Choosing a Scenario

1 November 2014

Pop quiz time! Two scenarios, each with some questions.

Firstly, please excuse my shoddy collage, using a screen grab from a video included below and the shameless theft (it’s ok) of a photo from Kansas Cyclist.

Scenario 1


You’re driving, and a cyclist is in the middle of the lane ahead of you.

Question 1: Is the lane to your right clear?

  • Yes: Move safely out into it and pass; there’s enough room for you to have that lane to yourself.
  • No: Wait.

Scenario 2


You’re driving, and a cyclist is on the nearside of the lane ahead of you.

Question 1: Is the lane to your right clear?

  • Yes: Move safely out into it and pass; there’s enough room for you to have that lane to yourself.
  • No: Proceed to question 2.

Question 2: Reckon you’re ok to squeeze through that gap between the cyclist and the traffic in the lane to your right?

  • Yes: Go for it!
  • No: Wait. Then return to question 1.

This is why

All you need to know is this:

If you answer “yes” to Question 2, you are making a dangerous choice, no matter how many lanes the carriageway has.

There are any number of very real events that can turn that choice into a collision that has real potential for serious injury or death to the cyclist, no matter who they are. For the sake of conciseness I won’t list them here, but if you can’t think of half a dozen then I would strongly suggest that you re-evaluate your ability to anticipate risk. In the meantime, please take my word for it: it is important that you do not answer “yes” to Question 2.

When a cyclist chooses to ride in the middle of the lane, they are choosing to create Scenario 1 and not Scenario 2. In other words, they are eliminating Question 2. And, if you care to notice, Scenario 1 is exactly the same as not answering “yes” to Question 2.

In other words, in anything other than exceptional circumstances such as when the lane is extremely wide, a cyclist in the middle of the lane presents an issue only to a driver who makes dangerous decisions.

So simple, yet so rarely understood

If you don’t understand the above then, although you’re probably making dangerous decisions, you’re far from alone.

I include this video (which isn’t mine) with no comment other than that if you can’t see a whole heap of extremely serious problems with this police officer’s attitude to vulnerable road users and his understanding of cycling, including the above, then you really ought to have a bit more of a think about things. And maybe go ride a bike for a bit.


  1. chrisrust 1 November 2014 9:49pm #

    I think we need a “don’t ride in the gutter!” campaign to educate cyclists and motorists. Far too many cyclists hugging the kerb.

    • Stephan Matthiesen 1 November 2014 10:12pm #

      But the UK had “don’t ride in the gutter” campaigns for decades; in fact it was almost the only thing that cycling groups have ever talked about until very recently. It doesn’t work and won’t stop cyclists from hugging the kerb. Taking the lane is fine if you can go reasonably fast, but the amount of abuse you get when you’re slower will put most people off. Hugging the kerb is more dangerous in the long run, but also reduces immediate social conflict, and that’s why people will do it.

      Any number of “don’t ride the gutter” or “share the road” campaigns will not reach out beyond those (mostly) young white fit male cyclists who don’t care if drivers are annoyed.

      I doubt that motorists will be reached by such campaigns either. If you never felt yourself how it is when a car tries to squeeze past, then watching ads won’t change your behaviour. The only things that will help are more segregated infrastructure that avoids such conflict from the start, and getting all drivers onto a bicycle and give them first-hand experience how it is.

  2. Biddy Walton 1 November 2014 10:16pm #

    You stayed admirably calm!

    • Bez 1 November 2014 10:18pm #

      Ah. That wasn’t me. I’ll edit the post to clarify that 🙂

    • Paulc 2 November 2014 8:08am #

      needs to be shared around via social media (twitter, FB etc.)

  3. Dave H 2 November 2014 12:40am #

    When you do take the lane I find it makes good sense to be very ‘visible’ in your action of checking the traffic behind you with a sensible frequency for the prevailing conditions.

    When driving (and cycling) the range of thoughts from anger and frustration to serious concern about the rider’s awareness of the road conditions around them, and potential for a dangerous unpredictable move, all come from being behind a cyclist who appears to deliberately or through lack of competence, fail to clock me behind them and open a channel of non-verbal communication about what each of us plans to do next

  4. Neil 2 November 2014 8:14am #

    That’s some shocking victim blaming going on there! Would this PC offer the same sort of advice to other victims of an assault?

  5. Andrew Taylor 2 November 2014 9:20am #

    Has the cyclist involved thought of complaining to the IPCC, this officer is a disgrce & if his direct superiors can’t be bothered to correct him, it needs to go higher. The PC also stated he could not see a very well lit bike, should he be driving a Police vehicle with that poor a degree of sight?

  6. Tim 3 November 2014 1:54pm #

    I completely agree with the blog post, but the problem I find with taking the lane is that sometimes drivers apply the first answer to Q2, despite Q1 (first scenario) being asked.

    They will squeeze past (pretty much on principle it seems), and actually me being central ends up making the pass closer and potentially more dangerous than if I’d stayed in the gutter.

    And this is why I don’t want to share busy roads with motorists any more.

  7. Ernie 10 November 2014 5:50pm #

    Scenario 2: “•No: Wait. Then return to question 2.”

    Should that not read ‘Then return to question 1’?

    • Bez 11 November 2014 7:47am #

      “Question 2” was what I’d intended. But it probably works a little better as “Question 1”, so I changed it. Thanks 🙂

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