Monday, June 8, 2009

When Busier is Better

When you ride your bicycle on the road and act just as a car or motorcycle would act, you are engaging in "Vehicular Cycling". As a year-round bike commuter, I use a mix of riding styles depending on the context. When there is room for me to ride on the right and allow vehicles to pass without having to come too close even when there is opposing traffic, I do so, noting that I never ride as far right as the gutter. I strongly suspect that my version of "too close" is a little closer and scarier than many cyclists would advise, and I am probably assuming more risk than I should, but I'm OK with it for now. I spend 99% of my time on the street, but I have been known to ride on short stretches of sidewalk when it makes sense to me. I never ride a sidewalk with pedestrians on it... that's one of the times it stops making any sense. I treat most Stop signs as Yield signs, and obey all traffic lights with extremely rare exceptions. When it comes to intersections, I go into full VC (Vehicular Cyclist) mode, merge with traffic and use the left or right turn lanes as any car would. I queue jump on the right when it seems safe enough and doable, and on the odd occasion squeeze through gaps between cars and curb that I probably shouldn't.

As you may have guessed, it would be wrong to characterize myself as a true blue Vehicular Cyclist, but I have been hanging out on blogs and web sites that are committed to VC lately. Some of that content has begun to rub off on me, and I am finding myself practicing VC in more situations than I used to. This blog entry is about a section of my "late for work" shortest commuting route that has been made ten times easier by being a Vehicular Cyclist, taking the whole lane and riding on a very busy street rather than on some quiet ones.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and so a video must be worth several million! Please watch the videos that follow for a summary of what I've been writing about. Since I have stopped doing this part of my route the old way, I rode the streets I used to after work in order to get the comparison video; thus the difference in sunlight angle/time of day.

Video 1: My Old, Quiet Street Way

Video 2: My New, Busy Street Way

Ironically, if I were driving my car, I may well follow the "quiet" route in Video 1 in an effort to skip the slow-down associated with the light. On a bicycle, however, I don't have the power or size to just shoot out into traffic the way I could in my car, and using the flow-control features of the big intersection saves me valuable "late for work" seconds or even minutes and lowers my risk and stress. Sometimes, busier is better.

Thanks to stuff like this, I can actually enjoy riding in traffic.



ChipSeal said...

I have come to prefer narrow outside laned roads. What's not to like about a nine foot bike lane that is available for auto drivers to use when a bicycle operator is not present?

Aren't you worried that you could be annoying motorists?

In the old route video, as you were waiting for traffic so you could enter, an automobile stopped to turn left onto the street you just traversed. Did you notice how many automobiles he impeded? Did you hear any honking or threatening shouts at him? I wonder why not?

Sigh. The best part of Mondays is now past: Reading Rantwick's new blog post.

RANTWICK said...

"Aren't you worried that you could be annoying motorists?" - cute. This from Mr. Loogie himself...

ChipSeal said...

Nuts. I should have written this:

"Aren't you worried that you could be annoying motorists? (sarcasm)"

And in my defense, Loogies are a rare thing for me when riding, as I mostly breath through my mouth.

In the described incident there was no snot worked up for it- there was no time. I spat. A spray. I doubted it's effectiveness at the time, and so I was somewhat gratified the message was received in the end!

With a persistent honker, or anticipating a right shoulder overtake, I will sometimes "work up" a little subsistence to spit. I find I have a difficult time waiting to use it as it severely affects my breathing. (Did I ever mention that I seem to want to tear about at maximum effort most of the time?) So most of my expectorant expressions are more "visual" than the more desired "splat" in the middle of the motorist's line of sight.

In all seriousness, if one is going about in a legal manner, annoying drivers of other vehicles is a trifling concern.

Keri said...

Nicely done!

You are becoming quite the educator!

Cyclist always try to skirt around red lights when they're turning right. Using the right-turn-on-green to our advantage is one of those untapped resources :-)

RANTWICK said...

Keri - Thanks! True to form, I started my blog hoping to be angry or funny and end up being teachy. Ah well... tomorrow is another day.

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