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Sketch It: Taking The Lane 6


“Taking The Lane” – by George Pechtol / The Urban Country

Sketch it! is a fun section on The Urban Country where we feature random napkin sketches from our resident sketch artist and writer, George Pechtol.

In a tweet this week, I called on fellow Torontonian cyclists to take the whole right lane to discourage drivers from passing closely – while earlier this week I posted the article “Bike Lanes: A Motorist Invention?”.

The best way to push for more bike lanes is to make drivers want more bike lanes.

Bike infrastructure shouldn’t be seen as detracting from driving space. Giving cyclists a little bit of room also helps keep cars moving too.

Disclaimer: The Urban Country does not condone the behaviour portrayed by the cyclist in the above sketch. Drivers and cyclists need to respect each other in order to peacefully co-exist.

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at

6 thoughts on “Sketch It: Taking The Lane

  1. Mighk Feb 6,2010 12:04 am

    Giving the finger to motorists while controlling the lane as a way to “lobby” for being segregated into one’s own “bicycle reservation”? Is this what “bicycle advocacy” is coming to? If so, please don’t call me a “bike advocate.” That’s insanity.

  2. James D. Schwartz Feb 6,2010 4:23 am

    Mighk, as I mentioned in the disclaimer, I do not condone the behaviour of the cyclist in the sketch.

    George’s sketches are random and convey whatever is on his mind at that time.

    I could have just as easily interpreted his sketch as a driver driving on a bike path.

  3. Mighk Feb 6,2010 1:57 pm

    Yeah, I got that James. The problem is looking at “taking the lane” as a way to “get in the motorist’s face.”

    The idea that “I’m riding in the middle of the lane to inspire you to lobby your elected officials for bike lanes so I won’t be in your way anymore.” — I’m sorry, but that strikes me as self-defeating.

    I practice lane control for one reason only — it’s the safest way to ride.

  4. Kam Feb 6,2010 4:09 pm

    Hey Jim, can you throw any light on why so many cyclists don’t take the lane – as per their right as a road user? As a motorist I much prefer that they would. It’s keeps them visible – i notice them much earlier when approaching from behind.

  5. James D. Schwartz Feb 6,2010 4:11 pm

    I agree with you Mighk. I have been “taking the lane” a lot more lately because I was tired of cars being tempted to pass very closely to me and it is safer in most situations to take the entire lane.

    The thought of drivers lobbying for bike infrastructure didn’t occur to me until I saw John Forester speaking to Google.

    Then it occurred to me that it’s in the interest of both drivers and cyclists to have more bike infrastructure.

    There is a one-way street that I take almost every day where sometimes you have cyclists on both the right lane and the left lane (there are 4 lanes in total on this particular street).

    Then I thought to myself, why wouldn’t a driver support sparing a couple metres of the road to create a bike lane, instead of having cyclists take up 2 entire vehicle lanes.

    Yet drivers argue furiously about sparing any space for cyclists.

    So my twitter message was to encourage cyclists to take the whole lane to keep themselves safe and as an added bonus, it can also help encourage drivers to fight for more bicycle infrastructure in the city.

    I don’t see this logic as a way of “getting in the motorist’s face” – although I can see how it would be interpreted that way with the above sketch. But I can assure you when I wrote that twitter message I was not thinking about antagonizing drivers at all.

    In fact I consistently give a courtesy wave to drivers when they give me a little bit of space.

  6. James D. Schwartz Feb 6,2010 4:14 pm

    Kam, there is a lot of pressure on cyclists to move over to the right to make room for drivers. There are also drivers who become hostile when cyclists don’t move over as far to the right as possible (though I have personally found this isn’t the norm, but happens occasionally).

    I think there are still a lot of drivers who don’t understand that cyclists have the right to take the lane, so education is important as well.

    The city is planning to put “sharrow” bicycle markings on most main arterial roads in Toronto this year as a reminder to drivers that the cyclist has the right to take the whole lane. I think once this happens it will enable cyclists to feel more comfortable in taking the lane.

    But I think most cyclists right now are scared of pissing drivers off.

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