The safest place to ride your bike is often the middle of the road. In the cycling world, this is called taking the lane.
Think about that for a second. Picture it in your mind. Does taking the lane sound safe? Probably not. It is safe, though, and here’s a common scenario to illustrate why.
When a cyclist rides on the right side of a busy road, she invites vehicles behind her to pass her. Now, if the road has a wide shoulder, this isn’t a problem: she can ride on the shoulder. But on a narrow road, the passing vehicle will have to veer into the oncoming lane a bit to pass the cyclist. If an oncoming vehicle suddenly appears, the passing vehicle will move right to avoid a head-on collision, forcing our poor cyclist into a ditch.
“Yeah,” you might think, “but at least she didn’t get run down from behind and turned into a pancake.”
You know what’s surprisingly rare? A cyclist riding in the middle of the road being run down from behind. Drivers often become frustrated at the middle-of-the-road cyclist, but they treat her like a car, passing only when the oncoming lane is clear.
On a narrow road, it’s safer to take the lane.
Taking the lane feels dangerous
I’m an experienced road cyclist with several thousand miles under my belt. I still fight the urge to hug the right shoulder, even though I know better. It just feels safe, even though it’s not.
This is a perfect metaphor for day-to-day life.
Many things that feel safe are actually dangerous:
- keeping our opinions to ourselves in meetings
- avoiding new skills after age 30
- watching 5 hours and 4 minutes of TV per day.
- doing only what we’re told, and no more
Many things that feel dangerous are actually safe:
- sharing our ideas, even if they might not work
- learning a new skill (and being bad at it for a long time)
- investing our TV time in an active hobby that yields personal growth
- taking responsibility instead of waiting to be given it
Have you dismissed a recent idea because it felt too dangerous? Is it possible you misjudged?
Maybe you need to take the lane.