Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mixed Feelings in the Left Hand Tire Track

Steve A. responded to my first post, and I said I would address his comments. So here goes.

SA) I have mixed feelings about that left tire track lane position. Here's why:#1 - it tends to be smoother at the center of the lane.

CS) I'm jealous! Most of my roads are coated with Chip-Seal. After a good hot summer, the tires wear a much smoother surface. There is a particular type that Ellis county favors that fails to stick to the under-surface if not pressed down firmly by passing traffic. It becomes an extraordinarily rough surface between the tire tracks. When light permits I will take some photos.

SA)#2 - As vehicles tend to pass closer to the cyclist (on average) if one is traveling in the left tire track. This is simply due to the fact that the road is only so wide.

CH) Correct. If the motorist overtakes in the next lane. They are more prone to straddle pass (where they share part of your lane with you) when in the right tire track. Motorists have hours and hours of practical training of keeping their vehicle within a lane. I have more confidence that they will accurately judge their clearance when there is a lane marker between us!

SA)#3 - An overtaking vehicle has less total time to get back into the proper position the further it has to move left to pass.

CS) I am not really concerned about this. It is the duty of the vehicle operator to pass with due care. Besides, how hard is it to pass a bicycle anyway?

SA)#4 - If I look at the Sousa data, passing separation is best when traveling in the right tire track. That's consistent with the observation that one should position oneself so that the overtaking motorist makes a correct move with the minimum need for thought. Moving further to the left doesn't cause any added impact on the automatic motorist response.

CS) First the actual difference in the observed distance between the two lane positions is about four feet, with six to seven feet the closest pass from further out in the lane. (Note, the data is from the right tire track to the center of the lane.) There were no straddle passes observed from the most commanding positions. I am comfortable with that, but then, I was a bicycle racer in my youth. I may have a greater tolerance for objects being in close proximity than other cyclists.

Second, overtaking traffic is not my primary concern. I face much greater peril from what is ahead of me. I have better sight lines from the left side of the lane. I think I am likely to have better success at avoiding right hooks from there as well.

SA)#5 - Riding too far to the left encourages a pass on the right side of the cyclist.

CS) Yes, this behavior caught me by surprise when I first began riding exclusively in the left tire track. It is surprisingly common. I inspire such overtakes about every week. They are most common on state highways when a shoulder is present, but like you I've had a number of them off in the grass as well. One of them was on the road that is pictured on the previous post!

Curiously, they seem to give me more room on that side!

Another common objection I hear about is that such an "aggressive" lane position displays "arrogance" and is designed to annoy motor vehicle operators.

On the roads I commonly travel on, motorists cannot overtake me without encroaching the oncoming lane, so no matter what position in the lane I take, they must wait for a gap to pass me safely.

The fact that a motorist cannot reason this out and gets upset is neither my fault nor my problem. He may pass me or not as he wishes. It remains his duty to pass slower traffic in a safe manner and in due care.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Room to Share?

Is this a wide enough lane to share side by side with overtaking traffic?

If the wrongheaded "vulnerable user" law gets passed here in Texas, this vehicle will be in violation of it if he passes me in either direction while I am riding in my normal lane position.

The version of the law being considered by the Texas legislators says this:

(b) An operator of a motor vehicle passing a vulnerable road user operating on a highway or street shall:

(1) vacate the lane in which the vulnerable road user is located if the highway has two or more marked lanes running in the same direction; or
(2) pass the vulnerable road user at a safe distance.

(c) For the purposes of Subsection (b)(2), the operator is presumed to have failed to comply with Subsection (b)(2) if the distance between the operator ’s vehicle and the vulnerable road user is less than:

(1) three feet if the operator ’s vehicle is a passenger car or light truck; or
(2) six feet if the operator ’s vehicle is a truck other than a light truck or a commercial motor vehicle as defined by Section 522.003.


(5) "Commercial motor vehicle" means a motor vehicle or

combination of motor vehicles used to transport passengers or
property that:

(B) has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds;

On this road, the one I must ride a minimum of two miles on to get to or from my home, this vehicle cannot comply with this proposed law unless I am crowding the fog line- which I never do! If I am centered in my lane, or as I normally position myself, in the left tire track, this vehicle cannot overtake me lawfully, and it could be argued, he would break the law if he passes me going the other way!

There are other problems with the proposed law, but I will address them one at a time in a later post. Until then, Godspeed to all!

Perception VS. Reality

After the incident with with Mr. Maniac as described in the previous post, and while I was calming myself down, a motorist pulled onto the road behind me from a side street after yielding as I passed.

She remained behind me for about 20 seconds and, as we approached the stop sign at Martin Luther King Street, she started to pass. It is obvious she has mis-judged the space available before the stop sign, because there wouldn't be room to get by in time to clear me! I am already wondering if she will encounter opposing traffic before she can clear the intersection, since she will be in the oncoming traffic lane at the stop sign.

So with about two car lengths from the intersection, I begin slowing while she is alongside me in the next lane. There is a stop sign on our road and the cross traffic does not stop. Thus, I am astonished when she guns it- turning sharply enough to make her tires squeal as she makes a right turn at the intersection at about 20 MPH. I am forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision with her!

In all the other times that this has happened to me, (An overtake attempt too close to an intersection with traffic control signs or devices) the offender strands himself in the wrong lane, impeding opposing traffic and enduring the embarrassment of his predicament until the intersection clears.

There seems to be a compulsion by some motorists to pass cyclists in the road. This lady seemed to perceive that I was going slower than I actually was, even though she had followed behind and paced me for a short period of time. Apparently, she also thought that the space available up to the intersection was greater than it really was. She must have poor decision making skills at the least, or she is unable to operate outside of her pre-conceived expectations. I have no doubt that she would describe herself as a good driver, though!

Maybe she didn't expect a bicycle to be using the space a motor vehicle would. Maybe she didn't expect me to be traveling at 15 MPH. She panicked when reality asserted itself and she found herself in the wrong lane at the intersection.

This is the first right-hook that has happened to me in Texas! To put it another way, it is the first right-hook in more than 13,000 miles of cycling.


(a) The operator of a vehicle approaching an
intersection with a stop sign shall stop


(a) To make a right turn at an intersection, an
operator shall make both the approach and the turn as closely as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

Sec. 545.103. SAFELY TURNING

An operator may not turn the vehicle to enter a
private road or driveway, otherwise turn the vehicle from a direct course, or move right or left on a roadway unless movement can be made safely.


(a) An operator passing another vehicle:

(2) may not move back to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the passed vehicle.


(a) A person commits an offense if the person drives a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

All of these and other traffic offenses were violated in order to avoid a ten second delay. How silly is that?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

When Once Is Not Enough

On Tuesday, on the way through Ennis, I met a fella who is a bully.

I was traveling south on Main, between where the two railroad spurs cross it. The road here is about 25 feet wide with no lane markings- no center lane nor any fog lines. I was riding in the left tire track of a standard vehicle complying with the slow moving vehicle law.

Up ahead of me, a car began to overtake another car . (Both of them were going north.) After clearing the car he was overtaking, he began to return to the right side of the roadway.

Until he saw me.

Changing the direction of his lateral movement, he swung back onto my side of the road!

I held my lane position.After about half the distance between us closed, he adjusted his trajectory to pass within a foot of my left handle-bar. I would say there was about six seconds of time between his clearing the other car and passing me.
I spat on his windshield as he passed by, and I continued on my way. Within a few seconds the whole thing was out of my mind.

But our bully couldn't let such an insult go.

So I continue on my way down Main, maintaining my lane position. A car overtakes me with due care and in a safe manner, completely on the other half of the road. No sooner had that car passed me then I was buzzed by our bully, again passing me within a foot.

I laughed. I'm sorry, but it just struck me as funny that someone who was so anxious to get to wherever he was going that he was over-taking slower traffic, suddenly has the time and inclination to "teach me a lesson" by backtracking more than two miles in order to do it.


(a) An operator on a roadway of sufficient width shall drive on the
right half of the roadway, unless:

(1) the operator is passing another vehicle;
(2) an obstruction necessitates moving the vehicle left of the center of
the roadway and the operator yields the right-of-way to a vehicle

(A) is moving in the proper direction on the unobstructed portion of the roadway

So our bully, in expressing his objection to my "arrogant" and high-minded lawful use of the public way, failed to drive on the right hand side of the roadway and he also failed to yield to my right of way. He violated Sec. 545.051.


(a) An operator passing another vehicle:

(1) shall pass to the left of the other vehicle at a safe

He also violated Sec. 545.053 by failing to provide a safe distance between me and himself when he overtook me after he turned around. He did not follow the path of the car ahead of him the did pass me with due care and in a safe manner. He very obviously and deliberately attempted to intimidate me with his car.

With this in mind, I accuse this motorist of violating Sec. 545.401:


(a) A person commits an offense if the person drives a vehicle in willful
or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

Why is it possible for people such as this to keep their driving privileges?

Imaginary laws

"You have to stay to the side of the road."

The words were shouted at me by a motorist as he crowded me out of the lane.

This was Tuesday, on hwy 34 about four miles from Ennis, traveling west.

This particular motorist, driving a white SUV and towing a utility trailer, had been having a difficult time finding a safe place to pass, due to oncoming traffic and terrain.

He honked at me, and must have been surprised when I didn't pull over out of his way. When he finally had an opportunity to pass me (after being delayed for about 45 seconds) he pulled up in the oncoming lane and slowed down to pace me. His passenger window was down and he was screaming something at me.

At the same time he began crowding me with his vehicle, forcing me to give way toward the edge of the lane. I was tempted to begin pounding on the side panels of his car, but the trailer was wider than his vehicle and it spooked me. (This is usually rather effective though. The pounding can be very loud inside, and can be quite frightening for the motorist, while being unlikely to cause damage.)

Not understanding what he was saying, I yelled at him to "Follow the Law." I repeated it about three times. In the end, he crowded me all the way off the shoulder into the grass, then he sped away. He did this with two vehicles following behind him. The confrontation lasted about 10 seconds.


(a) An operator passing another vehicle:

(1) shall pass to the left of the other vehicle at a safe distance; and
(2) may not move back to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the passed vehicle.

(b) An operator being passed by another vehicle:

(1) shall, on audible signal, move or remain to the right in favor of the passing vehicle; and
(2) may not accelerate until completely passed by the passing vehicle.

At a minimum he violated this law, and I complied with it. I was riding legally in the lane in accordance with the slow moving vehicle law and bicycle specific lane positioning law. He failed to pass me at a safe distance (Sec. 545.053(a)(1)) and he pulled back into the lane when before he was properly clear of me. (Sec. 545.053(a)(2)) He did this with full knowledge of what he was doing as he was looking at me through his passenger side window.


(a) A person commits an offense if the person drives a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

(b) An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by:

(1) a fine not to exceed $200;
(2) confinement in county jail for not
more than 30 days; or
(3) both the fine and the confinement.

Because he deliberately used his vehicle as a weapon, he also committed a reckless driving offense, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gun Barrel City 1st Attempt

First attempt was abandoned.

The weather forecast was wrong, and I began experiencing headwinds from the start. I really need a tailwind to have the confidence that I can complete this ride.

I stopped to rest at the Navarro County line and re-assessed conditions, as I was feeling poorly. It was a good thing I turned around. I bonked almost immediately after and I struggled to get back to Ennis, despite favorable winds.

I ate lunch in town before returning home. There were, even on the shortened 42 mile journey, three altercations. None of them, however on state highway 85!

I will relate them in other posts soon, and I will watch for another window of opportunity to complete the ride.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Gun Barrel City: The Prologue

When weather conditions are right, I am planning a ride out to Gun Barrel City.

The 80 mile solo and unsupported ride will be pushing my current physical endurance, so I am keeping an eye on the weather. I need a weather change between 10 AM and 4 PM, where the wind shifts to or freshens from the east. I will need a good tailwind on the return leg.

The route will be due east on State Highway 85 from Ennis to Gun Barrel City. The first eight miles of Highway 85 is a chip seal surface, and I expect the rest of it is too. That is as far as I have explored so far, though.

Google Maps shows that it is a narrow two lane road for the entire length, and speed limits could be 70 MPH unless signed otherwise. (It is 65 MPH on this end) So that will mean that I will be annoying plenty of motorists.

I will be upsetting motorists who have a “freeway expectation” on Highway 85. This will be especially pronounced if developed shoulders are present, as it appears to be the case on parts of the trip. I expect to be honked at, shouted at, and passed on the right. I expect folks who haven’t been on a bicycle in 30 years to tell me how to ride one. I expect to be accused of breaking imaginary laws. And I expect every vehicle that wants to overtake me will do successfully and in a safe manner.

What is unexpected by me, though possible, is harassment by the police, or being buzzed by a motorist overwhelmed by the horror of being delayed by a cyclist, or having objects thrown at me.

So what do you, dear reader, think will happen in the eighty miles of traveling in the left tire track? Will a motorist run me down and then claim I swerved in front of him? Will I be taking extraordinary and foolish risks? Will I be accused of breaking the law and be reported to the local police?

Stay tuned, there will be pre-ride updates and a full post-ride report.

The daring, if not dashing, ChipSeal


Sadly, because driving an automobile has become such an ordinary everyday event, people have become insensitive to the grave responsibility of operating one on the public roads.

Regardless, it is both a moral and legal duty to overtake slower vehicles with due care and in a safe manner, whether they are operating within the law or not.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I traveled the six miles into town today to stock up on vittles. Because of the wet weather this past week, and threating conditions today, I used my fendered single-speed for the trip. And because dog food was on the shopping list, I made the trip twice.

The rain has caused a explosion of Blue Bonnets in every field. Indian Paintbrush rudely interrupts with streaks of contrasting red. The fragrance is delightful.

Scissor Tail Flycatchers flit away from fence rails as I approach. Blue birds and Tanagers cannot remain unnoticed to a cyclist.

Standing water everywhere enables turtles to venture forth in search different waterways. I turn a corner and I am startled by a pair of them in the road! (Don't worry, I managed to out-sprint them!)

A riot of wildlife is testimony that spring has sprung. I am glad.

I hope you can enjoy it as much as I do! ChipSeal

On being friendly

A co-worker once said that the Lycra-clad roadies seem stuck up because they never wave to other cyclists. Huh. That surprised me, because I am a Lycra-clad roadie and I thought I acted friendly to anyone who wasn't honking at me.

In fact, interacting with others when I'm cycling has been one of the serendipitous surprises I've had on my bike. I enjoy waving to other cyclists, no matter their style of cycling. I greet and wave to joggers and pedestrians and folks in their yards and on their porches regularly.

So what about the things my friend said? It turns out, he is right. Even as a uniformed roadie myself, I am rarely acknowledged by other roadies when I encounter them. I really have no explanation for this.

It's too bad, because they are missing out. Motorists are physically isolated from the pedestrians and cyclists, and they miss out too. A cheery hello will always draw a positive response from a jogger or pedestrian. They seen startled to be engaged. Startled, but gladdened as well. A connection, a heightened sense of community.

Maybe the roadies are seeking to travel with the same anonymity as motorists do. I like the texture that being a part of those around me brings. Just as I enjoy being out in the elements, the wind, the sunshine, the smells, the heightened awareness of the space around me- the incidental inclusion of people I come across is part of that. I like seeing the wildlife my bicycle allows me to sneak up on. A view of the world that a motorist will never have, isolated in their cage.

The joggers, the walkers, the folks in their yards and on their porches, I bet they are motorists when they travel. It is an opportunity for us to be ambassadors for our sport, a chance to put a neighbors face on the cyclist in front of them in the lane. It takes such little effort, it costs not a thing. Perhaps it could pay big dividends down the road.

Thanks for stopping by, ChipSeal

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lane Control and Public Policy

Note: This essay is from the pen of John Forester, and I am grateful for the clarity of his thinking. -ChipSeal

The issue regarding control of lanes by cyclists, precisely stated, is:

1: Cyclists should have the same legal right of lane control as other drivers of vehicles. This can be called the slow vehicle law case (SVL).

2: Cyclists should be assumed to have no right to control lanes, but must always act to allow the easiest overtaking by any potential faster traffic, unless failure to control the lane is dangerous. This can be called the Far To the Right law case. (FTR) That's the issue.

2.1: The FTR case has been public policy for decades, and it has been supported by three arguments:

2.1.1: Cyclists are not capable of obeying the normal rules of the road, and therefore are endangered if they don't stay at the edge of the roadway.

This is an assertion based on the notion that cyclists are young children, who are assumed to be safe only if they stay at the edge of the roadway. Both parts are false. Most roadway cyclists are not young children, but are sufficiently old to obey the normal rules of the road.

Furthermore, roadway cycling safety requires that cyclists often operate away from the edge of the roadway, so that those who do not know how to do this safely are endangered. Cyclists need to be trained to operate properly.

2.1.2: Having cyclists operate at the edge of the roadway keeps them safe from fast traffic.

This argument assumes that fast motorists will always leave sufficient room at the edge of the roadway to accommodate bicycle traffic, which is false, and it exonerates motorists who are so careless that they drive right into slower vehicles, which is seriously unlawful behavior.

2.1.3: Having cyclists operate at the edge of the roadway, despite the exceptions for safety, will produce less delay to motorists than allowing cyclists to operate as drivers of vehicles.

This argument is very weak. The only condition in which the cyclist's lateral position on the roadway might be changed to allow a motorist, who has no other safe choice than to stay behind the cyclist, or overtake within the lane, is if the cyclist is using a lane that is wider than standard.

If the lane is standard-width or narrow, which is the typical case, the cyclist can do nothing to make safe overtaking possible within that lane. Only if the cyclist is operating in a wide outside lane, might there be adequate width for safe overtaking.

Only in the limited case when there is adequate width in the outside lane for safe overtaking, does the FTR law require that the cyclist stay far right to facilitate overtaking by faster traffic. That is all the advantage that the FTR law can provide.

2.2: The FTR case has been public policy for decades, and it has produced the following ill effects:

2.2.1: The common public belief that staying at the edge of the roadway is both necessary and sufficient for cyclist safety even persuades cyclists that they should not leave the edge of the roadway and, therefore, would not benefit from better knowledge and skill in operating according to the rules of the road.

2.2.2: Motorists falsely believe that there is always room for cyclists to move aside safely, simply because the FTR law says that there is.

2.2.3:Some motorists believe that the FTR law expresses the right of motorists to always travel faster than bicycles, that bicycle traffic is prohibited from slowing down motor traffic.

1: The slow vehicle law case has been public policy for decades for all drivers except bicyclists.

1.1: The SVL has worked satisfactorily without ill effects.

1.1.1: The slow vehicle law has worked satisfactorily, for it has not had to be modified in decades. There is no reason why it would not work as well if applied to cyclists.

1.1.2: The slow vehicle law provides the same opportunities for motorists to overtake cyclists as does the FTR law, as argued in 2.1.3. There would be no difference when either law is applied reasonably.

1.1.3: The slow vehicle law, being applicable to drivers of all vehicles, has to be administered and enforced in the way that is applicable to all drivers. Enforcement according to the views of 2.1.1, 2.1.2, and 2.1.3, which apply only to bicycle traffic (even if not true) would be found unacceptable by the courts.

1.2: The SVL would not produce the following ill effects.

1.2.1: The SVL could not be interpreted as protecting children and the elderly.

1.2.2: The SVL could not be interpreted as demonstrating the superiority of motorists over cyclists.

In the light of the preceding discussion, there are two issues.

3: The FTR law is based on, and allows the expression of, and encourages the behavior in accordance with, views that are both false and socially undesirable.

3.1: People who ride bicycles are not capable of operating lawfully and therefore should be limited as much as possible.

3.2: People who ride bicycles are much less important than people who drive automobiles, and therefore should demonstrate their subservience by keeping out of the way.

3.3: Expression of either of these views increases the danger of bicycling, by persuading cyclists to act incompetently and by encouraging motorists to act aggressively.The only operating issue between the FTR and the SVL laws concerns operation in wide outside lanes. In all other circumstances, safety demands operation according to the other rules of the road for drivers of vehicles.

Therefore, the only real issue concerns who or what determines the safety of lane-sharing in wide outside lanes. The FTR law declares that it is always safe to share wide outside lanes. (Unless the cyclist can demonstrate, after the fact and to others, that it would have been dangerous.) The SVL law leaves it up to the cyclist to determine whether lane-sharing would be safe and, then, whether courtesy suggests that the cyclist move over.

Clearly, the FTR law encourages the oppression of cyclists by people with both little knowledge of the fact and other contrary interests.

Equally clearly, the SVL law is based on determination of the facts by the person in the best situation to know them (the cyclist is naturally in the best position to determine the relative safety of different paths on the roadway) and the application of normal courtesy by that person.

Which is most desirable, discriminatory oppression or safe courtesy?--

John Forester, MS,

PEBicycle Transportation Engineer
7585 Church St. Lemon Grove
CA 91945-2306
www.johnforester. com

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Far to the Right Rule and the Bicycle

While riding on a very narrow road to the east of I-45 the other day, I saw that the vegetation along the edge of the road was crushed as though run over by many cars. It extended about a foot from the very edge of the pavement and on each side of the road, and nearly for the entire length of the road. (About three miles.)

This road, Shankle Road, has no lane markings and is about 16 feet wide. It is so narrow that when a motorist encounters oncoming traffic, he naturally maneuvers his vehicle to the right side of the roadway, and even puts the right tires onto the verge.

After a while, I am approached by opposing direction traffic. The immediate question arises; How does a bicyclist conform to the law when there are no lane markings? How far right must I go when yielding to same-direction and opposing traffic? Motor vehicles straddle the edge of the road, must I leave the paved portion of the road as well?


(a)A person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless:
(3) a condition on or of the roadway, including a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or surface hazard prevents the person from safely riding next to the right curb or edge of the roadway.

But that seems to be referring to making way for overtaking traffic, and that doesn't guide me for opposite direction traffic. It rules out leaving the paved portion of the roadway though, thank goodness.

I must rely on non-bicycle specific ordinances, that is, the same rules that guide motor vehicle operators, in order to see where I am allowed to lawfully position myself in the lane.


(a) An operator on a roadway of sufficient width shall drive on the right half of the roadway

(b) An operator of a vehicle on a roadway moving more slowly than the normal speed of other vehicles at the time and place under the existing conditions shall drive in the right-hand lane available for vehicles, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway

Since the language for motor vehicle operators is exactly the same for cyclists, I should be able to claim the same space on the public way that a motorist would naturally use in the same situation. The law grants at least the width of a standard automobile from the edge of the roadway to where the left tire would run. A cyclist has a right to that space on a narrow road with no lane markings, even in the presence of traffic from either direction. A cyclist claiming that space would not be "impeding traffic".

How would the far-to-right rule be applied to a bicycle driver on a laned road? If cyclists have all the rights and duties of motor vehicle operators, then we have legal access to the same portions of the public way as they do unless otherwise restricted by Sec 551.004.

For example, cyclists are restricted from operating in the left lane of multiple laned roads unless we are preparing to turn left. This conforms with the slow moving vehicle rule, and is somewhat of a redundancy in the code.

When I quoted sec 551.104 above, I left out some of the exceptions of the far-to-right mandate, because they, by their nature, do not apply to unlaned roadways. Here are those exceptions:

"...shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless:
(1) the person is passing another vehicle moving in the same direction; (2) the person is preparing to turn left at an intersection or onto a private road or driveway;
(3) a condition on or of the roadway, including a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or surface hazard prevents the person from safely riding next to the right curb or edge of the roadway; or
(4) the person is operating a bicycle in an outside lane that is:
(A) less than 14 feet in width and does not have a designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane; or
(B) too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely travel side by side."

So if any one of those conditions exist, (1, 2, 3, 4A or 4B) the cyclist is relieved of the duty to "ride as close as practicable to the right edge of the roadway". And if the conditions described in exception 4A and 4B are present, the cyclist may legally occupy any portion of the lane as he so chooses, from the left edge to the right edge.

While Texas may be able to boast of roads with lanes wider than 14 feet, there aren't any that I have found here in my neck of the woods. But if I were to find myself on such a road, the far-to-right rule does not compel me to ride any closer to the edge than the width of a standard automobile. Nor does it compel the cyclist to operate closer to parked cars than the width of a standard automobile.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

On y'er right!


(a) An operator may pass to the right of another vehicle only if conditions permit safely passing to the right and:

(1) the vehicle being passed is making or about to make a left turn; and
(2) the operator is:

(A) on a highway having unobstructed pavement not occupied by parked vehicles and sufficient width for two or more lines of moving vehicles in each direction; or
(B) on a one-way street or on a roadway having traffic restricted to one direction of movement and the roadway is free from obstructions and wide enough for two or more lines of moving vehicles.

(b) An operator may not pass to the right by leaving the main traveled portion of a roadway except as provided by Section 545.058


(a) An operator may drive on an improved shoulder to the right of the main traveled portion of a roadway if that operation is necessary and may be done safely, but only:

(1) to stop, stand, or park;
(2) to accelerate before entering the main traveled lane of traffic;
(3) to decelerate before making a right turn;
(4) to pass another vehicle that is slowing or stopped on the main traveled portion of the highway, disabled, or preparing to make a left turn;
(5) to allow another vehicle traveling faster to pass;
(6) as permitted or required by an official traffic-control device; or
(7) to avoid a collision.

(b) Omitted by author for brevity and because it does not apply to our discussion. Look it up if you don't believe me!

(c) A limitation in this section on driving on an improved shoulder does not apply to:

(1) an authorized emergency vehicle responding to a call;
(2) a police patrol; or
(3) a bicycle.

Well, there you have it. There is a very narrow set of conditions that allow passing on the right in Texas. Outside of meeting those conditions, it is illegal to to pass any vehicle operator to the right! Essentially, the only time you can pass on the right is when the vehicle you are overtaking is preparing to turn left.

Furthermore, it is against the law to to use the shoulder to pass a slower vehicle, except under the same conditions as those that allow passing on the right.

On the vast majority of my travels, I am on multi-lane roads or two lane roads without an improved shoulder. As none of these roads have lane widths over 14 feet wide, I ride my bicycle in the left tire track of the right-most through lane. Overtaking vehicles pass me with little or no delay.

But sometimes I ride on two lane roadways (One lane for each direction of travel) that have improved shoulders. About one out of five Texans elect to pass me on the right shoulder, sometimes when they have no impedance to passing me legally on the left. What's with that?

In fact, I have had two motorists pass me on the right when there was no shoulder at all, with two of their wheels about four feet into the verge. (Another woman attempted to pass me on the right but failed when she nearly hit a mailbox before falling back in behind me.) There is no provision in the law for this maneuver. Sec. 545.057 says "On a highway having... sufficient width for two or more lines of moving vehicles in each direction" or on an "improved shoulder". (Sec. 541.302(6) "Improved shoulder" means a paved shoulder.)

It would seem that there are numerically more scofflaw motorists than there are scofflaw bicyclists. There seems to be a lot of driver's license holders that could use a refresher on the laws governing overtaking slower vehicles. For your convenience I have posted those sections of the law above.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Abuse of power

Today I expected to ride north with a strong south wind and make it a 10 mile out and back, but when I stepped outside with my bike and the wind was blowing about 20 MPH from the west! So east it is.

I choose a familiar loop that will dump me onto state highway 34 for the west-bound leg back to Ennis and the headwind portion.

Highway 34 is signed 55 MPH with a single 12 foot lane each direction, with occasional improved shoulders. The traffic was moderate, and I was overtaken by four semi-tractor trucks during the three and a half miles.

I was also overtaken by an off duty cop, unfortunately. He tried to bully me into obeying his view of how things ought to be.

He drives up beside me (on the shoulder) in a small car with a young female child sitting next to him, paces my speed and when I look at him, he displays his badge and orders me to pull over.

So he gets out of his car and a lecture ensues. He tells me I can't ride so far in the lane. (I was positioned in the left tire track.) I tell him I need to for my safety and the law permits it. He says I need to keep on the shoulder because I am "impeding traffic" and violating the far to the right rule. I ask him if he is going to cite me. He says no. I then ask him if I can be on my way then. He says he didn't order me to stop- he didn't flash any red lights... I cut him off with a raised voice; "You stopped my under the color of law by flashing your badge at me!"

I mark that as the point that the "traffic stop" became something different- more of a conversation than a confrontation. I'll try to describe it in broad strokes rather than specifics, but some of his assertions are real gems.

So he tells me I can proceed, and I turn to mount my bike. He then said; "But don't be riding out where you were or I will have to call one of my on duty friends to meet you." I am about to retort "You had better call him, then!" when he asks if we could talk for a minute. I calm myself down and face him, and agree to talk.

He now asserts that he is just concerned for my safety. We discuss the relative merits of riding on the shoulder and in lane. It is impossible for him to imagine that I would be at greater risk of inattentive drivers when riding on the shoulder. I tell him that there are no restrictions on where I can ride in the lane if the lane is less than 14 feet wide. He asks how wide I think the lane is, did I measure it?

I tell him it is easy to get an accurate estimate. (Most cars about six and a half feet wide, can two of them travel side by side within the lane?) At this he laughed, and he said he knew quite well they were less than 14 feet from accident investigations.

He says; "Maybe it's within your right to ride there, but you'll end up dead right." (Yes, he actually did!)

We talked about the danger of distracted drivers drifting onto the shoulder, I quoted to him the law and we realized neither of us would persuade the other.

So I was compelled by a law officer who took it on himself to enforce (through intimidation) laws that only existed in his car-centric prejudices.

Sec 551.101.
(a) A person operating a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a vehicle under this subtitle

(a) A person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless:
(1) the person is passing another vehicle moving in the same direction;
(2) the person is preparing to turn left at an intersection or onto a private road or driveway;
(3) a condition on or of the roadway, including a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or surface hazard prevents the person from safely riding next to the right curb or edge of the roadway; or
(4) the person is operating a bicycle in an outside lane that is:
(A) less than 14 feet in width and does not have a designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane; or
(B) too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely travel side by side.