What is the correct road position to be in ?
The short answer is where it’s safest, the long answer is very long indeed and involves huge lists of ifs, buts and maybes.
It gets complicated because your safest position constantly changes and you need to balance out different factors, which is the biggest hazard and give that more space, but does that change the road surface?
An active imagination helps, picture that car door opening suddenly and some of it comes from experience.
What we are really trying to do is make time, if you have time you can deal with situations.
Time is related to speed and distance, more space more time, more speed less time.
Lets simplify it as much as we can with a list of bullet points and then fill in some detail afterwards if you want to read that far.
Ride in the middle of the lane in neutral situations
Ride where you can see most
Ride where you can be seen by others
Ride away from any real or potential hazard
Ride on a good road surface where you can
Ride where your position reinforces where you are going
Ride where your positioning can help the traffic flow
If you habitually sit to the left then all you will do is encourage less considerate drivers to ease to their right, close up on you, and encourage them to overtake you in probably a stupid situation. Drivers do this to me on my big bike when I have my Instructor HiViz on, it will be a lot worse if you still carry the L plates. Exactly the same thing will happen if you sit to the right of your lane for no apparent reason, they will undertake you. “ I thought you were turning right ! “ Was there a junction no, was my indicator on no, was there anywere at all to turn right no, but it happens. Sit in the middle of your lane, life will be a bit more comfortable. If you cannot keep up with the flow of the traffic then yes you should start to move left out of the way. Show some courtesy to other road users. It is possible with sensible drivers to signal your willingness to be overtaken by moving left where being overtaken would be safe.
Positioning needs to done with a bit of thought as your road position needs to balance out the other things going on. For example moving left towards the kerb on a right hand bend will let you see farther ahead, doing the same thing with a junction on the left is not such a good idea. If you move right to see ahead around a left hand bend leave some room for error and/or a vehicle coming the other way clipping the corner across the centre line.
If you are following larger vehicles leave some space and think about changing your position to get a better view ahead, you might spot the traffic lights changing as a random example if you do this. The other reason is almost all professional drivers will try and look after you if they know you are there.
“ If you can’t see my mirrors I can’t see you ” is a sticker on the back of some trucks. Do not hide !
Riding where you can be seen tends to be the same place where you can see the most, but not always. Look at the road layout, look at parked vehicles, look at things like sign posts and lamp posts, hedges and walls. Are they stopping you being seen by a driver trying to pull out of a side road ? If you changed position will they see you sooner ?
Make space ! if something looks dangerous move away from it. Have an active imagination, what might happen next, if it does happen can I deal with it ? The classic situation is being too close to car door, if it opens it will hurt. Move away from it and it does not matter if it opens, you will go past totally unconcerned. An awful lot of situations can be that simply to avoid. Arrange to be some where else.
An advantage of having two wheels and the ability to easily change position is that you can often choose the sort of road surface to ride on. Choose the best bit of the road surface you can bearing in mind the overall situation you are in. If you on country lanes for example with grave/mud in the middle of a single track road always keep left of centre. You do not want to be on the wrong side of the gravel/mud and trying to move out the way of a vehicle coming in the opposite direction. Use that imagination, what happens next ?
Your road position can send a strong message to other road users about what you intend to do next. If you are badly positioned you will cause problems/have accidents. Simple example. If you are approaching a mini roundabout to go straight on, don’t without good reason angle left on the approach as if you want to turn left. Look at it from the other drivers point of view, what message am I sending out here about what I want to do next ?
Another classic mistake is swinging across the lane when turning off the main road. Stay left to turn left. Stay right to turn right. Vehicles behind you going straight on will be coming past, do not be surprised if you are sloppy with you positioning if somebody punts you off.
These days the roads are busy, and everybody works hard for a living. Just use a little thought and courtesy when out and about. Try and leave side roads clear. Box junctions are there for a reason leave them clear as well. In other words don’t block the traffic flow thoughtlessly with poor/thoughtless positioning.