When you are a child, you are taught that if you must ride your bike on the street, that you should ride as far to the right as possible. This gives cars as much space as possible to pass you. However, as you grow older and bolder, and start to ride on busier roads, it becomes time to revisit this lesson in safe cycling.
On the way to work each morning, I ride on a couple of major city streets. These roads have two lanes of traffic in each direction; however, they do not have bike lanes. To make matters worse, they also have square curbs. As a cyclist, if I were to follow the “keep as far right as possible” rule, I would have no place to go when a car passes me too close. In addition, the further right I ride, the more likely a car driver thinks they can sneak pass me without changing lanes. To be safe, I ride in the middle of the right most lane. Once I started doing this, the car drivers got the message “to pass this cyclist safely, I must move over into the left lane.”
Taking this one step further, anytime I am riding on a street where I think it is unsafe for a car to squeeze by me, I ride in the middle of the lane. This requires cars to wait behind me, or pass only when the left or oncoming lane is completely free of traffic. I learned this lesson the hard way; when a car passing me in a narrow construction zone clipped my handlebars with its side mirror, knocking me onto the shoulder. This would not have happened had I been in the middle of the lane, as the driver would have been unable to pass me.
Of course, riding in the middle of the lane only works if you are very visible. If you are wearing dark clothing at night, and are not well lit, stay off the road! Unlit cyclists are a danger to both cars and other cyclists.