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#9677401 Jun 25, 2014 at 04:02 PM
Lil Bob


The Golden Lane "Rule"

When to obey it. When to break it.
BY BECKY TILLMAN, MSF RIDERCOACH TRAINER/HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTOR COMPANY




IT'S OFTEN ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS BEGINNING RIDERS LEARN ABOUT "STREET STRATEGIES," either in a classroom situation or from a
friend: Ride in the left third of the lane. As a general rule, it's not a bad one to follow. But the truth is, it's not really a rule at all.
Proper lane positioning can depend on any number of factors, and it's up to the rider to decide which one is best for the situation at hand.

Position 1

Picture each lane of traffic divided into three "lane positions," as illustrated on this page, 1, 2, and 3, from left to right. Each has specific advantages and
disadvantages in different situations. Let's start with Position 1. But first we should note that riding in this position does not necessarily mean
riding in the middle of the left third of the lane. More often it means riding just to the left of the imaginary line between Position 1 and Position 2. A common way to define it is riding in the left tire track of the vehicle in front of you. It's true, Position 1 has a lot going for it. For one thing, it's often the best place on the road to both see and be seen: Drivers in front of you can see you in both their rearview and side view mirrors. On a two-lane road - or when you're riding in the left lane of a multi-lane highway with no median - oncoming drivers can see you sooner; you're less "hidden" by the car ahead. Another advantage of Position 1 is that the vehicle ahead can give you clues about what's ahead. Imagine there's a board, or
some road kill, or other small obstacle in the road. If it's in the middle of the lane (Position 2), the driver ahead of you probably won't react at all, they'll just "straddle" it as they drive over it. If you're following in the center of the lane, you won't know it's there until its right in front of you, giving you very little time to react (two seconds if you're using the two-second rule for following distance). If you're in Position 1, on the other hand, you'll miss the
obstacle without having to swerve or change position. the obstacle is in the left third of the lane, the driver would likely change position to avoid running over it, giving you some advance warning that you, too, will have to change position. Finally, riding in Position 1 often helps you visually assert yourself and claim the space you're riding in. Imagine a four-lane road with traffic, and you're riding in the right lane. Staying in Position 1 makes it less likely that a driver might try to squeeze in and crowd you out.

Position 2

It's probably fair to say that this position is something of a last resort. Some sources will say you should never ride in the middle of the lane, but I won't go quite that far. The main reason to avoid it is that's where oil leaking from vehicles tends to get deposited. It's also where dirt and debris tend to accumulate, as vehicle tires tend to keep other parts of the lane a little cleaner. And think of the example above, concerning an obstacle in the road, maybe an old shoe or something like that. This type of debris tends to settle where it's less likely to get hit by a wheel. This means either between the lanes or in the middle of a lane. You're also often less visible in Position 2. Think of that big truck in front of you - or even that van with no rear windows, or the family minivan with the rear window blocked by luggage. Those drivers can't see you in their rearview mirrors (if they even have them), and in the middle of the lane you're less likely to be in range of their side view mirrors. One time you might consider riding in the center is heavy traffic and you're having trouble keeping an adequate "cushion" around you. Riding in the center can give you a little more elbow room on both sides, but you have to weigh that against the other factors just described and make a smart, informed decision. Remember, in all situations, to "S.E.E." - Search, Evaluate, and Execute. Scan your surroundings continuously to be as visually aware of everything going on around you as possible. Think about what you're seeing and formulate a sound strategy. Then execute that plan with confidence.


Position 3

This lane position is a good choice in a number of different situations. One is when riding on a two-lane highway and there's a lot of oncoming traffic in the other lane. When riding in Position 1, many riders just don't like the sensation of traffic whizzing by them at such a close distance - and that's completely legitimate! In addition to being uncomfortable psychologically, a rider in this situation is exposed to a number of potential hazards. Just for starters, the wind blast from trucks and other large vehicles can knock you around, potentially putting you in harm's way. You're more exposed to debris - or pieces of a blown truck tire - that may get kicked up by the other vehicle. In wet weather, water sprayed up by tires can impair your visibility. And, perhaps most
significantly, you're more at risk for an actual collision if you or the oncoming vehicle should accidently veer into the other lane. In this situation, Position 3 can be your refuge. If the oncoming traffic is sparse, stay in Position 1 if you prefer, and shift to Position 3 as needed. If traffic is continuous, don't hesitate to take up permanent residence in the right-hand part of the lane. But in doing so, don't forget about the visibility considerations we've already discussed. If shifting to Position 3 makes you less visible to the vehicle ahead, increase your following distance or make other adjustments to make sure you can be seen.
Remember: Riding safely often involves trade-offs. It's your responsibility to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of all your options, and make smart decisions accordingly.

Group Thinking

Position 3 is also a popular spot in group riding. In the classic staggered formation, the lead rider rides in Position 1, while the next rider behind rides in Position 3. The rider after that is in Position 1, and so on, with each rider maintaining a two-second cushion behind the rider directly ahead (one second behind the rider ahead in the opposite lane position). But riding in a group doesn't mean you've forfeited your right to make good decisions for yourself - you just have to do so while according the proper respect for your other riders. For instance, let's imagine the high-traffic, two-lane road we just discussed but now in a group riding situation. In this situation, shifting from Position 1 to Position 3 would require you to "break formation." Is that okay? Well, it depends - it's a good question to ask at the rider meeting before a group ride. One option is to not change position completely; maybe just
slide over to your right a little bit, into Position 2, when you see a big truck coming, then slide back over after it passes. You can do this without disrupting the formation. If traffic is steady, you may want to stay in Position 3. If you do this, you first have to increase your following distance behind the rider ahead, who presumably is already in Position 3. You also have to let the rider behind you know that you plan to stay there. You can do this by holding up
one finger in the air, indicating a single-file formation. Or, tap your brake light to give the rider an indication that you're hanging back.
Again, different groups' expectations will likely vary, making this an excellent topic to bring up in a pre-ride meeting. Riding safely often involves trade-offs. It's your responsibility to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of your options, and make smart decisions accordingly. Other considerations
Trucks: Big trucks take up a lot space on the road and intimidate a lot of riders - with good reason. They have a lot of blind spots, can't maneuver quickly, and create a lot of wind. If you can't avoid riding near them, adjust your lane position to stay visible, stay out of their wake, and give yourself an escape route. Time of Day: When glare is a factor, such as riding toward a setting sun, changing your lane position to get out of the direct sunlight may help you see better. At night, when animals in the road are a concern, riding in Position 2 can give you a better space cushion on either side within your own lane. Cornering: Don't get "locked in" to your lane position when cornering. Use the whole lane to choose a path through the curve that lets you see what's ahead and maintain a steady speed. (For further discussion, see "Between the Lines," HOG; ® magazine, issues 017 and 018.) In the end, where to ride within your lane is not about rules; it's about making smart choices for each circumstance. Don't get locked into a "one position fits all" approach. Stay alert and stay active. Ride where you can see (and "S.E.E."), where you can be seen, where you're comfortable and confident. with a healthy space cushion around you and an escape route in mind. And position yourself for a safe and enjoyable ride.

Becky Tillman is MSF Rider Coach Trainer, Rider's Edqe" Instructor,
and Marketing Field Manager, Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

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