The Long Beach Cyclists blog, via streetsblog, offers the tale of a cyclist who was ticketed for obeying the law. Specifically, a law enforcement officer contended the cyclist was too far left in the travel lane. In California, like Georgia, cyclists are permitted to move left for a variety of reasons. Here’s a passage from the Georgia Bicycle Law Enforcement Pocket Guide:
A cyclist may leave the right-most side of the roadway when (1) moving as fast as other traffic, (2) passing another vehicle, (3) making a left turn, (4) avoiding roadside hazards, (5) where a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side in the same lane. (Moving left in such a lane helps cue an overtaking driver who might otherwise misjudge passing space.)
The Georgia Bicycle Law Enforcement Pocket Guide can be downloaded from the Georgia Bikes! Web site.
On my daily commute, I need to “take the lane” on multiple occasions. For example, when I’m northbound on Habersham Street and crossing Victory Drive, I move left in preparation for my left turn onto 41st Street. There are also several points at which legally (and sometimes illegally) parked cars narrow the roadway. In these cases, I take the lane to “cue an overtaking driver who might otherwise misjudge the passing space,” as described above.
Unfortunately, this safe and legal practice seems to mystify both drivers and other cyclists. Like the notion that riding against traffic and on sidewalks (or both at the same time) is safe, the idea that a bike’s wheels should always be in the gutter is persistent. This mistaken belief is demonstrated by cyclists who weave in and out of parked cars — one moment hugging the curb, the next traveling in the very dangerous door zone. The flawed thinking is most often manifested in motorists as the compulsion to yell at cyclists, who aren’t cowering at the pavement’s edge.
To my fellow cyclists, I say, “take what’s legally yours.” To motorists, “please be patient, I’ll return the lane to you momentarily.”