Hey, drivers! If I’m in the middle of the road on my bike, I’m not there to annoy you. I’m there because it’s the safest place to be. The middle of the lane on a busy road is not a pleasant situation to be in on a bike, so I’d rather not be there, but sometimes I need to be. Here’s some reasons why:
There are parked cars on the side of the road. People in parked cars sometimes open their doors without looking. Have you ever been smacked in the face by a car door at 20mph? It really hurts, and what’s more it makes a right mess of the car. So if I’m riding a few feet away from some parked cars, it’s to avoid causing serious damage to some poor motorist’s doors. Once I’m past the cars, I’ll pull in and off you go.
It’s a narrow road and there’s something coming the other way. If you overtake me now you’re probably not going to have time to get past me without having to pull in to avoid the oncoming car. When you pull in to avoid the oncoming car, you’re going to hit me. Basically I’m sat in front of you to stop you making a royal mess of your bodywork on bits of mangled bike and bone, which I’m sure you’ll agree would put a bit of a crimp in your day.
There’s a big or awkward junction up ahead. If I don’t sit in the middle of the road, other road users are less likely to see me, and when people don’t see cyclists they have a tendency to drive over the top of them, which often leaves them having to sort out all sorts of inconvenient things like scratches, dented bumpers, life-changing permanent injuries and so on. I’m sat out there to make sure I’m seen and to give me room to manoeuvre if someone makes a mistake. Once I get past the junction, I’ll get out of your way as soon as it’s safe.
The side of the road sometimes isn’t safe to ride on. There’s often a strip of mixed gravel, litter, bits of old truck, broken glass and dog crap on the less used edge of some roads. Apart from being unpleasant to ride in and liable to cause punctures, this mixed road-cruft is also an unsafe, loose surface, and I might fall off if I end up in it at speed. If I fall off in front of you, your car might drive over me and that could knock your exhaust off or ding your alloys or something, so by riding out away from all that junk I’m saving you a hefty repair bill. Once I’m past the dodgy bit I’ll get back in my place in the gutter, don’t worry.
I’m going round a blind corner. Cyclists can usually see and hear much better than people in cars, because we’re higher up and we’re not inside a two-ton insulated metal box. That means I can see if there’s a car coming the other way round that bend, a car that would cause you to swerve back into your lane if you tried to pass me, with the result that you’d be picking bits of my horribly crushed body out of your radiator grille for weeks. So I’m sat out here whilst we go round this corner just to ensure that your nice motor doesn’t get disfigured by bits of me and my bike, and once we’re round the bend I’ll get back in my allotted place and wave you on your way with a cheery tug of my forelock, sir.
So, motorists: if you encounter a cyclist sat in the middle of the road, please remember that they are not there to personally piss you off. Please give them chance to get past whatever it is that they need to get past, and wait for them to pull back in before you overtake. It won’t kill you to wait for a few seconds, but if you don’t wait it might kill me. Thanks!