How Much More Road Does a Cyclist Need? | Print |  E-mail
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Wednesday, 27 July 2011 15:17


By Wynn Kageyama


If a road is 10 feet wide, how much wider does the road need to be for safe use by cyclists?

What if it were 12 feet, 14 feet, or 16 feet wide? The answer is none.  A cyclist doesn’t need the road to be any wider than it already is to be safe.

What a cyclist does need is for the road to be in good repair, clear of debris like broken glass chips, and smooth.


The reason why additional space is not required is because passing traffic can use what is called “lane-sharing.” So instead of passing traffic trying to squeeze by the cyclist and the white line, which causes nothing but concern for both parties involved, allow the passing cars to move to the left and drive on the lane marker, or partway into the neighboring lane if its clear. Otherwise wait for other traffic to clear, and then lane-share and pass.  It’s as easy as that.


If you do start this lane-share early enough and correctly you will have plenty of clearance.


Cyclists can help the situationas well. Your assistance can help unlock a difficult situation when cars are stacked up behind you.  Instead of ignoring them, become the enabler. Make a sweep-around motion with your left hand so the drivers realize that they should safely pass you. That’s not so hard, either. You’ll be amazed how quickly things get sorted. You’ll feel less pressure realizing that the inconvenience is minimal.


A 12-foot-wide lane is pretty narrow for cyclists without a clear shoulder. For traffic below 44 mph it is recommended An outside lane width of 14 feet is recommended for traffic traveling under 44 mph. For higher speed traffic the recommended outside lane width is 16 feet.

With these wider lanes motorists and cyclists are happier and more comfortable because the emotional stress of passing is reduced.


You might notice that some roads have wider fast lanes in the range of 14 feet, and narrower outside lanes like 12 feet. This would be a good reason for you to send a letter to your traffic engineering department to correct this error. It won’t create a problem for emergency vehicles on their way to a response and it will make cycling easier in your community.


So a 12-foot-wide fast lane, and a 14-foot-wide outside lane is more acceptable. Traffic engineers are generally willing to make these changes when repaving. Ask for no outside lane stripe as well.



Wynn Kageyama is the certified cycling instructor who will be conducting a Beginning Road Cycling class starting Sunday, July 10, through the Castro Valley Adult School. For more information or to register, call 510-886-1000 or visit



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