Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Recently, I read an post on commutebybike.com on 'claiming the lane' which means when you're riding on surface streets, you should ride IN traffic as opposed to on the sidewalk or on the right side of the road.  The authors of the post state that due to traffic laws in most states and safety statistics, you are safer if you're right in the middle of the lane as if you were a car or a motorcycle and in addition to that, legally, it is your right to be there just as much as its a car's right.  (for instance, its illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk in CA.  The cops can give you a ticket)  Reading the commutebybike.com post made me think a lot about street riding and since I had to change my route slightly today and ride on the streets for an extra mile so I could drop some mail at the post office (above), I thought I'd give claiming the lane a try.

I started off by claiming the lane in the short ride through my neighborhood to the SART.  Within three minutes of beginning to ride, I turned around to see the world's biggest F-150 about two inches from my back tire and not letting up.  The doofus finally passed me on the left but I could tell he was trying to send some kind of message to me.  Whatever the case is, I nearly shat in my pants but I kept on riding.  Claiming the lane through residential streets proved to be uneventful the rest of the way to the SART and then I was traffic free for the next five miles.

The true test of claiming the lane came when I exited the SART to head to the post office.  I got off the SART and on to a major street right in the middle of morning commute.  When I first moved into the traffic lanes, there were no cars at all so I was feeling good, pedaling like a madman.  I had to turn left so I safely moved into the left lane and just kept cruising along....and that's when shit got crazy.  Next thing I knew, there was a wall of cars closing fast on me like a pack of wild dogs.  I was surprised the traffic was on me so fast since I had to be doing 50 or 60mph easily (more like 22mph) but whatever the case was, it was too late to un-claim the lane so I just kept on riding knowing that surely the cars would maneuver around me at a safe distance because the good folks at commutebybike.com said that's what good drivers will do and I have a right to be on the road and its safer.  Well, no offense to the good folks at commutebybike.com, but apparently the morning commuters in Orange County didn't really get the memo on my right to claim the lane.  If you've ever seen a video of a surfer getting completely engulfed by a huge wave, that's what happened to me, but instead of water and a surfer, it was my terrified ass and a wave of cars.  One beat up old Ford Probe got close enough to me that I could have kicked his window in when he passed.  The entire incident only lasted about 20 seconds but it was like there was a group effort by 20 or 30 cars to scare the ever loving shit out of me so bad that I'd never attempt to claim the lane again for the rest of my life.  Long story short, I'm alive and well but my first claiming the lane experience didn't go well at all and with all due respect to my fellow bike commuters who want the world to know we have rights too, I think I'll take my chances with the cops giving me a ticket for riding on the sidewalk next time.

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