmed down. Semi trucks slowed down and followed me until it was safe for them to pass. I’m sure it was no picnic for them, having to slow down and then accelerate, but the inconvenience was worth my life. Of course, I recommend avoiding roads like that, and I recommend that MoDOT build highways with appropriate shoulders and place rumble strips in the stripe. But it isn’t a perfect world and in a pinch it’s useful to know how to take the lane, and to trust the statistics that advise us to take the lane when instinct is screaming otherwise.