inside lane

Anaminana

Member
Romania - romanian
Hi everyone, please be patient with me, I'm new in the forum, but there goes my question: what is exactly an "inside lane"? The context is "If you want to drive slowly you should use the inside lane". I live in Spain and from my point of view the inside lane is for overtakings, so it doesn´t make any sense.
 
  • panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hello Anaminana, and welcome to WordReference :)

    For some reason that is beyond me, the inside lane is on the outside, the outside lane is on the inside. Here is a diagram of a four-lane road.

    ========== inside lane
    ------------- outside lane
    centre line
    ------------- outside lane
    ========== inside lane

    You would wonder, sometimes, about the guys who decided these things.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Phew!!! I'm glad it's not just me then, Panjandrum ~ on the rare occasions when I'm motorway-driving I always have to be reminded which is which (to me they're left-, middle and right-hand lanes:eek:;):eek:)
     
    Yes, the inside lane is the one on the outside of the road as a whole.

    It's sometimes (I have seen it in a driving manual) called nearside (near the side of the road, presumably?) lane.

    I suppose it might make some sense if we think from the point of view of a driver (who normally is supposed to be in this lane); or most of all if we just think of ONE carriageway, ignoring the other one. Then the outside lane (the right lane, the overtaking lane) makes sense as it's outside of the "main driving lane".

    But as ewie said, left-middle-right are probably more widely used, apart from the expression overtaking on the inside.
     

    Lexiphile

    Senior Member
    England English
    I wouldn't, for a moment, attempt to justify this admitedly idiosyncratic terminology. However, you might like to think of it this way: slow drivers stay "in here," where it's safe. If you want to overtake, you go "out there" with the big boys.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    AE usage is exactly opposite :O. The inside lane (often called the passing lane) is next to the center line.
    How disconcerting! So Brits must beware of giving "move to X-side lane" instructions to US drivers and also beware of receiving them from US passengers.
    :eek::eek::eek:

    EDIT: I had written "North American" but now see I must restrict myself to the US and not include Canada (thank you dycentra). I have added an extra :eek:
     

    dycentra

    Member
    Canadian English
    The inside lane, to a Canadian, is the one near the road edge, or sidewalk. The outside lane is to the left, since we drive on the right side of the road. We see signs "Pass in Left Lane Only" which is also referred to as "the passing lane". I thought it was the same in the US!
     

    Rana_pipiens

    Senior Member
    USA / English
    On several Department of Transportation (U.S. state government) sites I checked, context, graphics, or parenthetical definitions of inside lane make it clear the next-to-center lane is meant. Since they often back up their signs announcing "inside lane closure southbound next two miles" with concrete construction barriers :eek:, it would be prudent to allow them their definition and -- in the U.S. -- merge right.

    Actually, most hits were about inside lanes of racetracks rather than of roads. Given the usual counterclockwise direction of travel on tracks (as also in U.S. traffic circles, or roundabouts to our BE friends), the "inside lane" is to the left. If there were oncoming traffic (keeping right, in the U.S.), that would be next to the center line. So the racetrack and roadway usages in AE seem consistent.
     

    straightforward

    New Member
    English - Canada
    In Canada it is Inside Lane to travel in, and outside lane to travel in also..., but meant for faster moving traffic. People here do often get confused with the terminology though, so Inside lane and Outside lane is not used in the Transportation Act or any Provincial regs anymore. When I earned my driving privileges 30 years ago those terms were in use, but it now seems things have evolved and they're not in print any longer.

    What is used nowadays, rather, is right lane and left lane, and sometimes depending on the number of lane ways on a particular roadway on a highway, there is sometimes any number of centre lanes in between the right lane and left lane.

    The problem is a lot of motorists today think of the highway as a whole, rather than just their part of it; their roadway, which consists of all the lane ways available to them in their allowable and normal direction of travel. Looking at things from this perspective it is easy to see that the inside lane is the curb lane meant for travelling in, and the outside lane is the lane closest to the centre line of the highway, meant to be used for faster moving motorists.

    The inside lane, curb lane, right lane… is for travelling, and merging onto and off of a roadway. The outside lane, fast lane, left lane… is for overtaking slower traffic which is traveling in the inside lane.

    The roadways on either side of a highway sometimes have the same number of lane ways (therefore, each of the roadways on a highway would then have an inside lane for travel and an outside lane for passing), but sometimes there are odd numbers of lane ways on a highway. For instance a highway having a roadway with one lane heading north, and on the other side of the centre line, the roadway has two lanes heading south… in this case, the southbound roadway has an inside lane for travel and an outside lane for passing. The outside lane heading south is next to the double solid yellow line or median, and across the centre line is the oncoming lane heading north. That would be the inside lane for the northbound motorist, as there is only one lane heading north. If there were a dotted yellow line for the north bound motorist, a passing manoeuvre could be executed by signalling and moving into the oncoming southbound fast lane if the way were clear.

    This is where the terminology makes sense. The northbound motorist doesn't have an outside lane of his own to utilize, so he must pull out of his travelling lane and move temporarily into an outside lane on the highway so that he may execute his passing manoeuvre. Since he is now travelling in an oncoming lane temporarily, he must then pull back into his own lane(the inside lane) and proceed north.

    So you see, if a highway has one lane in both directions, each roadway then has an inside lane and that's it; while a highway that has 4 lane ways for example, two in each direction, each roadway then has both an inside lane for travelling in, and an outside lane for pulling out and passing. Hence, the outside lanes are the two inner most lane ways on either side of a highway, and the inside lane ways are the outer most lane ways on either side of a highway. To keep it simple though, just forget about the other roadway and focus only on your own roadway. Here in North America it would be inside lane right and outside lane left. In Britain and Ausie, it would be inside lane left and outside lane right because they're roadways are meant for driving on the opposite side of the highway to what we are accustomed to here in North America, but the idea is exactly the same. The outside lanes are next to the centre line and the inside lanes are next to the ditches no matter where you are in the world.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    If you're only talking about your own roadway, and there are only two lanes, then I would say they are both outside lanes, because they both touch the outer margin of the roadway. There'd have to be three lanes to have an inside one....
     

    straightforward

    New Member
    English - Canada
    If you're only talking about your own roadway, and there are only two lanes, then I would say they are both outside lanes, because they both touch the outer margin of the roadway. There'd have to be three lanes to have an inside one....
    No my friend. Only one of them touches the outer margin; the inside lane or as it's called these days here in North America, the right lane.

    The other lane touches the centre line, does it not? I guess you're referring to the solid white at the curb and the yellow centre line both as the outer edge. In a way I can see how someone may view it like that, but a roadway has, as you call it, an outer edge (curb) and on the other difining edge there is a centre line dividing the highway into the two roadways.

    A roadway with one lane has an inside lane. Two lanes = inside lane and to the left is an outside lane. Three or more lanes = inside lane, centre lane/s, and the furthest one out is the outside lane.

    But as I said, this is old terminology not used in publications any longer, even though many people do still explain themselves via inside and outside lanes.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    No my friend. Only one of them touches the outer margin; the inside lane or as it's called these days here in North America, the right lane.

    The other lane touches the centre line, does it not? I guess you're referring to the solid white at the curb and the yellow centre line both as the outer edge. In a way I can see how someone may view it like that, but a roadway has, as you call it, an outer edge (curb) and on the other difining edge there is a centre line dividing the highway into the two roadways.

    A roadway with one lane has an inside lane. Two lanes = inside lane and to the left is an outside lane. Three or more lanes = inside lane, centre lane/s, and the furthest one out is the outside lane.

    But as I said, this is old terminology not used in publications any longer, even though many people do still explain themselves via inside and outside lanes.
    It's good if it is no longer used - it's confusing/ambiguous. On a race track (a typical oval for 400 meter races for example) the lane closest to the centre is the inside lane and the one at the edge is called the outside lane. How that usage might translate into multilane roads that are not circular is not intrinsic to the meaning of the word. While conventions may have been agreed on by some, it seems they are not universal. :(
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    I don't believe I've ever seen or heard lanes distinguished by the terms "inside" and "outside" in the U.S.
    Warning signs on the highway always say "Left lane closed ahead" (or "Right lane...").
    When I saw the title of this thread, "Inside lane", I thought it was referring to what we call the "inside track",
    meaning, at a curve in a racetrack, that part of the track that is closer to the center of the circle of which the curve is an arc (did I say that right?).
    Curving to the left, it's the left side of the track, and to the right, the right.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    The thing to remember is to get the right perspective. The inside and outside are not the middle and periphery of the road, but are to be understood from the perspective of someone standing at the side of the road, and treating the road as if it were a river. The boats come in to the bank or shore, and they go out towards the middle of the river.

    As mentioned further up-thread, in addition to inside and outside, we also use nearside and off-side, which are just as ambiguous. Near to what? To the driver? No, to the side of the road (assuming you're not on the wrong side, or on a one-way street). I still have to think hard when my mechanic tells me that the tread depth on my O/S/R tyre is near its legal limit. It means off-side rear. Why don't they just say starboard aft? Then I'd know immediately what was meant!

    I gather that some people confuse left and right, and maybe these archaic terms are easier for them to tell apart, but frankly I think they confuse more people than they help, and should be discontinued.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    No my friend. Only one of them touches the outer margin; the inside lane or as it's called these days here in North America, the right lane.

    The other lane touches the centre line, does it not? I guess you're referring to the solid white at the curb and the yellow centre line both as the outer edge. In a way I can see how someone may view it like that, but a roadway has, as you call it, an outer edge (curb) and on the other difining edge there is a centre line dividing the highway into the two roadways.
    But you said we're only talking about our own roadway, and ignoring the other half of the divided highway. The right land touches the shoulder on the right side of the roadway, and the left lane touches the shoulder on the left side, so they are both outer lanes.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I suspect, without much evidence, that as most journeys start at the closest kerb in our direction of travel and we pull out into the road and out into traffic, and we pull into the kerb, “in” became associated with the closest kerb in our direction of travel. ("Pull in at the next restaurant.")

    Considering early motoring roads, they were usually one lane in either direction, thus out would be when the vehicle was away from the nearest kerb (your kerb) and in would be the vehicle was close to the nearest kerb.

    We understand “overtaking on the inside” as overtaking between the other vehicle and the nearest kerb.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    Apparently you Brits are even stranger than I thought. :) To me it seems quite obvious that the outside lane is the one farthest from the centre of the road, and the inside lane is (or the inside lanes are) closer to the centre....
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    It might be interesting to look at the Wikipedia article here which gives the mix of terminology.

    Lane nearer the shoulder/kerb (curb) = inner lane, inside lane (BrE), outside line (AmE), Lane 1 (Irish)

    Lane nearer the centre of the road = outer lane, outside lane (BrE), inside lane (AmE), passing lane (AmE), overtaking lane (BrE), Lane 2 (Irish), Number 1 lane (AmE)
     

    hs2015

    New Member
    English - Canada
    I don't know why people in North America get confused about this...the "Fast Lane", "Passing Lane" or "Left Lane" is the "Inside Lane".
    The "Right Lane" or "Slow Lane" is the "Outside Lane".

    I'm Canadian, got my licence 35 years ago in Ontario and that's the way it's been in every province (except Newfoundland). Today the official wording in Ministry of Transportation literature is changed from Inside Lane to Passing or Left Lane. But I've worked in Montreal, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and BC and they all had the same understanding of inside lane (except workers from Newfoundland).

    <<direction of traffic ========== slow lane, right lane, outside lane
    <<direction of traffic -------------------- fast lane, passing lane, inside lane
    center line, center of highway, center line, center of highway
    >>direction of traffic -------------------- fast lane, passing lane, inside lane
    >>direction of traffic ==========slow lane, right lane, outside lane

    I had the opportunity to work in Hungary, Germany and France and they had exactly the same understanding also...the inside lane on a multi-lane highway is the left lane or passing lane.
    ...I can't speak for England, Australia or Newfoundland...never been there...
     
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