A bike, riding far to the right is not an inconvenience. It is a courtesy. To you the driver. If you cannot pass them safely and legally, do not pass them. When you do, you become the reason there are riders that will not keep to the right explicitly to prevent you from making a dangerous pass.
To be clear, both riders are doing as the legally are allowed.
The relevant law is 40-6-294 – Riding on Roadways and Bicycle Paths
The law itself is pretty clear. Paragraph A defines the “hazards to safe cycling” as used in the later paragraphs, but essentially states that anything that can be deemed a hazard, shall be.
Paragraph B and the associated subsections define the where to ride as “As Far Right As Practicable” which for clarity does not mean “Possible”. The subsection all define the exceptions to the need to keep far right ( above and beyond what the rider deems as practicable ). These exceptions are important to know, and while most should be common sense: turning left, traveling at traffic speeds and passing other vehicles.
However, there are two exceptions that need to be examined specifically.
There is a right turn only lane and the person operating the bicycle is not turning right
This is a big one, because it precludes an action that many, perhaps even most drivers believe is courtesy, and should be practiced by road cyclists. In essence, it says that a bicycle may NOT use a right turn lane to give up space to a passing driver if they are not turning. Worse, though is that under 40-6-291
Notwithstanding the provisions of Code Section 40-6-50, any person operating a bicycle may ride upon a paved shoulder; provided, however, that such person shall not be required to ride upon a paved shoulder.
A cyclist may ride on a paved shoulder, though they are not required to, but if that shoulder becomes a right turn lane, they have to move from the shoulder, into the travel lane until the turn lane ends.
This violates the single most important rule of road safety: Move Predictably.
The lane is too narrow to share safely with a motor vehicle
An exception that essentially undoes the foundation of “Far Right As Practicable”, because there are virtually no bike usable roads in the state that meet the width required to “share safely with a motor vehicle”.
How wide would that lane need to be to meet that criteria?
Well, to answer that question, we need to know the maximum width of a motor vehicle, which is 8 feet 6 inches. We also need to know the width of a bicycle, which is 2 feet 6 inches. That says that the absolute bare minimum would be 11 feet, but that does not address the legal definition of safe passing distance, which is 3 feet. The quick math shows 14 feet as the minimum width required to ALWAYS meet that criteria.
But extend that a step further. The average width of a motor vehicle in the US is a little above 6 feet, largely courtesy of the rise of SUV and truck sales, and assume that the cyclist is willing to ride on the white line reducing their effective width to 1 foot 3 inches. Even at those numbers, most roads have lanes that are just 11 feet wide.
Meaning that a cyclist is legally within their right to ride pretty much anywhere in the lane they need to create a safe space to ride.
Last but not least, there is NO stipulation for single file
In fact, the laws that establish two abreast as the legal way for bicycles to ride do not even provide a local override stipulation as the sidewalk use law does, so even the ‘single file’ signage that has been placed in some areas of the state have no legal basis, nor is there language to allow a county, city, or public works department to enforce single file on bicycles.
The entire law is posted below for your perusal.
a. As used in this Code section, the term “hazards to safe cycling” includes, but shall not be limited to, surface debris, rough pavement, drain grates which are parallel to the side of the roadway, parked or stopped vehicles, potentially opening car doors, or any other objects which threaten the safety of a person operating a bicycle.
b. Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, except when:
- Turning left;
- Avoiding hazards to safe cycling;
- The lane is too narrow to share safely with a motor vehicle;
- Traveling at the same speed as traffic;
- Exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction; or
- There is a right turn only lane and the person operating the bicycle is not turning right; provided, however, that every person operating a bicycle away from the right side of the roadway shall exercise reasonable care and shall give due consideration to the other applicable rules of the road.
c. Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on bicycle paths, bicycle lanes, parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, or when a special event permit issued by a local governing authority permits riding more than two abreast.
d. Whenever a usable bicycle path has been provided adjacent to a roadway and designated for the exclusive use of bicycle riders, then the appropriate governing authority may require that bicycle riders use such bicycle path and not use those sections of the roadway so specified by such local governing authority. The governing authority may be petitioned to remove restrictions upon demonstration that the bicycle path has become inadequate due to capacity, maintenance, or other causes.
e. Bicycle paths subject to the provisions of subsection (d) of this Code section shall at a minimum be required to meet accepted guidelines, recommendations, and criteria with respect to planning, design, operation, and maintenance as set forth by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and such bicycle paths shall provide accessibility to destinations equivalent to the use of the roadway.
f. Any person operating a bicycle in a bicycle lane shall ride in the same direction as traffic on the roadway.