Archive for April 20, 2008

“Get The F**k Off The Road!”

April 20, 2008

Having just returned from a ride during which I twice endured something similar to the title of this post, I though I might try to help the more reasonable among you avoid acting like the two ignorant redneck p.o.s who yelled at me today.

To begin, understand that a bicycle is a vehicle and has just as much right to use the roads as any car. Sidewalks are for walking. Roads are for bicycles. And like it or not, often the safest place to ride on the road is what drivers often see as its middle. I would call it the outer third, but whatever the location might be, here’s a few reasons it is safest to ride out in the road.

First, even when one exists, it is generally inadvisable to ride on the shoulder. Why? Primarily because the shoulder is where all the crap from the road gets blown by the traffic. There, you’ll find roadkill, rocks, tire remnants, and glass; none of which is bike-friendly. Also, plenty of shoulders now have those ridges that make the car vibrate to wake up inattentive drivers. They don’t work well for bikes, either. Finally, the shoulders are often cracked and in very poor shape. Again, not pleasant, and even dangerous (if your tire slips into a crack), to ride.

Second, if there are parallel parked cars in the area, one of the first rules of bike safety is to always remain a car door’s width away from them. Use your imagination and you’ll figure out why. Even if the cars are only intermitently parallel parked, it is safer to stay in a line away from the cars, rather than swerve in and out. Why? Visibility and predictability. Drivers might not see a bike until it swerves out around the parallel parked car, or might not expect it to swerve.

Third, sometimes the road is too narrow for a bike and two  cars to ride abreast. Generally, cyclists avoid those kinds of roads. When they can not, though, the safest way to ride is far enough into the lane that passing cars have to wait until the other lane is clear, and then pull over to pass. Better to make someone wait then to get sideswiped.

Fourth, if it’s a group ride, there will almost always be at least one rider out in the middle of the road. To take advantage of the drafting group riding allows, each person takes a short turn at the front (a pull), then pulls off to the left and eases to the back of the pack, giving the next guy a chance to pull. That’s just how group rides work. Hence, they take up plenty of the road.

In short, when cyclists ride in the road, they generally have a good reason to do so. They are not just being jerks. We have a right to the road just like drivers do, and we try to ride as safely as possible.

So, what should drivers do when they see a cyclist ahead? A few things.

Most importantly, take a deep breath and realize absolutely nothing is so important that you need to put the cyclist’s life in danger. Cars always win fights with bikes. That’s why cyclists try to ride safely. That’s why drivers ought to be a bit more patient.

In addition, don’t honk. We know you are there, so there’s no need for a tap to let us know. And you don’t want to be an ass, so save the long aggravated honks, too.

All you have to do is slow down, look for oncoming traffic, and pull over a bit to give us some room when you go by. We don’t need the entire lane, but if I could reach out and touch your car, you are too close. As you go by, a waive is always nice, and if you courteously pass us, you’ll probably get one from us.

Doesn’t that sound better than getting your blood pressure up and endangering someone’s life just to arrive somewhere half a second faster?