The bike paths that do exist are multi-use. This means cyclists, roller bladers, runners, and walkers all vie for use of this limited resource.
Traffic is terrible even in the suburbs and tempers are short. Motorists have little patience for anything that will impede their already slow progress; especially a cyclist. This doesn't exactly paint a rosy picture now does it?
The lack of patience with cyclists has led some motorists to resort to terrorist-like tactics such as putting tacks in the roadway in popular cycling areas. They view cyclists as arrogant, rude, and mainly in their way; in some cases they are correct.
This bad blood creates a dangerous situation for cyclists and motorists alike. There are some things cyclists can do to diffuse this situation though, most of which are just plain common sense.
You do have a right to ride your bicycle on the right side of the road; period. This right is protected in the law (check your local ordinances or go to http://bicyclegeorgia.com/galaw.html in Georgia).
Where or when you ride is up to you. I personally value my life so I try to choose routes and times that have lower traffic flow. This may not be practical for everyone but riding on a Sunday morning versus a Saturday makes a big difference in these parts. For safety's sake, I recommend riding with a partner.
Riding Against Traffic
Never ride your bike against traffic. Way too often, I see novice cyclists of all ages riding in the left lane as they would as if they were walking or running. Often times they're not even wearing a helmet (this is illegal if they're under the age of 16 and a very bad idea if they're not). They must feel safer seeing the on-coming traffic, but the fact is that 20 percent of all car-bike collisions result from cyclists riding the wrong way in traffic. Motorists just aren't used to looking for vehicles coming at them in their lane.
Where to Ride
Stay as near to the right side of the roadway as is practical, unless making a left hand turn, avoiding hazards in the road, or when the lane is just too narrow to share safely with a motor vehicle.
I recently observed a presumably novice rider spinning very slowly up a hill approximately four feet from the roadside, in a lane that had ample room for both him and the motorists. This occurred at 5 p.m. and traffic was backed up about eight cars deep behind him. I was personally amazed that the motorists exhibited as much patience as they did. I watched several pass him in the oncoming lane, creating a serious hazard. I don't think he realized what a dangerous situation he had created.
Novice riders tend to stay either too far left or too far right. You must stay as far right as practical (preferably six to 18 inches from the left of either the curb or the white line, whichever is safer) while avoiding road hazards. On the other hand, the farther from the curb you ride the better motorists can see you.
So it's sometimes a balancing act, staying as far right as practical while still staying safe. That's another reason why I like riding with a partner. It's easier for a motorist to see two cyclists than one and sometimes there's just more safety in numbers.
There are few occasions when it's safer to ride in the middle of the road: When you're riding at the same speed as the traffic around you, or when you're on a road with no shoulder, frequent pot holes or parked cars. Always give yourself enough room to maneuver safely while avoiding both obstacles in the road and opening car doors. When the traffic becomes faster than you can ride, move back over to the right to avoid obstructing traffic flow.