I'd like to talk about shoulders. What is a shoulder? What are they used for? Do motorists see them differently than cyclists?
The Transportation Code says that shoulders are not a part of the roadway. As "roadway" is defined by the code. Sec.541.302(11)and(15).
Shoulders are needed to protect the road bed and to keep the edge of the roadway from sinking. They provide an escape area for disabled vehicles. They improve the sight lines for crossing traffic at junctions and intersections. They provide acceleration and deceleration lanes on high speed roads. They are used to collect debris from the roadway. They also provide for the passing a disabled or left turning vehicle.
Sec. 545.058 describes what one can and cannot do on a shoulder. Strangely it doesn't say whether crying on a shoulder is permitted. (Ouch!) Operators of bicycles have a right to the roadway, but they are permitted to use a shoulder if they want.
Drivers of automobiles see the shoulder as the proper place for drivers of bicycles- out of their way. (Where they are safe! Foolishly implying that they are poor drivers, unable to avoid hitting something in their way. But I digress.) I get far more grief from automobile drivers when there is an improved shoulder alongside the roadway than when there is no shoulder at all.
So do the benefits of riding on the roadway with a wide shoulder nearby outweigh the problems of riding on the shoulder itself?
In my opinion, the primary benefit of riding in the lane is that I become a big enough nuisance to the automobile driver that he must put off his attention to non-driving distractions in order to avoid colliding with me. A shoulder cyclist runs the risk of overtaking traffic dismissing him as being out of the way enough that they have the freedom to return to their non-driving distraction, thus becoming vulnerable to having them drift off the roadway into him. The lethal consequences of this peril rise exponentially to the speed of the overtaking traffic, counter-intuitively indicating that avoiding the shoulder is even more important on high speed roads.
The things available for auto drivers to distract themselves from their duty of operating their vehicle seem to be multiplying. If this is true, then riding in the shoulder becomes ever more riskier as time goes on- making cycling in the roadway ever more imperative to consider as a risk reduction strategy.
If shoulders provide better sight-lines for cross traffic, is that something a cyclist wants to give up by riding on the shoulder? Statistically, a cyclist is in far greater risk from crossing movements than from overtaking traffic!
I am generally exposed to better road surface on the roadway than on the shoulder. Besides collecting debris, often the shoulder is neglected as a cost saving measure when the roadway is re-surfaced. Often a side diversion hazard is created with the transition from new surface to old. Cracked pavement and pothole repair are not met with the same vigor as blemishes in the travel lane. I do not need to divert as much attention to avoiding surface hazards as the shoulder rider does.
Sometimes, a shoulder will narrow without warning, giving a cyclist little time to merge into the traffic lane. Is the shoulder rider prepared for this?
All in all, I would submit that a cyclist ought to avoid riding on the shoulder and in the narrow right lane on state hwy 287 pictured above between Ennis and Waxahachie Texas.