Passing on the Right

Lots of cyclists were on the road Saturday morning. Pat and I had hop-scotched with several beginners who were being led along the Mopac route by an experienced cyclist.

I had just passed them again, and was settling into an easy pace, when suddenly, a young woman zipped by me on the right!

I had no idea she was there.  I never heard her.  She never announced herself.

I was just on the verge of moving to the right side of the shoulder when she passed.  If I had made my move a second or two earlier, we would have crashed.

Uh oh. He's passing on the right!

One of the most basic rules of cycling you learn early on: Never pass on the right. Most organized rides specifically address that in their instructions to riders, e.g. the MS 150. Ride to the right and pass on the left.  It’s kinda like vehicular cycling. A car wouldn’t pass on the right (okay, it shouldn’t), so you shouldn’t, either.

You should never hear the call, “On your Right.”  However, there are many cyclists with varying experience.  Be on the lookout for those that will pass on your right.  If someone does this, kindly remind him or her that they should pass on the left.  Also, it is common courtesy to say “Thank You” to the person yelling “on your left.” This indicates to them that you’ve heard them.

Now, there are some sites that indicate that passing on the right is OK, but only in emergencies.  But that would be a rare situation. So rare, that if you must pass on the right be sure to give plenty of notice to the “passee.”

I’ve been kicking myself since that Saturday morning ride, because when she passed me on the right, I was so surprised, I said nothing.  In the past, I have complained to cyclists who pass me on the left without letting me know they’re there — I’m not sure why I let it go this time. It won’t happen again.


  1. Michael A says

    Part of my commute includes a bicycle lane that is on the *left* side of a one-way roadway. If I’m riding nearest the edge, I would expect other riders to pass me on the right. However, as you point out, this is (generally speaking) a rare instance.

    Here’s a googlemaps streetview link:,-122.318645&spn=0.021702,0.04828&z=15&layer=c&cbll=47.67232,-122.318789&panoid=HaM3Gw9Yg6HeEXBGTPDrjQ&cbp=12,120.59,,0,13.32

  2. Otis says

    As with cars though. If you don’t want to get passed on the right, make sure you’re staying to the right except to pass others. If you’re chilling on the left then you should expect to get passed on the right.

    I know you can cite all the rules you want, but the simple physics of it are, people will pass you in the most convenient manner possible. It’s partially up to you to make sure that the easiest way to pass you is on your left.

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