Bicycling with traffic can be intimidating for many people. This may be because bicyclists are more vulnerable than motorists are in a collision. Roughly 800 bicyclists died in traffic crashes in 2017 and many more were injured.
However, many traffic collisions involving bicyclists are preventable. Using proper lane control is one way you can help prevent being in a collision while bicycling.
What is lane control?
Pennsylvania law considers bicycles as vehicles, so when you ride on the road, you must ride in the same direction as motorized traffic. You can ride on the shoulder of the road, but this is not always possible or safe.
When it is not appropriate or safe to ride on the shoulder, you have the right to use the appropriate travel lane. To do this you must exercise proper lane control, sometimes called “taking the lane.” This means that you move into the center of the rightmost lane that travels in the direction you are traveling.
How does lane control prevent collisions?
Lane control prevents collisions by discouraging motorists from trying to squeeze by a bicyclist when there is not enough room to safely do so. Lane control forces motorists to fully change lanes to overtake the bicyclist, which results in more space between the vehicle and the bicycle.
In this way lane control prevents overtaking collisions, which involves the bicyclist being hit as a vehicle tries to overtake him or her. It also prevents right-hook collisions, which involves a bicyclist being hit in an intersection when a motorist fails to completely overtake the bicyclists before executing a turn.
Lane control also allows more space between bicyclists and parked cars. This prevents dooring collisions, in which a driver suddenly opens a vehicle door into the path of a bicyclist.
When should I take the lane?
You are allowed to take the lane whenever you feel it is appropriate to do so. However, it may be especially important to practice lane control if you are:
- Bicycling on a narrow roadway
- Traveling at the same speed as motorized traffic
- Approaching a curve with limited visibility
- Using a road that is lined with parked cars
- Unable to travel on the shoulder due to debris or other hazards
Bicycling on the road requires confidence in your abilities to control your bicycle, follow the rules of the road and appropriately exercise lane control. However, motorists must also take appropriate actions to avoid collisions with bicyclists.
If a car hits you while you are bicycling, it may be appropriate to hold the motorist accountable. Legal justice may result in compensation for medical expenses and other costs associated with your injuries.