To take the lane

When your cycling on a road without a designated bike path - do you use the shoulder or take the lane for yourself?

I’m curious to know the opinions here.

I’ve heard; It’s legal to take the lane It’s not legal for two vehicles to be in the same lane (I.e. for cyclists going between the cars, up to the front of a line of cars stopped at a red light) It’s more dangerous not to take the lane, hanging out near the shoulders

What do you do? Take the lane or not?

If you mean a paved shoulder that’s about 3’ or wider, why not take that? Having said that, my basic philosophy is to take the lane – and even if the shoulder is wide, I ride far left.

My consistent experience is this makes you more visible and causes drivers to regard you as a road user rather than something along the side of the road. At least as important is doing this lets you know who’s watching you while creating space for you to maneuver.

Even when you’re not directly in their path, drivers naturally adjust their course if they see you and the feel it’s close. When they do so, you can tell they see you so you know they won’t hit. The drivers behind them that can’t see you yet will naturally track behind them – this is very useful, especially if one of them is hauling a load that hangs over the side or is otherwise wide.

This kind of tactic is especially useful in areas like St John’s Bridge and other fast roads in the PDX area with no shoulder where the lane bumps up against a curb.

Riding left causes drivers to treat you significantly better. When I ride way left on a road where there’s not room for a safe pass and see vehicles slow down as they approach, I drift right and motion for a close pass. I find this gets pretty nice treatment and even thanks – even though I intentionally slowed them down :slight_smile: Then I move back left and the process repeats.

When you ride too far right, drivers don’t see you, and if they do it’s much less likely for you to register on them as a road user. Plus, when you communicate the expectation that you don’t belong there, they’ll believe you.

Rules for dealing with drivers are the same as for dealing with large hostile dogs. You’ll get far better outcomes if you’re calm, assertive, and communicate your expectations.


I take the lane as sometimes I feel crowded on shoulder and want to be visible. At 67 I am being more careful but must say I’m loving the ‘stay at home’ perks - roads free, less noise. Now I can hop on bike for errands not bothering to plan bike safe route.

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this. I’m new here in general, and started in very low visibility winter… taking the lane is my preferred MO. I’ve tried the more passive approach, and I’ve consequently have been stuck behind parked cars without being “let” back into traffic - as if I’m the problem. Also, if I’m riding with my youngest, we both take the lane, side by side on designated greenways & the PBOT designated ways. I will ride on the outside of her…sometimes a bit back and to the side, but always to the side. I will not let her be prone to a car. I’m not rude… I’ll happily smile and wave. Kill 'em with kindness, you know? Besides, my face it covered now.

That said… I have gotten the occasional aggressive driver who has tried to teach me a lesson that I was making the road dangerous. They honk, they swerve into me as they pass, acting like they’re going to clip me, etc. They have to go home and continue to live being them. :woman_shrugging:t2:


I find this highly effective – even (or maybe even especially) with hostile drivers.

If you’re wondering why I do this with the aggressive people, it’s because people who act like jerks do it on purpose – they either want you to jump out of your skin or cheese you off. I refuse to reward them for bad behavior.

When you don’t play the role they’ve written for you, they act very differently. Plus, since people are creatures of habit (meaning they tend to show up in roughly the same places at the same times), I keep an eye out for them and wave about 2 seconds before they pass me from behind in future.

I’ve found that stripping people of their anonymity and letting them know I see them has a big impact on behavior – some previously hostile drivers actually cut me more space/consideration than average.


I take the lane most of the time.

Although I usually don’t ride on roads with a center line. But when I do then I ride in the left part of the lane closest to the center line if there’s no should at all.

If there’s a wide shoulder then I’ll be more apt to ride in the right side of the lane since I have an escape route on the shoulder.

It’s not often I’ll ride in the parking lane if I’m going any distance. I don’t like getting trapped there not being able to merge back into traffic.

Riding in the lane also gives you the best legal standing. Once you leave the lane you risk unintentionally becoming a pedestrian and being subject to a new set of rules.

You can legally pass cars on the right if they’re stopped waiting for a red light (or not) under ORS 811.415 so long as it’s safe.

It depends on where I am. If traffic is fast and there is a wide shoulder I may use it.

Taking the lane backfired on me recently on my morning commute, and a car passed me on the right. (No idea why, as there was no oncoming traffic in the other lane, and it is a quiet street.).

I feel like not taking the lane puts me more at risk of a close pass. I would rather a car has to leave the lane than try to share it with me.


Car passing on right sharrow street - YouTube

That driver is nuts, a good example of the aggressive driving people have been talking about lately, but maybe they also don’t know they’re allowed to slide over the double line to go around a bike.

The video is good evidence but bouncy and noisy. What camera are you using? (just curious)

I was gifted a very old GoPro from a friend after a bad incident with a driver here who actually got out of his car to hit me. The handlebar mount is pretty awful for bounciness, hope to upgrade to something better eventually. Might be better with a helmet mount, but I don’t want the weight. (If someone has suggestions for a better setting that might help, I’m all ears.).

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On a side note, I feel that I get way more aggressive close passes as a female while taking the lane than my male friends. Not sure if it is just me, or if this is a common thing.

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The horn is me, if anyone is wondering. I have a horn that is loud as a car horn.


Also looks like you were already doing about 20-25 when they passed you going well over the speed limit there.

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The newest gopros have very good video stabilization. Having said that, unless you intend to run front and rear facing cameras, I think you’re better with the helmet mount for two reasons. One is that the camera is always looking at what you’re looking at. The other is that people can see the camera which may help them behave.

You could also use a 360 camera for better coverage, but you won’t get as good resolution or battery life and they’re bigger so you’d almost definitely want it on the bars or maybe on your front fork to read plates coming up from behind.

Looked like a clean pass and a logical move on the part of the driver. You were far enough left they very well could have thought you were setting up to cross over to the other side.

I don’t get your logic. To cross over to where? I very much stayed in the same area indicated by the sharrows. It was not logical to me. It probably looks farther left as my camera is far left on my handlebar.

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Cross over on that turnout after the bridge or somewhere else down the road – a normal driver won’t give it that much thought. I’m a lane taker myself and sometimes pull that far left way early myself to avoid getting pinned by a line of fast traffic.

If there’s enough clearance to pass on the right and the alternative is to go cross the centerline, many will pass on the right even if there’s no double line. They would have done the same to you if you were a car.

The space on the bridge and immediately beyond works very differently where than the sections where cars are parked in the right lane both in yours and oncoming direction where it would have been suicidal to ride further right at that speed. If someone’s overtaking and the space opens up, the natural move is to provide space to facilitate the pass.

I get that you’d like drivers to give you a lane, but there are many situations where that’s not going to happen. This driver would have passed on the left if you had shifted a few feet right as they approached but I doubt they would have left the lane.

I find you can often get drivers to give you a bit more clearance by shifting right shortly before they pass and having a hand up with a relaxed wave a second or two before they clear you. That move wouldn’t have worked in this case, but it’s normally pretty reliable.

Always pass on the left. Bikes can share the same lane with other drivers. If a lane is wide enough to share with another vehicle (about 14 feet), ride three feet to the right of traffic. If the lane is not wide enough to share, “take the lane” by riding in the middle.

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I take the lane when I ride downhill on steel hills in the West Hills. It includes SW Scholls Ferry Road from where the bike lane ends just down from SW Raab Road to just past SW Patton Road where it isn’t as steep as it is north of Patton. I’m going maybe about 28 mph and I’d hope the county doesn’t make a south-bound regular bike lane as it would get coated with wet leaves in the fall.