When Georgia’s 3 Foot Law, better known as HB 101, was signed into law in 2011, it stated cyclists can ride no wider than 2 abreast. The only exception is if you obtain an event permit, which would allow you to use the entire lane. It also states that cyclists should ride to the far right side of the road as possible as long as it doesn’t impede on our safety (paraphrased). If you live outside GA, I encourage you to investigate if your state has a similar law.
Therefore, if every group ride abides by this (and they should), then that leaves the left side of the lane open. The benefits for this are several; I’ll just mention a few.
- For Motorists: this ‘open’ part of the left side of the lane, allows motorists to see around a double pace line so that they can guage when to safely pass. If cyclists are riding over in the far left, they literally block the view of motorists and makes it even harder for them to pass.
- For Cyclists: a. since we legally can ride 2 abreast, having this open left side of the lane allows for anyone to rotate within the group, without impeding in front of other cyclists, b. if any cyclist wants to pass other cyclists in front of them, then this open left side gives them the ability to do so without having to cros
s the center line and potentially in oncoming traffic, and c. if you have both pace lines riding in close proximity to each other, then you create an incredible draft scenario for those behind you. In contrast, if you have one pace line riding to the far right of the lane and the other pace line to
the left side, then you literally have 2 individual pace lines. Not only does this shut out any cyclists who want to pass safely on the left but it also creates very turbulent winds down the middle of both pace lines. This in affect makes drafting more difficult. Safety is the highest priority (a and b) but understanding how it affects your riding (c) seems to be an eye-opener for many.
HB 101 also includes language regarding of when it is permissible to ride in other areas of the lane. I just want to spotlight one scenario the Law allows for; safety. If you are riding on the far right on sections of the road where there are blind spots for motorists, then I would submit to you the following:
Imagine you are driving your car and you approach a turn in the road where you cannot see all the way around the turn; this is your blind spot. As you drive farther into the actual turn, the part of the road that you will always see first is the outside of the lane. For example, that means if the road is turning right, then you will always see the left side of that turn first versus the right side. Now, add a cyclist on that same right turn riding to the far right side. Do you see where I’m going with this? I don’t know about you but I want motorists to see me as quickly as possible….not at the last second. Anticipating what you may be thinking after reading this, yes, I do change lane positions depending upon the circumstance. You will always find me on the far right of a left turning road and on the far left of a right turning road.
The other very common blind spot is hills. I am shocked how many motorists pass on a blind hill, not having a clue if an oncoming vehicle is headed right towards them. I’ll never forget a few years ago on a training ride with Atlanta Triathlon Club during my tenure as their Head Cycling Coach. I was riding with a few folks and I was asked why I was riding in different parts of the lane. I had just explained the scenario of a blind hill when we actually started approaching one. I looked behind me and saw a vehicle approaching, so I motioned to them to stay behind us and not pass. As I rode closer to the top of the hill, I sat up in the saddle so I could see more of the road ahead. Just as we approached the top, here comes an SUV in the other lane. Just a few seconds before, I looked behind me to see the car wanting to pass us. They should have been VERY thankful I held them off or a head-on collision would have been the likely result. I’ll never forget the reaction of the club members, their expressions and comments. They never had thought about doing what I just did, but they clearly saw what almost happened….but didn’t. I want to highlight that when I do ride in these defensive positions on purpose, I am communicating with the motorists behind me of the soonest time it is clear for them to pass me. When they do pass, I always wave at them and I’ve lost count how many waves (using all their fingers) and kind honks I’ve received.
I am sure these scenarios will create a debate, as I have heard all sides of this issue from cyclists. Some agree. Some don’t. My goal in spotlighting these scenarios is to cause you to think and evaluate if you are as safe on the road as you ‘can be’. I take my safety incredibly serious and will do whatever I need to in order to return home safely to my bride. If that comes across unorthodox to those I may be riding with at the time, then at least you will know ‘why’ I am doing it. I can tell you emphatically that I never do anything the bike arbitrarily; it is incredibly thought out from every angle and perspective.
Therefore, if you ever see me do something that everyone else may not be doing, you can rest assured there is a very well-thought out reason for it. I will always encourage you to ask questions, as you might just learn something you may never would think of on your own.