Ride 10% Faster Than Traffic - Safer?

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by Ranger Ron, Mar 6, 2014.

  1. Ranger Ron

    Ranger Ron Been here awhile

    Jan 27, 2006
    Sonoran Desert, AZ
    The comment "I ride 10% faster than traffic" comes up fairly often here. Proponents suggest it is a safety strategy. I'm not sure I understand it completely.

    Certainly when travelling faster than the rest of traffic, the possibility of being rammed from behind is greatly reduced. On the other hand, it would seem that while in the process of continually passing other vehicles on the road that a rider would spend substantial time in drivers' blind spots.

    My 70 mile round trip commute involves two lane rural roads and suburban multi-lane feeder routes. I find traffic generally travels at the posted speed limits. The two lane rural roads carry so much traffic that it is difficult to pass even the occasional slower vehicle. To maintain a "10% faster than all the traffic" regimen and pass all traffic would be extremely difficult (dangerous?).

    Once in town on the multi-lane feeder routes (two and three lanes each direction), the volume of traffic is increased (all lanes filled) to the point that there is virtually no way to consistently keep passing all the vehicles in order to maintain the "10%" rule.

    Conversely, it seems that if traffic were light enough to make it possible to travel 10% faster than traffic then it wouldn't be even necessary from a "safety" standpoint.

    So, what am I missing here, or where am I going wrong?

    Ron :D
  2. ZEmann

    ZEmann want to be riding

    Jul 19, 2013
    you lost me at "I find traffic generally travels at the posted speed limits" :lol3

    not in my neck of the woods LOL cagers are mostly at the 10% or greater already

    I am more about safe distances when stuck in traffic ( distances created by Me not others) I also want an out option and typically prefer speed vs braking and visibility ( but you probably do all of this also )

    however i prefer to be out in front ( far out LOL) but behind the pack will do

    however like you stated I don't quite get the 10% thing every situation is different and can vary at any time

    EDIT wait do We live in the same neck of the woods ? I am in chandler surface and freeways seem like everyone is either speeding or snowbirding
  3. Mr_Gone

    Mr_Gone Mad Bad Viking Berserker

    Jul 18, 2010
    Mountain Home, AR
    I don't necessarily think the +10% advice is the only way to go. It might work very well for some. I haven't tried it.

    I have adopted the "gap in traffic" advice.

    I find those gaps in traffic where there is no traffic, or very little. People ahead of me. People behind me. I find that gap in the traffic where traffic is farthest from me, and I will speed up or slow down to get into that gap. And I pay attention to who's slower and falling back into that gap, and who's speeding up into that gap.

    That's just me, though. YMMV.
  4. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Long timer

    Sep 6, 2011
    By going slightly faster than traffic, the timing of encounters and interactions are controlled by the rider. The rider will decide when to be beside a given vehicle, and when to overtake it.

    By going slightly faster than traffic, the encounters and interactions take place more or less in front of rider, where they are more easily viewed by the rider.
  5. joexr

    joexr Banned

    Jan 4, 2011
    And you're not just parking in someones blind spot.
  6. ZEmann

    ZEmann want to be riding

    Jul 19, 2013
    then again if you were in an opening /Gap like previously mentioned your in no ones blind spot until you apply the 10% theory and start passing people
    you will be in each vehicles blind spot for some duration

    but if your in tight traffic I agree
  7. TRAVR6

    TRAVR6 Been here awhile

    Feb 11, 2014

    Me too. I tend to fluctuate my speed depending on the traffic.
    I am always faster than everyone else because I do not like people near me.
    When I find an open spot on the highway I tend to try and stay in it.

    Most every interstate has traffic groups. It's usually because traffic piles up as slower cars do not move to allow faster cars to pass.

    Being on a bike it is easier to get through these.
    Once you make it through, there is generally little to now traffic in front.
    I like to ride in those spaces.

    On back roads I am constantly passing people. It has been that way throughout my 20 years of riding. I can't stay going as slow as the old people on the backroads and no matter how many people I pass there are always more old people.
    Like you are always speeding up just to be at the back of the next pack.
  8. Wraith Rider

    Wraith Rider Banned

    Feb 11, 2012
    Basically it's important to ride at a DIFFERENT speed than traffic. It does not matter so much if it's slower or faster, just different.
    That way you have to focus mainly at one direction. It's most stressful if you overtake and are overtaken at the same time.
  9. FTL900

    FTL900 White and nerdy

    Oct 3, 2005
    Las Vegas
    I dunno about 10% faster, but never slower than traffic, unless something isn't working correctly. And then I'd be in the far right lane until I could exit.

    I ride mostly with traffic, a little faster when needed to escape congested clumps, and I try to find gaps where there is less congestion for a bit, kind of an open area to ride in... until traffic changes and it disappears.

    Riding habits are difficult to describe because traffic is so fluid, so what I'm doing is constantly changing depending on what traffic is doing.
  10. Pecha72

    Pecha72 Long timer

    May 5, 2008
    Helsinki, Finland
    Slower than general traffic flow is definitely not the safest way to get around.

    Same speed, or a tiny bit faster for me, and which one, depends on many things.
  11. Idle

    Idle Been here awhile

    Jun 16, 2011
    Northern California
    In town I've noticed that people actually drive at the speed limit or slightly slower. It's usually follow the leader who is probably playing with their phone. It is constantly changing so there's no right answer. Of course it also depends what time of day it is.

    6:00-7:45 am, it's fast and safe driving commuters. Tradesmen, doctors, long distance commuters. Proffesional drivers that know where they are going.

    7:45-8:30 school runs and later shift commuters and such. Getting slower with less traffic, and a little erratic but still predictable as everyone still knows where they are going.

    8:30-10:30 even less traffic but people don't know where they want to go. There are blue hairs and people shopping for crafting supplies. Huge speed differences and difficult gaps and the time to be on your guard. The walk of shame folks are out except they are driving.

    Lunchtime is a free for all, people are not sure if they want subway or McD, but still not too bad. Fast driving though, because some only have 1/2 an hour.

    Afternoon is pretty crazy, maybe the worst time to be on the road. All the stoners and alcoholics are awake and looking for a bag or a bottle. Add all the soccer moms doing schoolbus runs.

    Late afternoon is not too bad, but everyone is tired and just wants to get home. More texting and phone play. Road rage is prevalent at this time more than any other when traffic backs up.

    Another crazy time to be on the road is early evening. A huge mix of different age and ability drivers planning their evening on Facebook while trying to drive somewhere that they don't exactly know where yet.

    Later in the evening is ok, but has the random surprises.

    I ride faster than the flow of traffic almost all the time. I feel much safer doing so. I'm not in anyone's blind spot long enough to be concerned about it. It's one second at the most and I've previously moved over to the line to let them maybe see me in their mirror.

    If traffic is moving fast and I have enough space to be comfortable I hold back until the pack catches up, then make my way ahead again.

    Filter to the front at the next light, create some distance and repeat.
    I also bob and weave all the time. I use the whole lane and create movement so I'm more likely to be seen.
  12. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades...

    Dec 20, 2007
    Delaware Ohio
    Actually the place where I learned of this comment was from a Cleveland motor cop. The idea is fairly simple, it is easier to deal with traffic when overtaking it than when sitting in it or going slower than it, mostly because it is easier to deal with what is in front of you than behind and it is also easier and quicker to brake than to accelerate.

    It isn't an "all the time" principle, it is circumstances based. I find when riding the freeways around Columbus it is better to be going a shade faster than traffic. I can speed up or slow down as needed to fit into traffic when merging or reacting to those who are merging.

    Obviously even when riding faster than traffic one has to keep an eye on the mirrors to see what is behind and in addition one should be cognizant of being in blind spots, but when going faster than traffic one is only in a blind spot for a brief time, not continuously as is possible when at the same speed as traffic or very slowly overtaking traffic.

    But like everything else, one must think before acting.
  13. tommysmothers

    tommysmothers Flamesuit equipped

    Jun 5, 2013

    Most of the riders that, "ride 10% faster than traffic" are probably doing so on multi-lane highways or freeways.

    Around here (DC Metro area), riding at the average speed of traffic means you will be surrounded on all four sides by 2 ton cages. They stack up behind each other and "drone" along.

    Riding faster keeps you away from them, and also keeps you more engaged with the task at hand.
  14. Bill Harris

    Bill Harris Confirmed Curmudgeon

    Sep 20, 2008
    backwoods Alabama
    Riding a bit faster on multi-lane roads is proactive and keeps you from blending in with the traffic. I also use the "find a traffic hole" that has been mentioned.

    I don;t think the suggestion is to move faster than traffic no matter what, but just to stay active, alert and aware of the situation. Sometimes you have to be in a situation where you have to move with traffic and get boxed in. That case is stressful since one's Spidey Sense has to extend more sensor tendrils...

  15. mongox

    mongox ARRRRGH!!!

    Apr 22, 2002
    When going the same speed as the traffic, you tend to blend in too much and are not seen by cagers. If you are going a bit faster than traffic, you are in contrast to the traffic and stick out more. Also as someone said, you are in more control of your situation and can more easily adjust to whats going on when you have a little speed advantage.
  16. MotoTex

    MotoTex Miles of Smiles

    Jul 6, 2009
    Tool Shed
    Something like this was covered in a defensive driving class I took maybe twenty years ago.

    As I recall, the statement was along the lines of,

    "Insurance studies have found the drivers involved in the fewest accidents are those who routinely drive three to five mph faster than the flow of traffic"

    The instructor went on to say something like,

    This was most likely because the threats to such a driver would seldom come from behind or from being in another vehicle's blind spot for significant periods of time thus reducing their exposure to risks. These drivers were more likely to be focused on their driving, and would be actively scanning forward and rear keeping up with what is going on around them, rather than simply following or pacing the cars around them.

    From what I've seen on the road those drivers who let the car in front of them drive for them (seemingly becoming magnetized to the other car's bumper) are the ones more likely to be startled each time they suddenly are brought to the realization that they are at the controls of a moving car. In other words, they are distracted and not taking the task of driving very seriously. Therefore, they are increasing their exposure to risk.

    Ten percent seems a little too pat an answer, but the gist of it would match what this instructor postulated. Moving slightly faster than the flow of traffic reduces the exposure to several easily identifiable risk factors and forces the driver to pay more attention to what is going on in order to maintain that pace.

    Oddly enough I felt quite pleased when hearing this as it described perfectly how I flitted though Houston traffic back then.
  17. JohnCW

    JohnCW Long timer

    Dec 30, 2013
    Sydney, Australia
    Forget the 10% rule in the above situation. To me the goal is to as much as possible not be beside a car. If you aren't beside a car then they can't take you out. How do you do that? Travel in either the outer or inner most lanes. You only have cars on one side, and you can totally control your position in relation to the cars in that one lane beside you. Sit back far enough behind the car in the lane beside you so (a) you're in the best position to be seen in their mirror, and (b) if they were to dive into your lane that'd pass in front of you. If you decide to pull ahead do so quickly but only if there is enough distance ahead to get clear of the car you currently sitting behind.
  18. WRW9751

    WRW9751 7th Day Adventurist

    Jun 6, 2011
    Ankeny Iowa
    I choose to move on traffic not the other way around.
    10% seems about right, watching what is out front of you is much easier than seeing whats coming up on you from behind!
    Brake checking the vehicle ahead of you is all in your hands.
    Being hit from behind Not a option!
    If you have ever seen a motorcycle hit from behind you will never have this conversation with yourself again!
  19. shaweetz

    shaweetz Been here awhile

    Feb 2, 2010
    Ottawa, CDN
    +1 on this. It is not suitable for all situations, but when it is, you're tipping the balance of control in your favor, and reducing the number of vectors available for the unexpected to occur. Also, it guarantees that you're not lingering in blind spots for very long. Without first reading about it, I just started doing it because I could intuit that the general level of risk was consistently lower.
  20. Ranger Ron

    Ranger Ron Been here awhile

    Jan 27, 2006
    Sonoran Desert, AZ
    This is probably the case...:deal


    All good insights here. I personally tend to be a "gapper" and pretty much align with JohnCW's view.

    Ron :D