It seems to me that sometimes when you're feeling the most pressure to ride to the right of traffic is just when to do the opposite - take the lane. Nobody wants to be disliked, even by strangers; the thing is, when your safety is on the line it is time to take popularity out of the equation and do the right thing. An example:
There is a stretch of bridge on Highbury Ave in London Ontario where traffic volumes are high and there are lots of big trucks. There is a fairly steep incline right after a traffic light that means low speeds for cyclists and semis alike. When riding, you can really feel the collective pressure to just get out of the way; this bridge on an arterial road is no place for you to be, so move over! Here's what it is like when I give in to that pressure:
I haven't ridden to the right like that on this stretch for years. When I first got back into cycling I did, for a short while, before I saw the light and began taking the lane. Riding on the right on purpose just to make this video went against all of my better cycling instincts! I'm sure fewer drivers were mad at me, but what is the value of that when weighed against how awful a collision would be for all of us?
Now here's some video of what the same stretch is like when I take the lane.
Traffic wasn't quite as heavy at the time I took that second video, I admit, but part of why it isn't as crazy looking is that the trucks (most of which tend to stay in the right lane) were forced to stay behind me while I climbed the hill. On a bad morning one of these might startle me with a honk, or worse, an airhorn. Even then, however, I am in way less danger and they aren't tempted to make close passes that put me (and indeed every vehicle on the bridge) at greater risk.
The point I'm trying to make is that ticking people off for a short time is often better than keeping them happy, despite the basic and strong human desire to be liked. It took a shift in thinking that was a little difficult, but now that I've experienced the reduction in risk (and therefore fear and stress) it creates, I'll never go back.
I wish every driver who gets pissed at me on this stretch could read this post and see those videos; similarly, I wish I could personally thank those who show a little patience and civility and allow me to get over the bridge without being cranky. Sadly, that just isn't in the cards.
R A N T W I C K