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Share the Lane Ride Policy for SCU Rides and Ride Leaders

 | Published on 4/25/2017

                                           Share the Lane Ride Policy for SCU Rides and Ride Leaders

                               By Michael N Katz Esq. Safety and Legislation Coordinator

In my January article I summarized Pennsylvania law as it applies to bicyclists on the road. In February, I posed some hypotheticals for discussion about where to position yourself in the lane. March was the titillating topic of “control and release”. All of that was leading to – drum roll please - a proposed policy for sharing the lane when on Club rides.

One of the goals of SCU is to promote and provide a safe and enjoyable experience for all participants on the Club’s group rides. In order to facilitate doing so, it is important to have a common and uniform set of ride guidelines for Ride Leaders and participants that are consistent with the rules and expectations embodied in the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code and that will promote predictable and safe practices of both cyclists and operators of motor vehicles. To that end, it is my intention to submit to the Executive Council for adoption at its April meeting the following Ride Guidelines:

  1. When leading group rides, Ride Leaders should constantly evaluate road, lane and traffic conditions to determine the most appropriate position in the lane for riders to occupy consistent with the practice of “control and release” of the lane of travel. The presumption should be that cyclists will ride just to the right of center of the lane of travel so that overtaking vehicles will be required to move into the oncoming lane to pass when safe to do so.

  2. The announcement of “car back” should not be treated as a directive or cue for the group to move to the right and yield the lane. Instead, based on the width of the lane, the need for cyclists to have 3 feet of maneuvering room, the requirement under Pennsylvania law that motor vehicles give cyclists 4 feet of clearance when passing and the availability of a wide improved shoulder free of debris and encroaching traffic from the right, a determination should be made of whether it is practicable for riders to move further to the right. Only where such prevailing  circumstances make it safe to allow a motor vehicle to pass while it remains in the lane of travel should the Ride Leader then so direct the group and “yield” the lane to passing vehicles. If such circumstances do not exist and it would present a risk to riders if a vehicle attempted to pass within the lane, then the Ride Leader should continue to control the lane so that the motor vehicle must pass in the oncoming lane or wait until it is safe for the group to release the lane by moving further to the right.

  3. After releasing the lane to passing vehicles when it is safe to do so, the group should again position itself right of center of the lane of travel to re-establish control of the lane.

  4. The existence of a wide improved shoulder should not be viewed as a mandate to ride on the shoulder. Instead, an evaluation should be made of the presence of debris, surface defects and the potential for vehicles to cross the shoulder from the right such as when strip centers and other commercial activity are present. In such circumstances, the shoulder should not be treated as a “bike lane” and riders should continue to control their lane of travel.

  5. When preparing for a right turn, Ride Leaders should continue to position the group to the right of center to avoid promoting cars to pass within the lane as the group prepares to turn. If there is a dedicated right turn lane, the group should be directed to take and control that lane. Unless preparing to turn, riders should not occupy a dedicated right turn lane.

  6. When preparing for a left turn, Ride Leaders should position the group to the left of center of the lane of travel. If there is a dedicated left turn lane, the group should be directed to take and control the left turn lane when preparing to turn.

  7. Hand signals should be utilized by all riders at all times to communicate intended actions of the group. The signal for “slowing” should also be used to acknowledge the presence of motor vehicles approaching from behind.

  8. Where the group is large, the Ride Leader is controlling the lane and there are “cars back”, a gap of 2-3 car lengths should be created every 5 riders to allow for cars to pass in the oncoming lane and pull back into the lane. Before the ride starts, the Ride Leader should solicit volunteers who will assist in breaking the group into sub-groups and maintaining the gap.


It is important that the EC have the benefit of member feedback and suggestions in considering this policy. If anyone has any comments or suggestions, please share them with me. The whole idea is to have a policy that is workable and will make our rides safer and more enjoyable for all. Your input is important. Thanks!