In the last post, I mentioned the often-used rule of bicycling on the road: Ride as far to the right as practicable. But what exactly does that unfamiliar word — “practicable” — mean?
Here’s what it’s not: It doesn’t mean ride as far to the right as possible. I can ride in the gutter, an inch from the curb. That’s possible. But it’s not practicable.
It doesn’t mean as far to the right as practical. “Practical” is close to practicable, but refers more to something being useful, as in, “Riding to the right is a practical way to cycle.”
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines practicable as “capable of being put into practice or being done or accomplished. Feasible.”
“Feasible” provides the cyclist with some latitude. What is feasible for an experienced cyclist might not be feasible for a newbie. So how far to the right you ride is, in the final analysis, up to you.
A French reader, Ronan, commented after the last post, “I while riding alone take something like 70cm between the right shoulder and the edge of the road. This puts the bike’s wheels in the trace of the cars’ wheels.”
The League of American Bicyclists suggests the very same thing: “Ride in the right third of the lane if there is not sufficient room for lane sharing.” That would put your wheels in the spot occupied by a car’s right-side wheels. Ronan points out that such a strategy forces passing cars to pull out into the oncoming lane to pass. That could pose a hazard to the car, if there is oncoming traffic. But if that’s the case, a safe driver will wait until the traffic has cleared, then pull around to pass.
When I’m out riding, I tend to stay farther right than the right wheel track of cars. On most of the roads I ride, that’s practicable — for me. Your mileage may vary. Most roads are in good enough shape that I can ride close to the right edge without jeopardizing myself. Of course, I’m always aware of a crumbling road edge or debris and will adjust my position to account for those things. Interestingly enough, I often find that riding in a designated bike lane is not practicable, because bike lanes seem to be magnets for broken glass, gravel, and other crud. If that’s the case, I do ride out in the traffic lane. The law does not require cyclists to use the bike lane.
So, to reiterate what I stated in the last post, when someone yells, “Car back!” and you’re out in the lane riding two abreast, ease over to the right side of the lane. A far right as practicable.As far to the right as feasible. As far right as you are comfortable with.
*Picture from YouTube video, “Lancaster, PA road course.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK4IbydpmQA&feature=g-hist&context=G2ddd92fAHTyrKBQADAA
**Picture from bikecommute.com