Two Abreast, It’s the Law

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That is the law here in Kansas for cyclists. It is a super good law. The only problem with the law is that nobody but cyclists know it.

I don’t know how many times in my lifetime I’ve had people yell “single file” to me. Probably 1000’s. The only time I’ve ever heard those two words in a phrase was when I was elementary school, walking in the hall to the auditorium or somewhere as a class and riding my bicycle. I don’t know where it got engrained into people’s brains that single file is how cyclists are “supposed” to ride on the street, but it is a common mistake.

I’ve been riding back and forth to Lawrence recently. Unless I’m riding on gravel down by the river, I have to ride on State Hwy. 40 for some amount of time. The road isn’t too busy and really not that dangerous. But, it doesn’t have a shoulder and rolls enough to make passing tricky. Cars passing each other and cars passing cyclists.

At least once, and usually more, when I ride the road, some yahoo will pass me, crossing into the opposite lane going up a hill. Inevitably, a car will be coming from the other direction and have to swerve, brake or something. It never ceases to amaze me that the guy in the other lane nearly always honks or flips me off when he comes by.

I just don’t get it. The car that was passing me is nearly always crossing a double yellow line on a blind hill and the other car blames the cyclist. What’s up with that?

It is even worse when I’m riding with someone else. The drivers of the cars think, mistakenly, that we’re breaking the law by riding two abreast. Somehow that mentality gives these people the need to try to enforce their mistaken thoughts by honking or coming by dangerously close, usually passing illegally themselves. It is super weird, like the law should even matter enough to endanger someones life.

I’ve had people actually stop a couple times and go into a tirade about the two abreast riding. Only a couple times. I used to carry a piece of paper in plastic that stated the Kansas State Law concerning riding bicycles two abreast. Each time a person stopped, I would show them the law and it was amazing how that would calm them down. It is like they thought they were the two abreast police and the realization that they didn’t know the law completely deflated them down to nothing.

Once we were riding over to Kansas City for a training race and got pulled over by the Douglas County Sheriffs near Lawrence. The guy was hassling us for riding two abreast. I happened to have the law with me and showed it to the officer. Next thing I know, the guy’s supervisor shows up. The officer had already called him since there were 6 of us. The officer goes and tells him that we were riding 4 abreast, when just 5 minutes earlier he had told us he stopped us for not riding single file. I was obviously pissed.

I had a conversation with the supervisor and told him that it was a much bigger deal having a sheriff lie to his supervisor, right in front of 6 regular citizens than whatever law the guy thought we were breaking to start with. It really didn’t go anywhere. The supervisor said that they had big problems with groups of riders “massing” on the county roads and thought this was one of those situations. Anyway, it goes to show that even the local law enforcement officers don’t know the law.

If that is the case, I don’t know why I would expect anyone else to. I went down and renewed my driver’s license in February. I thought that is would be a good idea to include a question on the renewal test about the two abreast law, but we don’t even take a test anymore. Just walk in, take an eye exam, get a photo taken, pay $25 and out. Maybe 5 minutes max.

I don’t know how to fix the problem. It sure would be nice if the drivers didn’t think that all us cyclists were law breakers when we ride side by side. I know that would alleviate a ton of the tension. But I don’t really see a way to do it.

Maybe some signs like this might help some. Funny, I got this off a website talking about riding in Tenerife and how it is a 1500 Euro fine to pass cyclists illegally in Spain. Weird coincidence

21 thoughts on “Two Abreast, It’s the Law

  1. Gina Poertner, CHES


    Thanks for this post. KanBikeWalk, Inc. is our state advocacy organization that I co-founded in 2007 ( We’re a small group but working hard to educate all road users about the laws pertaining to cyclists and pedestrians. We also work with the legislature on improving our infrastructure and fighting detrimental proposals. Sadly, there are many cyclists out there who could use a refresher on traffic laws as well, which only lends to the aggravation motorists have against cyclists in general.

    Carrying a copy of the law with you was a good idea and more practical than many of us tend to be. We’ve been trying to get more questions about bike/ped on the driver’s license exam, but as you said, without a test to renew, there is no reminder of what the laws are.

    Keep the good stuff coming, Steve. We’ll keep working to make things safer on the roads.


  2. Ben

    This is a little off topic, but how is the riding down by Kansas City? I mean is it pretty easy to avoid cars who want to run you off the road? or are you on a constant look out for them? The reason I ask is I’m thinking about moving there from Chicago next year.


  3. tilford97 Post author

    Ben-I don’t really ever worry about cars running me off the road. I don’t think they really want to do that.

    But, to answer your question, I’ve ridden a ton in both places and Kansas City is a much better place to ride. All cities have places to ride bikes, you just need to figure it out, but Kansas City has a lot more options than that of Chicago.

    Plus, the weather is more conducive down here most of the year.

    Hope that helps. Steve

  4. Wildcat

    TO GINA – My folks and I were out for a ride outside of Wichita when we saw a yard-sign from your organization prompting drivers to watch for cyclists and etc. Do you sell those signs?

  5. Rad Renner

    Nebraska recently passed a “three foot passing law”, which is great, but that hasn’t stopped some idiot drivers from buzzing by me to yell “get on the sidewalk”. Like you, Steve, I wonder why some drivers think it’s acceptable to risk the safety and lives of others (esp. cyclists) to avoid the slightest inconvenience or to make a point. It’s not just cyclists who are affected by this anti-social behavior, but we are certainly the most vulnerable road users out there. Recently the sheriffs in a nearby county have made a point of staking out a STOP sign (in the middle of nowhere) to ensure that our group ride stops there. Where are they when people harass and threaten us? We are legitimate road users and after 24 years of fighting these morons I’m getting weary of constantly having to explain that. The DMV should do more to educate motorists, that’s the only way they’ll learn.

  6. JoeVee

    Tirade rather than tyrant.
    Going out to do some intervals – if I’m going to suffer you get to get some annoying writing advise.

  7. AP

    I think some of this stupidity of drivers stems from the fact that here in the US people still seem to think of a bicycle as a toy. This toy is supposed to be used on the sidewalk by children, not by grown men and women wearing lycra speeding down the PUBLIC roads. This is perpetuated by the availabiliy of cheap bikes at walmart that are located right next to the toys.

  8. Mike

    I had to laugh when I read the blog today. As I was biking to work this morning I got honked at when this car passed me and I was at least halfway into the 8′ wide paved shoulder on the correct side of the road which also happens to be a clearly marked BIKE LANE on the road I was on!!

  9. JH Higgins

    Joe Vee – Since you are the one who brought it up, it’s “advice,” not advise.

  10. SB

    timely post – there’s a huge thread going on TXBRA now, started by a “concerned motorist”
    … same old arguments

  11. Bryan

    I once got pulled over by a trooper in Texas who felt I was not riding far enough over in the shoulder. I asked him to get out a driver manual and we defined the traffic lane, then he had to agree that I had a RIGHT to ride in the traffic lane so he had no basis to stop me in the first place. He got very red in the face and sped off. I passed him about two miles up the road where he had pulled a car over. I sure hope that ticket to that driver wasn’t my fault, but it felt great to one up that a-hole trooper.

  12. M Weaver

    When I took the Kansas written test 8 years ago, I was surprised to find a question regarding the minimum amount of feet a motor vehicle is required to leave between them and a bicyclist – the answer – 4 feet. But I must admit, I did not know about the two abreast. Although legal in Kansas, I still think dangerous.

  13. Alan Apel

    Steve –

    Kansas has a 3-foot law since 2011. KVBC has 3 foot stickers and magnets for sale. Let me know if you want to buy some.

  14. tilford97 Post author

    M-It is not dangerous to ride two abreast. It is exactly the opposite. I went to the State Transportation Committees meeting at the State House and testified to make sure that Kansas didn’t change the law.

    The miss perception that drivers of automobiles don’t have to cross the center line and go into the opposite lane to safely pass a cyclist is what endangers the riders. When a group rides single file, for some inexplicable reason, most drivers think it is safe to pass them just about anywhere. And then when an on coming car approaches, it is always the cyclists that will ultimately suffer.

    Riding two abreast forces the drivers of passing cars to go into the other lane. Most will do this safely. It is really the way for a car to pass a single rider too, but that doesn’t always happen.

    At the Transportation meeting a ton of bike cops came and voiced their concerns. They said that they always ride two abreast through the streets of Topeka. One was an instructor and said that he’d trained over 500 Police officers to be bike cops. He stressed that the safety of the officers is near the top of the training and that the officers always needed to ride two abreast. Not on sidewalks, much more dangerous, according to their statistics.

    So riding two abreast is actually safer for the riders. That, of course, is disregarding the road rage that the whole thing seems to create.

  15. TomB

    When I read the post I thought about an idea you writing an article to a local paper/blog/community site/chamber of commerce as a guest writer (they all need fresh content) about bicycle laws on public roads and some other cyclists – motorists related issues; your writing is great and entertaining plus I think many would appreciate.
    ps. sorry to bother you with this idea – be well!
    TomB (Austin TX)

  16. Formerly Jim

    Here in Cali the law states ride “as far to the right as praticable” but two abreast isn’t illegal per se, it’s slightly obnoxious in heavily-populated areas.

    As for “doing” something about awareness you could always lobby for the two abreast law to be included in the driver’s license test. Laying it down in fundamental, Old Testament terms has a way of making even a lot of rednecks obey.

  17. Pat

    Guess I have to speak up for the drivers. Where I live there are a lot of roads which won’t accommodate a bicycle and car in the same lane, never mind 2 side by side.

    Personally I think if we in this country want bicycles on the roads the roads should be reworked to accommodate them correctly.

    The thing most people aren’t considering is the people on the bicycles aren’t going anywhere–they are exercising. If I was to assemble a group of aerobics enthusiasts, or martial artists, on the edge of the road, 2 abreast, causing cars to swerve, I am sure most people would be annoyed. As they should be. Or if I put a weight bench and barbell on the shoulder straddling the edge of the road–I’ll bet a lot of people would be annoyed. It is no different than what bike riders think is their right.

    Common courtesy dictates the bike riders not force cars out of the lanes they are supposed to be in, common sense dictates that bike riders should not want to be in those precarious situations that causes the remarks from those trying to get by.

    Once in a great while I see a person with work attire carrying a brief case on the back–I can appreciate this. But when people want to get together in groups and just ride to see if they can surpass some personal best, why not use a gym?


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