Winter Tip #4: Take the Lane
"Taking the lane" is a phrase familiar to anyone who rides regularly, and is a safe riding habit we've talked about before. In the winter, however, taking the lane become less of an option and more of a necessity. Unfortunately, when the snow plows come out, most painted bike lanes are left covered, and protected bike lanes are untouched unless the city can use their small snow plows to clear them. Winter road conditions thus force cyclists to ride alongside cars, which leaves them more vulnerable than they already are on slick roads.
While your instinct might be to hug the side of the road to make way for drivers, this puts you in an unsafe position. A driver in a parked car could open their door on you, or a driver turning might not see you and turn into you. When the roads are snowy, you are also more likely to run into ice patches or snow piles if you ride on the side of the road.
Taking the lane, however, helps you become visible to the driver behind you and gives you the space you need to ride on slick roads. From your position in the center of the lane, you are also in a good spot to turn right or change lanes to the left if you are turning left (make sure you use hand signals). Essentially, your riding pattern when riding should be the same as if you were driving in a car. Taking the lane also ensures that other drivers don't try to pass you within the lane, because you shouldn't give them the option. If you a driving, change lanes to pass a cyclist safely just as you would pass another car. Cyclists have the right to take up that space to ride safely, especially when the conditions are difficult to ride in.
To read more about lane positioning and how to ride in traffic, check out our Safe Lane Positioning post.