IAM urges cyclists to "claim their lane"

Road safety charity says bike riders should move out into road when nearing junctions or passing parked cars

by Simon_MacMichael   March 18, 2010  

Commuting in Bristol © Jonny Gawler

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), Britain’s largest road safety charity, is urging cyclists to make themselves more visible and “claim their lane” by moving out into the middle of the lane when passing parked cars or approaching junctions.

Duncan Pickering, IAM Cycling Development Manager, said: “There has been some debate as to whether cyclists should stick to the kerb or push out into the road when riding in built-up areas. “
Our advice to cyclists, based on a comprehensive study, is to stay near to the kerb on long even stretches, but to assert yourself when approaching a junction, pushing out into the road and putting yourself in the direct view of drivers.”

He added: “Sticking to the kerb where drivers are not necessarily looking means they are less likely to see you.”

According to the IAM, studies prove that when drivers negotiate a junction, they focus on the main traffic stream, which means that they pay less attention to auxiliary roads where cyclists are more likely to be present.

“Drivers are more likely to notice bikes travelling in the same direction as the oncoming traffic and, when turning left, mainly focus their attention on cars coming from the right, as they don’t see the left as posing a particular threat,” Mr Pickering explained. “This means they fail to see cyclists from the left early enough,” he added.

The IAM recommends that cyclists:

  • “Take up a primary position around 75-100m before reaching a junction, in the centre of the lane, providing it is safe to do so. This move will mean that drivers exiting the junction will be more likely to see the cyclist as they are in the same traffic flow as more hazardous vehicles.
  • “Take the “secondary position” when cycling along a straight stretch of road which is clear of junctions and parked cars.
  • “Keep a sensible distance, about half a meter, from the kerb to avoid hazards such as slippery drain-covers.
  • “Remember it is not always sensible or appropriate to take the centre of the lane especially if traffic is heavy.”

The IAM adds that although “a lack of awareness on the part of some motorists is no doubt a huge factor in car/bike collisions, it pays for the cyclist as the more vulnerable road user to ride to be seen where possible.”

 

17 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

There's no debate about it as far as I'm concerned. Assertive lane-claiming is the only way to go.

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [567 posts]
18th March 2010 - 12:23

like this
Like (4)

I agree, thats what we teach youngsters to do and adults for that matter...we need to educate drivers to expect it though.

not all carbon is the same.

Jon Burrage's picture

posted by Jon Burrage [1081 posts]
18th March 2010 - 12:41

like this
Like (3)

Staying at the kerbside means you get run off the road.

The trick BMX in the pic doesn't look like it has brakes and technically shouldn't be on the road.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2189 posts]
18th March 2010 - 13:16

like this
Like (5)

OldRidgeback wrote:
The trick BMX in the pic doesn't look like it has brakes and technically shouldn't be on the road.

True, but I got fed up of waiting for a more representative bike to pass, especially with the local police cruising past slowly and starting to give me the eyeball Wink

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8025 posts]
18th March 2010 - 14:03

like this
Like (5)

OldRidgeback wrote:
Staying at the kerbside means you get run off the road.

This is what I always tell people I know. Ride in the gutter and it is like giving every driver carte blanche to push past. Ride further out (I aim for 1 metre from the kerb/white line or in vehicles' left hand wheeltracks). Drivers are then forced to consider you as being 'in the way' or, more accurately, an element of the traffic. It takes some nerve but it pays off.

Riding further out also makes you more visible to those trying to pull out of side roads or driveways and gives you more room to manoevure if they creep.

Same applies at pinch points and roundabouts. It's all in John Franklin's Cyclecraft.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1946 posts]
18th March 2010 - 14:43

like this
Like (4)

These are advice that makes a huge impact.
Well done on writing up on something truely worthwhile.

posted by Alankk [121 posts]
18th March 2010 - 14:44

like this
Like (3)

Much as I liked the Cycle Lane Fail pic I've switched it for one with a more representative cyclist in it + I like the pattern on that bus, can't think why Thinking

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4135 posts]
18th March 2010 - 15:34

like this
Like (3)

I note that when the IAM are advising you to stay by the kerb they explicitly mention secondary position: which I would normally consider to be about a metre out. You should almost never be riding any closer than this. 0.5m is a bit close in my opinion, so they're a bit contradictory there.

Taking primary position (in the middle of a normal lane) for junctions and round parked cars is pretty sensible. It's not really very new advice though, is it?

lnr's picture

posted by lnr [3 posts]
18th March 2010 - 16:33

like this
Like (7)

lnr wrote:
Taking primary position (in the middle of a normal lane) for junctions and round parked cars is pretty sensible. It's not really very new advice though, is it?

No, but it's amazing how few cyclists ride that way. Kerb-hugging is the norm around here. Another consequence of being close to the kerb is that you end up riding over broken glass, debris and gravel (not a good idea). Car tyre-tracks are the cleanest part of the road.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1946 posts]
18th March 2010 - 17:22

like this
Like (6)

I like the subtle wording of the last point..
“Remember it is not always sensible or appropriate to take the centre of the lane especially if traffic is heavy.”

I.e. this is where you have the distinct advantage of being able to overtake queuing/slow moving traffic

G-bitch's picture

posted by G-bitch [302 posts]
19th March 2010 - 10:50

like this
Like (6)

Inr wrote:

Quote:
Taking primary position (in the middle of a normal lane) for junctions and round parked cars is pretty sensible. It's not really very new advice though, is it?

No, but it's the fact that the IAM are saying it.

What road users hate is dithering - sort of going but not quite having the courage to actually go - and car drivers (although, interestingly, not usually van or lorry drivers) are as guilty of this as anyone.

My golden rule for cycling survival is to make eye contact where I can. It's surprising how many cyclists (motorists do it as well, by the way) gaze like sheep at the spot midway between the headlights as if by mind-melding with the engine they can make it slow down.

As you approach a junction, looking over your shoulder and fixing your chosen windscreen with a laser-like look (think Lance Armstrong) does the job mostly. I have a hand-signal that turns into a thumbs-up move. By personalising the transaction, you will wake the driver up to the fact that it's a human in front of them and not a metal box.

My other golden rule is always to ride at a metre away from the kerb or parked cars when the traffic is capable of going faster than me and as soon as I sense that the traffic is cruising at my speed (or ought to be slowing to my speed, like approaching a junction) I take the lane. I also take the lane when I judge that an overtaking driver will put me in trouble. Thus, I get very few of those irritating "overtake and pull in" manoeuvres although I am always alert to the nutters who aren't going to take any messing from no goddam cyclist but you can usually spot them from the engine sound or the usual vehicle cliches (plain white vans, road reps in BMW318s, Imprezza Turbos with purple tinted glass, 306s with body kit etc etc)

By the way, my wife was convinced that this worked because I am a beefy six-foot bloke. However, as her confidence on a bike has grown, she is working her way through traffic with the best of them. I think any driver stupid enough to bully a girl on a bike is probably stupid enough to do the same to a big bloke so best avoided.

And speaking of which, my absolute and final golden rule is to avoid confrontation at all costs - all that shouting and yelling is completely counter productive. If you are lucky enough to see the driver again that's made a stupid mistake the raised-eyebrow smile that says "you t**t" speaks more eloquently than any abuse you can throw and I can honestly say that in nine out of the ten situations this has arisen in oooooh thirty years I have got a sheepish wave from the driver.

We're all just people, people.

NickInBath's picture

posted by NickInBath [41 posts]
19th March 2010 - 11:50

like this
Like (6)

Good article, and very well written comment from NickInBath. Good advice! I wish more of us cyclists were this way in thinking. It might then help bridge the gap between drivers and cyclists.

posted by gazedo82 [26 posts]
22nd March 2010 - 12:15

like this
Like (6)

I love the assertive driving stance the car took on the Advance Stop Line.

posted by Alankk [121 posts]
29th March 2010 - 15:18

like this
Like (5)

I wish more of us cyclists were this way in thinking. It might then help bridge the gap between drivers and cyclists.

posted by mike2000 [4 posts]
15th August 2010 - 12:20

like this
Like (4)

The Bikeability training given to 10 year olds at schools firmly touts this way of riding, and is very much in line with the Cycle Craft book that aims to promote assertive riding.

Hopefully this should mean future generations of cyclists will be taking up a more dominant position on the road, and will see the end of kerb hugging and riding around the outside edge of roundabouts!

Complicating matters since 1965

DaSy's picture

posted by DaSy [649 posts]
15th August 2010 - 14:18

like this
Like (7)

The long term good thing about 10 year olds being taught how to cycle this way and why is that when they learn to drive they may well be more respectful Big Grin

posted by David French [49 posts]
15th August 2010 - 16:33

like this
Like (3)

NickinBath mus be rich with all those golden rules! Big Grin

Good tips, although I should point out that I have started to move into the 'primary' position approaching junctions, and just seem to get drivers pulling out to zoom past then pull back in right in front of me at the red light. This doesn't seem to be particular types of driver either.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3099 posts]
16th April 2012 - 14:24

like this
Like (5)