State laws vary as to the the priority and rights of cyclists on roadways, but many places have very specific laws in place for cyclists riding side by side and what constitutes impeding traffic.
We are gonna dive into some of the basics of lane sharing, traffic impeding, and riding abreast, but before we do I need to clarify: We are not legal authorities, nor do we have the ability to cover the specific municipal codes and location specific laws of the entire nation. Please be aware of your local laws, and always be respectful!
When one or more travelers move to the side of a lane to allow others to pass or ride beside them. Examples include:
- a vehicle going under the required minimum that drives on or as close to the shoulder as possible to allow faster vehicles to pass
- a vehicle moving to the curb to make a right hand turn to allow overtaking vehicles to continue without stopping for them.
- a group of cyclists or motorcyclists traveling in a group rather than in single file
- two cyclists riding abreast in one lane to travel side by side
When a driver/operator acts in a way that restricts the normal flow of traffic through irresponsible choices. Examples include:
- using a lane to ride below the minimum speed requirement
- not allowing a car to pass for a long period of time
- stopping in a roadway
Two Abreast Riding
A law regulating how many cyclists can ride beside each other and limiting them to only two. Variations include only allowing two cyclists to ride side by side if they are not impeding traffic, or single file restrictions at all times.
At iamtraffic.org you can easily check your state’s legislation restricting how you are allowed to ride, including mandates covering shoulder use, bike lanes, TOR, and impedement laws.
In 42 of the 50 United States, cyclists are exempt from laws that call “delaying” and impediment by motor vehicles, meaning that if cars have to slow down and wait to pass them they are not considered “impeding”. However, in 8 states there is no exemption, and cyclists are often ticketed for riding slower than the speed limit for motor vehicles.
California has a dichotomy here, with no two abreast law or impediment restrictions, meaning that cyclists can travel in groups on the roadways. BUT they do not have an exemption from cyclists for impediment tickets, so all that is needed for cyclists to find trouble is for a driver to find that they are moving too slowly and feel inconvenienced.
Many states also have laws in place for when a cyclist can rightfully “take the lane” by moving into the center and claiming the entire lane, but some states have no such provisions, meaning that cyclists simply have to wait until there are no cars that would have to wait for them to do something as simple as make a legal left turn.
This is frustrating, at best, but you must be aware of your local laws because you are responsible. You can always lobby, call representatives, and raise awareness, but please do so in a way that reflects positively of the cycling community.
And always, be safe!