02

Blog

Riding Two Abreast – Why It Matters to You As a Cyclist

Look at the above picture. There’s nothing special about it, really – aside from the obvious fact that every ride with your buddies is special.

Now take another look. What you’re seeing is two abreast riding, a common practice in nearly every group ride. Currently, North Carolina’s law is silent on riding two abreast, and cyclists across the state operate on the understanding that it’s perfectly legal.

As a cyclist, you should be aware that a study committee set up by the General Assembly is poised to debate whether bicyclists should have to ride single file or be allowed to ride two or more abreast.

The study committee, which is charged with reviewing several bicycle safety laws, is meeting Wednesday in Raleigh, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  The committee must send a report and recommendations to the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee on or before December 31, 2015.

If the study committee ultimately recommends a single file law and the General Assembly passes it, two abreast riding would be a thing of the past. That change would make our roads less safe for cycling. And it would likely ring the death knell for group rides and club rides as we know them today.

The current law works just fine – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We do not need new restrictions on where bicyclists can operate, especially restrictions that make the roads less safe for any user.

Bike Law’s very own Peter Wilborn has written a post that details why two abreast riding is often a safer way to ride. Among the factors Peter lists are increased visibility for cyclists and easier passing by motorists.

If North Carolina lawmakers are bound and determined to spell things out, then the law should specifically allow side-by-side riding. The reason is simple: it’s often SAFER for cyclists than single file riding. Bicycling advocate Steven Goodridge, who thankfully is serving on the study committee, says it best:

Riding two abreast is one of the most effective safety strategies used by knowledgeable bicyclists when riding together; it makes bicyclists more conspicuous and greatly reduces unsafe close passing, sideswipes and run-off-road crashes on state roads. It is therefore important for riding two abreast to remain a legal practice that may be exercised at bicyclists’ discretion.

Steve has crunched the numbers to reach his conclusion — and by numbers I mean the police crash data compiled by NCDOT. According to that data:

  • 73% of motorist overtaking bicyclist crashes occur on two lane roads;
  • 67% of these crashes occur on roads with posted maximum speed limits of 40 mph or higher;
  • 59% occur on “rural” roads;
  • 91% occur on a straight section of roadway;
  • Only 9% occur at a curve, and only 3% at a straight hill-crest.

As Steve notes, these crashes are mostly happening on straight sections of state roads with narrow lanes and high posted speed limits. They often occur when a motorist tries to squeeze past a cyclist without moving over. He states:

Based on my examination of many police reports and discussions with investigating officers, most daylight motorist-overtaking-bicyclist collisions occur where the driver sees the bicyclist ahead but attempts to pass within the same lane as the bicyclist who is riding at the right edge of the lane.

Meanwhile, Steve notes, “motorist-overtaking-bicyclist crashes involving bicyclists riding two abreast are practically non-existent — we cannot find any record of them happening in NC.”

Plain and simple, crashes caused by overtaking vehicles typically occur when cyclists are in single file formation, not when they are riding side-by-side. Two abreast riding largely eliminates unsafe close passes within the same lane.

If the legislature were to pass a two abreast law, we would join 39 other states that specifically allow that practice. We’d also be on the same footing as North Carolina motorcyclists. Under G.S. 20-146.1, they may legally split the lane and ride two abreast.

Here’s hoping the committee studying bicycle safety will take note of its own data and put safety first by continuing to allow two abreast riding.

 

Comments

Bruce Hagen Jul 17, 2018

On July 11, 2018, a very experienced rider and friend to many in the Rockdale County area, Albert “Ab” Roesel, was killed while out on a rural road doing a ride that he no doubt had done many times before.  Ab was 75 years old.   The police investigation concluded that Ab had been headed Southbound, […]

Read More
Brendan Kevenides Jun 04, 2018

At sea a boat under power must give way to a more vulnerable craft.  The law requires that a power driven vessel give way to a sailing vessel.  A sail boat must give way to a craft engaged in fishing. These simple rules are consistent with the maxim that with greater power comes greater responsibility. […]

Read More
Commuter Bike
Bruce Hagen May 29, 2018

Recently, my wife and I moved into a new home that’s closer to my office, which has allowed me to start commuting by bike.  I rode my bike to and from my office 4 consecutive days before my schedule forced me back into the car. My hope and plan is to commute by bike at […]

Read More
Pat Brown May 10, 2018

Strength, ambition, and courage are just a few words that come to mind when we think of Anthony Lue.  Growing up, Anthony enjoyed playing competitive sports such as baseball, volleyball, basketball and mountain biking, but his true passion was discovered on his high school track.    After winning gold for 100m hurdles at the provincial championships […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 30, 2018

Following a horrific bicycle crash in 2016, Dr. Michael Rifkin has become a new type of bicycling advocate — one who is deeply committed to ending distracted driving. Read his op-ed on Making Distracted Driving in Maine Taboo here. Dr. Rifkin’s piece reminds us that we can be distracted by our phones and other electronic devices even […]

Read More
Brian Weiss Apr 26, 2018

On November 21, 2017, I saw a TV news story about how the Broomfield District Attorney’s Office was routinely offering lax plea deals to drivers that injure cyclists.  In bicycle crash cases with injuries, the DA was offering plead deals to “broken headlight” or “defective vehicle” charges. A “defective vehicle” sentence is one of the […]

Read More
Atlanta's Bike Czar
Bruce Hagen Apr 19, 2018

Who is looking for a great job in a dynamic city with a great opportunity to make bicycle advocacy not just a passion, but a full time, rewarding and well-paying job?   The City of Atlanta is in search of a a new Chief Bicycle Officer to replace the outgoing CBO, Superstar Becky Katz, who after […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Apr 04, 2018

Piscitello Law – Bike Law PA is pleased to share highlights from the third annual Vision Zero conference, held March 17 in West Philadelphia.  The event was hosted by Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition and opening remarks by the Executive Director Sarah Clark Stuart encouraged 250 participants to “listen, learn and be inspired….”   Mayor James Kenney […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 03, 2018

The first issue is that many bicycle crashes are not being reported into the State of Maine Crash Database, which leads to incomplete and inaccurate state-wide crash reporting data and arguably also leads to uninformed priority setting and budgetary decisions.  The crashes that are unreported and/or underreported on a state level are sometimes, but not […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Mar 25, 2018

Foundational Principles Bicycles are Traffic and Belong on Maine’s Roadways In Maine, bicycle riders are included within the definition of “traffic” and should be treated as part of Maine’s traffic system.  See 29-A M.R.S.A. § 101 (82).   Rights and Responsibilities In general, a person riding a bicycle in Maine has all of the rights […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Mar 20, 2018

Vision Zero (VZ) is multi-nation initiative with a guiding principle that death and serious injury should not be an acceptable outcome of transportation.  Vision Zero plans often draw attention to flaws within the transportation system such as dangerous traffic patterns, speeding and a lack of sufficient protected bike/pedestrian lanes.  VZ action plans utilize data to […]

Read More
Danny Feldman Mar 15, 2018

I will not pretend to speak for all cyclists, but I feel pretty confident in saying that being passed by cars on the road is a primary area of concern. Most of the time there is no problem and the vehicle passes safely. Nevertheless, I personally have been “buzzed” more times than I wish were […]

Read More
Load More