Wide outside lane
In the US, wide outside lane (WOL), or wide curb lane (WCL), is a term used by cyclists and bicycle transportation planners to refer to the outermost lane of a roadway when it is wide enough to be safely shared side by side by a bicycle and a wider motor vehicle at the same time. Generally, the minimum-width standard for a WOL is 14 feet (4.3 m). A WOL may also be known as a wide outside through lane (WOTL) to differentiate it from a right turn only lane—the outermost lane for traffic that will turn right that is not intended for use by through traffic.
Conversely, a narrow lane is a lane that is too narrow to be safely shared side by side by a bicycle and a motor vehicle. When the outside lane of a roadway is a narrow lane, it is sometimes referred as a narrow outside lane (NOL) or a narrow curb lane (NCL). To encompass only through lanes, the term narrow outside through lane (NOTL) is sometimes also used.
In some jurisdictions, the rules of the road apply differently for a cyclist when the roadway has a WOL or a NOL. For example, in the state of California all cyclists are legally required to ride "as close as practicable to the right-hand" side of the roadway when the lane is wide enough "for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane." While California does not specify exactly what constitutes "wide enough", other states do. For example, the Texas version of this law states that riding "as near as practicable to the right" is not required when a variety of conditions are present, including when "the person is operating a bicycle in an outside lane that is less than 14 feet in width". Experts on vehicular cycling recommend that cyclists not share a marked lanes that are not wide enough for efficient, safe, and lawful passing within the lane.
To illustrate how WOLs are generally considered to be facilities which primarily benefit cyclists, consider a road marked with a bike lane; if the bike-lane stripe is removed, what remains is a WOL. Some vehicular cyclists and bike lane opponents advocate for WOLs instead of bike lanes, arguing that WOLs provide most, if not all, of the benefits, without many of the drawbacks that bike lanes impose on a person just because they are traveling by bicycle. Still others maintain that the primary purpose of providing the additional roadway width—whether in the form of a WOL or a bike lane—is to facilitate the passing of cyclists by motorists.
- AASHTO’s 1999 Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities states (p. 17): "In general, 4.2 m (14 feet) of usable lane width is the recommended width for shared use in a wide curb lane...."Pein, Wayne (December 2003). "How wide should a lane be?". Retrieved 2009-05-25.
- "Texas Statutes - Section 551.103: OPERATION ON ROADWAY". Retrieved 6 March 2012.