Friday, December 4, 2009

Utah judge tells cyclists to take the lane

That's one way to look at this story, anyways. Cyclist Curtis Adams in Logan, Utah filtered forward to the right of cars waiting at a red light. He was ticketed for violating Utah statue 41-6A-705, which states it is unlawful to pass a vehicle on the right. Judge Cheryl Russel in the city court upheld the ticket.

The way I figure it, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If cyclists can't pass slow cars, then perhaps motorists can't pass slow cyclists unless they change lanes? In this instance, though, I'm certain Logan police will probably ticket cyclists for impeding traffic. The bike program coordinator at Utah State University who was interviewed for the article also invites cyclists to take the lane -- and predicts motorists might try to pass to the right of cyclists who do this.

Here's a short video of me filtering to the right of stopped traffic in San Jose, California. (Yeah, I ride my bike on Saratoga Ave, as well as on El Camino Real, The Alameda, Santa Clara Street in San Jose, and the entire length of Stevens Creek Boulevard.)

What do you do at intersections? Do you filter forward? Or do you queue up behind the other vehicles in the lane and wait your turn?


  1. Once I get to the point where the cars are no longer moving, I queue up behind the closest one.

    I don't like stopping, but I don't like double standards. I come to a full stop in my car, too.

  2. An important difference between California and the rest of the country: Splitting the lane and filtering forward is legal here.

    On narrow lanes and when there are just a few cars I take my place in the queue. But if you were caught at something like this intersection, where cars are piled up for over a half mile at the red light, would you seriously queue up at the end of the line?

  3. I always filter up. Passing stopped cars at a light is, in my opinion, really rude to people who've just worked to pass you. But we don't have nearly as wide lanes as you Californians do for the most part.

  4. I normally filter up. But if there is only a few cars, I'll queue. It's really a situational call.

  5. Where I live and ride (DC suburbs), I take the lane at the point where the cars in front of me are stopping.

    If I'm riding actually in DC, then I ride a little differently - but drivers around here aren't really expecting cyclists to pass them. Also, I only have to stop at 3 intersections on my ride, and never have to wait more than one light cycle - so I figure it's worth it to be courteous.

  6. I only occasionally filter up.

    Cases when I do filter:
    - Huge line of traffic where I'd be waiting longer than one light cycle.
    - Where there is so much traffic that my average speed is actually higher than the cars (usually tied in with the above point).
    - When I'm turning right.
    - When a bike lane (or other safe and serviceable lane) starts on the opposite side of the intersection.

    Around here, the first two don't often occur...

    I mostly agree with Jamie - if I've been passed nicely by cars who will just have to pass me again, I queue up behind them.

  7. If I feel that I can navigate the intersection to the right of traffic then I filter up; if I think I'll impede traffic or confuse drivers by being unexpectedly to their right, I'll queue. For 3 cars or less I always queue as the line is likely to get moving quickly.

    I also always queue in turn lanes, as I feel the drivers are busy looking for openeings and less focused on lane awareness.

  8. @Gazer & @Jamie: Ah, I guess another important difference is there's not much leapfrogging around here. Once I pass the cars I don't see them again. If I do the lane is (usually) wide enough where passing isn't an issue.

    Remember, some places actually encourage filtering forward by painting bike boxes or advance stop lines at intersections for cyclists to wait at.

  9. Absolutely I filter up. Especially if I'm turning left. And I think it's legal lane splitting, just like motorcycles.

  10. I'm a situational person, like most of the others. I'll filter forward if a) I can't make it through the light in one cycle if I queue, and b) there is room for me to safely pass cars on the right. Otherwise I'll queue and ride in traffic.

    I do hate those situations where you start to filter forward, and the light turns and traffic starts again while you're still passing. I can usually merge back into my spot in the lane as soon as the cars near me start moving, but it can be scary especially because you are passing cars that may or may not be indicating that they are about to turn right across your path.

  11. Heck yeah I pass standing traffic! It's kind of the whole point of cycle commuting.

    In Georgia,
    O.C.G.A. § 40-6-294 (a) (2009)
    gives cyclists the right to pass slowed or standing traffic when it is safe to do so.

    Just don't run the red light when you come up to it.

  12. Interesting discussion. I have always wondered about this myself.

    I queue up when traffic's moving smoothly and there arent' too many cars ahead of me; and I filter up otherwise. (while wondering if I am setting a bad example)

  13. I filter up as is my right as a citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. See MGL Chapter 85 Section 11B. The relevant text reads "the bicycle operator may keep to the right when passing a motor vehicle which is moving in the travel lane of the way"

  14. I rarely queue, and here's why:

    If I'm standing behind a car, and the car behind me gets hit from behind, that car may roll up and crush me. No thanks.

    I bike in areas that tend to let cars pass me easily, so I don't feel to guilty about making people pass me twice. Then again, that's so rare anyways...

    Thanks to anon who posted the actual GA law. Now I can do it with even more confidence.

    And to speak to the "making people pass you twice" thing: I'm not a car hater, I drive at least a day of my work week, but it seems to me bicycles should be allowed some benefits considering how little we attribute to congestion.

  15. My feeling is that cars get to pass me almost everywhere except lights and intersections. And that's where I get to pass them if only for a moment.

  16. Howdy--

    When I lived in Utah, I always queued. To filter up there is begging for a right hook, because even when there is a bike lane, drivers use it as a de facto turn lane.

    I just moved to Oregon, and it's taken me a while to get used to the local custom, where filtering up is a legal right (and I'm about to get a new driver's license here, and the rule book specifically states that drivers shall not use the bike lane to wait for a right turn). When I first got here, I tried getting in line, but I found that the drivers in front of me, who had just passed me, were craning their necks to look for me in the bike lane before turning right. They are actually aware of cyclists here. Now I'm comfortable filtering up, and it's wonderful to breeze right up to those stop signs.
    Happy Trails
    Ron Georg
    Corvallis, OR

  17. I definitely take the situational position here. If I can filter safely, staying visible to drivers, and without appearing to "butt-in-line", I will.
    If I'm taking the full lane, I queue up like a car would.

  18. My mantra, both as a Cyclist and as a Bus driver is "Do not pass just to impede.". This puts me in the situational camp. Nothing frusrates me more than cyclists who filter up on my right and get in front of me right before a steep hill. On the flip side, I will sometimes come up on a slow cyclist and NOT pass because I know they will catch up at the next zone.

  19. I generally don't filter, because my commute is mostly a straight set of roads. If I do filter, I just get passed by the same car, likely closer and while they are accelerating (to hit the next stop of course!).

    If I'm turning right or there's a bike lane ahead, than I will filter because I know I won't be passed in the same lane again.

    Sometimes I do the total opposite of filtering. There's a few long lights I expect on my commute, so if I know that I'm just going to stop anyway, I pull over a ways before the light. This lets the cars pile up at the intersection without being squeezed in there myself. I keep my eyes on the ped lights to know when to roll again, and then I can pass through the clear intersection just as fast but with the cars ahead. It's much more pleasant this way.

  20. @Andy - I also frequently time my approach to lights to just go with the flow.

    @Velobusdriver - I think that's also going with the flow -- I don't cut in front of other traffic just for the sake of cutting in. FWIW, I give buses a pretty wide berth, though I do get annoyed at the few who fail to signal when they want to pull out.

    I didn't realize some states allow the "filter on the right" practice through their vehicle code. Thanks for that info!

  21. Here in the UK, you've often got special lanes leading up the left side (equivalent of right side) for bikes to filter up to the front of the queue. This lane leads to a special "bike box" where you wait ahead of the cars. The idea is that bikes are much more conspicuous and safe here at the front and less likely to be "left hooked" (again, the equivalent of right). Of course, cars are constantly encroaching on this space, but I just pull right up in front of their bumper and give them a "WTF are you doing here?" look.

    In places without these lanes and boxes, I think it might be safer to filter up on the other side of stopped cars (the side away from the kerb). At least this guy would not have gotten a ticket, or they would have had to think of another reason to ticket him.

    I don't see how they could ticket him if he had done this, though, since cars are always passing bikes in the same lane. To not give bikes this same prerogative would be unimaginable hypocrisy.

  22. Seems like a double standard to me.

    The judge concluded that filtering up on the right is an illegal right hand pass, but motorists regularly squeeze past in the same lane instead of changing lanes?

    Unfortunately only the cyclist was on trial. Squeezing past cyclists in a car has become so routine to motorists that it has become acceptable.

  23. I filter when it makes sense. And I almost never filter past buses and other large vehicles. I used to ride through an intersection where a college kid was crushed by a garbage truck when he did just that.

    What I want to know is why other cyclists seem so keen to pull past me and my bike and stop at the light in front of me, even though I stopped there first. Now that's baffling and extremely annoying. It's also annoying common.

  24. @Doug: You're not the only one who's annoyed by cyclists who cut in front of other cyclists. BSNYC calls this "shoaling." I personally queue behind cyclists who've arrived before I have.

  25. In the UK, cyclists are encouraged to pass stationary cars. They even put in short sections of cycle lane to lead you past stationary traffic and into the bike box ahead of the advanced stop line.

    In general, if traffic is actually stopped, I'll pass on the left (that's your right), or if it's slow moving, I'll overtake on the right.

  26. A situational call. If the line of cars is long then I'll past most of the stationary cars on the right, but not pass the last car - for fear that that driver may make an unsignaled right turn and hook me. But to pass on the right, I have to be 100% certain that it is impossible that any car in the line may veer right. If only a few cars, then I'll queue in. I should note that in my state, passing on the right is legal (even though I kinda think it shouldn't be).