Thursday, February 21, 2013

Take this lane and shove it.

Some phrases are containers for bundles of information of varying sizes and shapes. 

For instance "going to the airport" contains data about: parking your car, over-priced duty-free liquor, the super-shuttle, going through security, taking your shoes off, delayed and cancelled flights, being strip-searched and otherwise totally violated by a bunch of illiterate gorillas. 

"Taking the lane" is only superficially about a bicyclist riding in the middle of a car lane just as "going to the airport" is on the surface about going to a place where they keep airplanes but actually contains far more nuance where by nuance I mean suffering. 

If you unpack "Taking the lane" you get:  riding in the non-gutter part of the road, angry cars breathing hot wet alcoholic fumes down your neck while you pedal like a house burning down on Christmas, peeing the seat as some joker forces their way past you in the third of a lane that you are not dominating, being shouted at by random strangers, all this while being encouraged by the bicycle safety manuals that "taking the lane is safe" despite needing to re-up onthe anxiety meds each time you venture away from the gutter. 

I am not saying "do not take the lane."  I do think it is a bit of a joke to think that bicyclists get to "take" anything when it comes to the roadways.  A more accurate phrase would be "borrow the lane please don't kill me omg!"

So yes, I am not saying that a bicyclist should not take the lane or even saying that it is unsafe or unwise to take a lane.  I'm saying "Stop acting as if bicyclists avoid taking the lane because we lack the brains to figure out that it is a good idea to do so."  We avoid taking the lane and we ride too close to the side of the road and too close to car doors because we share the road with a giant bunch of bullies and on any given day 20-40% of those bullies are in a bad mood and are not very happy to be paused even briefly behind one of those ridiculous little bicyclists. 

My route is selected for bicycle friendliness and maximum bike lane-age.  The instances where I find myself "taking the lane" are few but mostly unpleasant.  In case #1 I have a short piece of road where the lane on my right is an on-ramp to the highway and the lane to my left is for going straight and the lane I "take" for a short period is also going straight.  A bike lane appears at th e next light and I pour right into that.  I always think that cars getting on the highway are not obstructed, and that cars wanting to go straight can wait briefly behind me or if they are in a hurry, use the lane on my left.  What actually happens is that several times a week a car follows behind me, way too close, and then pushes awkwardly around me and I scream like a little girl.


  1. Hmm, perhaps the motorists are simply kinder and gentler here in Texas. The TSA sounds much the same, however...

  2. It's so true. Every day in Edinburgh, Scotland. Despite what the cycle maps say, there's no cycle-friendly way to make my 1-mile journey through the centre of the city. So I take the lane and pray the taxis are friendly.

    Thanks for always telling it like it is :)

    1. at the risk of being sappy it means a lot to me to think that there is a bicyclist in Edinburgh, Scotland coping with the same hassles I cope with. I mean I wish it was better for you, that you had no idea what I'm talking about, but there is something pleasant in thinking of bicycles all over the world struggling forward and refusing to back down.

  3. THIS!!!!

    Every time I complain about VC on my blog I get some patronizing guy telling me I just don't know how to do it right/need more confidence etc. I have been using VC principles to ride since I was 16, and 24 years later I can tell you that I still absolutely hate it!
    You've absolutely captured the emotional reasons why it's so unpleasant.

    If we expect people to have to ride like that to get where they have to go, the majority will never ever do it.

  4. By a strange synchronicity, Chafe, my most recent blogpost also covered the subject of taking the lane - in my case when work took me to Staten Island ( I agree it's a tough thing to do and I think that my practice probably ends up being a bit like yours - I try my very best to take the lane, do it a fair amount - and then duck out of it when I see some big SUV bearing down on me at 40mph in a manner that suggests there's no chance it's going to make room for me.

    I have to admit taking the lane does basically work and it's generally successful when I get the courage to do it boldly and confidently. But here in New York City there really doesn't seem to be any recognition at all of a cyclist's right to space on the road.


  5. I agree completely with your sentiments. I hope all is OK with you, as we your followers are missing your posts :-)