Friday, May 8, 2009

If You Were Riding the Bicycle #1

The way some drivers love to hate cyclists and the way some cyclists love to hate them back really puzzles me. Its like a kind of bigotry, really, as we take turns making ridiculous sweeping generalizations about each other. I am sick and tired of cyclists who characterize any driver that criticizes them as a selfish, dangerous, gas-guzzling destroyer of the earth.

I am equally fed up with motorists who complain that cyclists are all road-hogging, rule-breaking moronic hippies or Lance Armstrong wannabes.

The truth, of course, is that as with all people, there will be selfish, stupid fools who obviously don't understand anything at all sprinkled through both of these groups.

When I'm riding with cars, I do my best to make good time while being as considerate of drivers as I can and ensuring my own safety. I drive a car too, and I know how worrisome and sometimes annoying certain people riding bikes can be. On the other hand, I have zero problem with a cyclist who slows me down for little while as they make their way along safely and predictably. When I'm riding, I try to put myself in the motorist's shoes, and this approach has served me well over years and years of bicycle commuting.

What I'm asking for in this post (and hopefully others if they present themselves) is that motorists do the same for me in specific road situations that I will illustrate with real video shot from my bike. Please don't jump to the conclusion that other cyclists would agree with or approve of my decisions; I fully expect to get called out by some practitioners of the very safest and best types of cycling too.

So, here we go:

What would you do if you were the riding the bicycle? Until next time,



Paul Hastings said...

i'd pass (on the left, i live in bangkok) but i wouldn't go up on the sidewalk (mainly because my road bike wouldn't like what passes for sidewalks here but a lot of people walk here) nor would i try to squeeze thru anything resembling a tight space (while there's not much of a concept of personal space here, folks don't like people messing up their rides).

as for a car having to "pass me again", so what? by that "logic" i'd have to stop behind every car that pulled over on the off chance they'd continue sometime in the near future & have to pass me again.

your question also has a pretty good cultural bias--people here in bangkok don't normally line up so neatly, if there's any sort of space to pass they will surely try to squeeze thru (another reason to watch the tight spots). if anything people seem to enjoy the fact that i can get thru traffic jams (well except for the usual assortment of ass clowns but you'll find these people everywhere on the planet).

RANTWICK said...

Paul, you make make a good point... the post is pretty ethno-centric, right down to the size of city. NYC messengers and other big urban core riders will laugh at that video.

Robert H said...

I probably wouldn't have hit the sidewalk in most cases. I try my best to avoid it all together. Motorists don't tend to watch out for things on the sidewalk, and visibility is key for me.

If a line up of cars isn't quite that long, and I feel that I can still make a light without slowing everyone down, I will tuck in behind the last car.

If there is a long line, I ride up on the right and tuck in behind a car with ample space in front of it. If there isn't one, I'll get in front of the whole line. This makes some angry, but it prevents the "suicide slot". For more info on that, check out Kent Peterson's page.

I would rather have someone angry at me than not see me all together.

RANTWICK said...


Thanks for your thoughts and that good link the Kent Petersen's page... I've gone there often, and it is a good resource.

Das Joe said...

I would pass on the right until there is no room to pass and then I would tuck myself in. The biggest reason being, riding a bike on a sidewalk sends the wrong message regardless of why you are doing it. Too often in areas that are not heavily cycled (I live in Portland, OR so I am fortunate in that respect)drivers that are not riders shout out that you should be on the sidewalk. So seeing a cyclist on a sidewalk vindicates their opinion. Also by going around cars using a sidewalk you could put yourself in jeopardy on a visibility standpoint. The next interesting question would be if you were one car back from the stop light and they had a right turn signal, would you pass them knowing that you could beat them off the line to avoid the right hook?

RANTWICK said...

Das Joe,

It is extremely rare for me to be tempted on to the sidewalk like that, and I knew I would be called on it. As for the jumping ahead of a right hook, I would rather stick to the real video rather than theoreticals, but that said I would NOT get up to the line and jump... normally I would stop behind any right-indicating car and pull in behind it, up to three or four cars back. In this case, however, there was a right turn lane that I was to the left of, so no worries.

Gino said...

4,000 miles per year, in the city.

I would do exactly what you did, including the sidewalk, but only if it was, as in your video, a sidewalk with no pedestrians present. I absolutely will not go where pedestrians are present. They are too dangerous.

My actions are always, ALWAYS, motivated by personal safety. The back up of cars is one of the most dangerous situations in urban riding. By bypassing the line, even if it means 10 or 15 feet on an unoccupied sidewalk, I get myself out of that danger spot as quickly as possible.

I would also, as you did, take the lane for that brief moment on the other side of the light.

RANTWICK said...

Thanks Gino, Sounds like we're pretty similar riders all right, and yes, as things narrow down on the far side of that light, the right and safe thing to do is take that lane.

Rollz said...

It looked like you went through the red light at Highbury.

RANTWICK said...

Yes, I did. It turned Red about mid-way through the intersection. No excuse, I know, but so did the van behind me.

ChipSeal said...

Ha! Good post dear Rantwick!

It reminds me again of why I dislike wide lanes- too many ambiguous situations. What is it, about a 13, 14 foot lane?

'Round here, wide lanes are as rare as hen's teeth, so in practice I just stay in line.

Passing a line of stopped cars on the right is safe until they begin rolling, then the cyclist must beware the right hook.

I think I would be tempted to pass on the left, and merge back into the lane when the light lets them go.

As for motorists who complain of the pain of having to re-pass a bicycle- How hard is it to pass a bicycle? It's not like it takes the skill of a Formula One race driver, after all!

RANTWICK said...

Hey ChipSeal,
I don't really know how wide the lane is... I only know when things are tight and when they are not. Passing on the left would scare me (and a few others, I'm guessing) half to death.

You are the second to mention the famous right hook; I'm hoping to present a similar video example soon.

cafiend said...

One note: The only time I got seriously doored it was in the LEFT leg when a passenger popped the door of a car stopped in traffic into the marked bike lane I was occupying at the moment. I had driven but not biked that stretch of town road, so I had not developed a strategy for it. The lane was narrowing, herding me toward the stopped traffic more quickly than I considered. I even had time to think "nobody better pop a door" just before I saw that very thing begin to happen. Smacko! Twenty-some-odd stitches in my leg in two layers, skin and muscle after the edge of the door drove into my thigh.

I tend to avoid the sidewalk because it does reinforce the impression that we belong there when we emphatically do not. I did hop up there once and stop behind a light post to avoid an irate driver who seemed determined to run me down after a confrontation in a traffic circle. I hoped I could get him to slam the tall curb and hit the pole. Instead we actually had a constructive exchange. He calmed down after nearly eating the curb.

RANTWICK said...

Just one time down a new road without incident can be super helpful riding it safely in future... doored on the left; tough to plan for that Muscle wounded in the thigh. I bet that hurt.

I fully support sidewalk (and lamp post) use as a safety strategy when somebody is trying to RUN YOU DOWN!

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