How the car lane paradigm eroded our lane rights and what we can do to restore them
Not long ago I was riding in the middle of the right-hand (slow) lane on a 4-lane urban street with parallel parking and a 25 mph speed limit. I had just stopped at a 4-way stop when the young male driver of a powerful car in the left lane yelled at me, “You aint no f***ing car man, get on the sidewalk.” He then sped away, cutting it close as he changed lanes right in front of me in an attempt, I suppose, to teach me a lesson.
That guy stated in a profane way the world view of most people today: If you can’t keep up, stay out of the way. My being in the right-hand lane and therefore “in his way” violated his sense that roads in general and travel lanes in particular are only for cars, a viewpoint that I call the car lane paradigm. The car lane paradigm conflicts with the fact that in every state of the union, bicyclists have the same rights and duties as drivers of vehicles.
So which is it? Do bicyclists have the same right to use travel lanes as other drivers or not? Before lanes existed, bicyclists simply acted like other drivers. But now that travel lanes are common, most people grow up with the car lane paradigm with bicyclists relegated to the margins of the road. This article goes into the history of how the car lane paradigm came to be and what we can do about it now.
Reading this is going to take a while, so here is an outline of where we’re going:
- 1897: In the beginning, bicycles were vehicles and bicyclists were drivers
- 1930: Bicycles are not vehicles
- 1911 – now: Lane lines are invented and become common
- Oops, the inventors of lane lines forgot about bicycles
- “Slower Traffic Keep Right” or “Slower Traffic Use Right Lane”?
- What does the “or” in “right-hand lane or as close as practicable to the right” mean?
- Do speed and might mean that travel lanes are actually “car lanes”?
- 1944: If you can’t keep up, you don’t belong (in the lane)
- 1968: Motorcyclists, but not bicyclists, are entitled to full use of a lane
- 1975: Bicycles once again defined as vehicles, but still not entitled to use of a full lane
- Exceptions to the law requiring bicyclists to ride far right are better than nothing, right?
- Now: No room on the road for bicycles
- Bicycles at the far right and laned roads are incompatible
- What do we do now?
Good introduction to infrastructure development over the decades.