MOTORCYCLES - Lane Position
I hear a lot of people talk about lane position as if there are rules set in stone and there is only one dominant lane position. The standard agreement is that the left third of the lane is Position 1, the center of the lane is Position 2, and the right third of the lane is Position 3.
Most people seem to think that P1 is THE dominant position, it's the place that you should be all the time when you're riding alone, and the place where odd numbered members of a group ride would be.
P2 is treated like the Forbidden Zone, it's where the grease and oil from cars ends up, so you should never be there.
P3 seems to be regarded as the place that you should be if you're one of the even numbered riders in a group, or, for some people riding in the left hand lane to block people from taking your lane. Other than that, it's where bicycles are, and a motorcycle shouldn't be there.
This idea doesn't work for me at all, as far as I'm concerned the number one rule for lane position is See and be Seen: Put yourself in whichever spot provides you with the best visibility for each given situation. You can own your lane and be dominate in it from any position inside it, just don't go too far off to either side if you want to avoid having people passing you in your own lane.
The idea of the center of the lane being a 'grease strip' and being unusable doesn't really apply to most of Vancouver Island. It's really only an issue in areas where there is a lot of congestion, and vehicles idling for long periods of time.
The really busy roads in cities tend to have a lot of oil in P2, and you can count on it being at pretty much every intersection, but other than that, it's not that much of a problem around here.
You can see the problem spots in the rain, anywhere that it looks like the water is being repelled, it usually is because of oil. You don't see this happening much on the highways, unless it's new construction and then the whole road tends to be slippery because of the paving process.
I'm perfectly comfortable in P2 most of the time, but you will not find me there approaching a red light, or stop sign.
P3 has plenty of uses. When approaching a row of oncoming traffic, or even just a large vehicle that blocks the view of what's behind it, moving into the right portion of the lane is the best way to make it so the following people can see you, and hopefully won't decide to pass anyone directly in your path.
P3 is also a great place to be before entering a left hand curve. By being over to the right portion of the road, you can see farther into the turn before committing to it, that way you can look for hazards and have an idea how tight the turn is while you still have time to make corrections. You also should be moving to the right before making right hand turns at intersections to prevent people from getting in between you and the turn you want to make.
I personally would rather be in P1 than in P3 when I'm riding in the left lane on the highway so that if someone does decide to take my lane, at least I have almost a whole lane as a safety cushion between me and them so I have more time to react.
The second rule for lane position is that after you have put yourself in a position for a good line of sight, the next thing you need to do is get yourself into the best position to deal with the dangers ahead.
Whether the biggest threat to your safety is a patch of gravel in your lane, or an oncoming car that might turn in your path, there are lane positions that you can choose to deal with the threats at hand. See as much as you can to minimize threats, and then move yourself as far away from danger as possible.
This article was contributed by Jeremy of Vancouver Island Motorcycle School