Taking the lane in pinch points

Most of Soquel Drive across Santa Cruz County has decently wide bike lanes and shoulders. This makes this smooth road a favored route for road cyclists. There are a couple of pinch points to watch for, though.

One of them is the spot where Soquel Drive passes under the railroad viaduct at Aptos Street.

Soquel Drive near Aptos Street

A cyclist was seriously injured at this location on Sunday afternoon when the driver of a Ford Fusion foolishly tried to squeeze past the guy on a bike. According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the driver dangerously crossed the centerline to pass in spite of oncoming traffic and then swerved back over directly into the cyclist, sending the cyclist to the trauma center with major injuries.

Maybe there are places to make yourself skinny to allow traffic to pass, but this is not one of those spots. I don’t blame the victim here — the driver should have waited to pass until it was safe and he clearly made an unsafe move, if the news report is accurate. It’s only about 50 yards until the bike lane begins again, after all. Defensive Driving and Defensive Cycling is about anticipating the Other Guy’s boneheaded moves, though, and in this case driving behavior is very predicable — they’re all gonna try for the unsafe pass.

I cycle past this spot about once a week, and I’ve learned to anticipate the squeeze. I look back for a hole to merge into, signal my intentions and move all the way over to the left side of my lane, almost to the centerline.

Where are your cycling pinch points, and what’s your strategy to avoid conflict at them?


  1. Ironically, I find the flexible posts that some cities put in the middle of non-intersection xwalks can create pinch points, especially if the street parking isn’t well regulated near the xwalk.

    If you bike along Newhall in Santa Clara, for example, the street is extremely wide and cars can easily and safely pass, except at the xwalks, where the posts prevent safe passing and force you to take the lane.

  2. That’s one of the drawbacks of some traffic calming measures, which I otherwise generally support.

    I can’t think of where the soft hit posts are you’re talking about in Santa Clara. Can you point to a location?

  3. The one that I see regularly is on the 2-lane section of Newhall between Alviso Rd and Park Ave. I don’t see it obviously on Google Maps. Curious about it now and will cycle it over the next couple days and get the exact location…

  4. That just happened to me yesterday. To dissuade anyone from passing, I took the lane as I approached one of those crosswalk signs at the centerline. Some impatient guy decided to pass me anyway. He noticed the sign just in time to swerve into the oncoming traffic lane, which was (lucky for him) empty.

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