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Cycling, Vol. 2 
9th-Jul-2010 03:39 pm
I had promised atticus_frog my thoughts on cycling aaaaaages ago and never got the second part finished. First part here.

Here's what pushed me to finally getting this published today.
At times, while cycling, I rant internally at the cars around me. Sometimes I rant out loud. If you endanger my safety, expect to get shouted at.
For the LJ people, I'm not cutting this because it's important. It is not an overstatement to say that if you aren't safe around bikes, you could very, very easily kill someone. Also, I repeat myself a bit. Repetition increases retention, after all.

I find that many people talk about how great it is that people get out and exercise and don't sit around lazing. Other talk about non-car transport and how they'd love to see more people using alternative fuels. Somehow, that enthusiasm seems to leave most when confronted with an actual bike going down the road. Even when cycling along a straightaway, with my wheel on the outside line, cars will move over only enough that they clear my handlebars by inches. I get angry at this, though anger wouldn't help me much if I actually got knocked off.
I refuse to be apologetic for riding my bike. It's irritating that the government sets up bike lanes and designated spots at traffic lights, but no one does a thing to enforce them. And, even getting to those bits often seems to offend drivers.1 (Granted, I can see the difficulties in policing this sort of thing.)
I get even angrier with cars/drivers who take the attitude that the road is intended only for them and that I'm somehow inconveniencing them. I stay as far over as I can on busy roads. For those car drivers getting their hackles up, let me remind you of a few things.
- I can't help what other cyclists do, take it up with them. Those people that bounce on and off the pavements/sidewalks, wear no reflectives/lights/protective gear, and weave in and out of traffic? Yeah, they irritate me too.
- Doing unexpected things to a cyclist (shouting, throwing things, honking, etc) can cause them to lose their balance. Don't do it.
- Don't try to stop us going down the cycle lane. Yes, you might be irritated that we get ahead at a light, but guess what? If my top speed is usually 20kph, you'll beat me eventually. If I can keep up momentum, my cycle is easier. If I have to stop because your wheel in in the cycle lane, it's harder to get back up to speed. Your acceleration is at the tip of your toes and requires very little effort. Mine is hard won after a lot of pedaling. Suck it up. Seriously.
- On country roads, the wind eddies from your wake when you pass us can really affect us sometimes. Give us as much space as you can. That goes double for lorries. A big thanks to the considerate lorries who slow down when passing us (even when coming from the other direction). It is much appreciated.
- Don't cut us off, slam on your brakes, and then turn left from on our right. Granted I can't actually hurt you for it, but I'll curse you with the inability to find trousers in your size for the rest of your life. Is it worth it?
- In case I wasn't clear before, you have acceleration at a moment's notice, we do not. We also do not have brakes that are always as effective as yours. Having to slam ours on might cause us to go arse over elbow and into the ground. Please, try not to kill us. It's only a few seconds of your time.
And, stay out of the cycle lane! Argh.2

I suppose the overall point that many forget is that even if everything else was equal (size, acceleration, etc), the first thing you have to do on a bike is balance. You don't have to balance to keep a car going.

Have a few visuals for those that don't have the time to read the rest of the entry.

1. Give us space. These should be minimums.3

2. Don't turn left across our path. 4 Yes, there are times when you can pass, then turn, and affect us not at all. It's a judgement call, I agree. However, if you're on a city street and have to break the 20 mile an hour limit to pass a cycle and then have to slam on your brakes to make the turn safely, you're the type I'm talking about.

According to Transport for London (as reported in this .pdf from ctc.org.uk), the two most likely things vehicles do that kill cyclists is to swerve into their path (17% of cyclist fatalities, as in #1 above) or cut across their path (25% of cyclist fatalities, as in #2).

Finally, I know that most of this time it's sheer ignorance of the problems involved driving near cyclists that cause the problem. Hopefully, I (and the thousands of other places all over the internet saying the same thing) can dispel some of the ignorance.

What I can't dispel is the urge of some motorists to do these things intentionally, even maliciously. Never decide to 'teach a cyclist a lesson' or to 'just shake them up'. Regardless of their behaviour, your vehicle wins. Don't kill. It's especially irritating when you've looked, assessed, signalled and are threatened by a car. Example from today that brought this on. Aberdonians can reconstruct this in their heads.
I'm heading north on Rosemont Viaduct. I approach the intersection with Skene St. At the intersection, the left lane peels off/is left turn only, the right lane is ahead only. I look, signal, and move into the right lane in order to go through the intersection without having left turners cut across my path. Someone who is planning on turning left zooms up at well over the speed limit and passes me on the left leaving about 2 metres between their car and the kerb. This brings them within 12 inches of my bike. As they turn, one of them shouts something at me (don't know what, however). I've moved out of their lane, I'm not slowing them down, but apparently they decided to 'shake up the cyclist'. As my brother would say, 'InconSIDerate'.
I'd love to say this is infrequent, but it happens almost every other time I cycle.

1- There's some confusion about the rights to the bike box at lights. See Highway Code 61 here I've read elsewhere (though I can't find the reference) that one is allowed to filter up to the bike box if there is a cycle lane leading to it. I generally follow this guideline. Therefore, I will filter to them on Union Street, but would not on, say, Bon Accord St.
2- Highway Code 140 here
3- See Highway Code 212 and 213 here and 163 here
4- This is specifically forbidden by the Highway Code. See 167 here
9th-Jul-2010 03:39 pm (UTC)
Although the traffic code is slightly different here, you've hit on pretty much all the reasons that, while I'll ride on separate bike trails (which have their own dangers, but at least they're more equal between pedestrians and cyclists) and rural roads, I won't ride on town or city streets at all.

I feel terrifically conflicted, as a cyclist and as a motorist, by the bad cyclists (in particular, the ones who ride at speed without looking through red lights), but I know that in time Fate will catch up with them and they'll be a red smear on the roadway. And the worst of their offences don't justify the heedless and casual danger that most drivers inflict on cyclists every day.
9th-Jul-2010 03:46 pm (UTC)
I know! I simply can't understand cyclists who ignore red lights. it seems suicidal.
9th-Jul-2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
I occasionally honk at them, if I'm right up at the front. I usually get the finger from them when I do.
9th-Jul-2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
Good post. Excellent pointers and advice.

I do my best, and Tucson is a very bike-friendly city--one of the best in the US by the cyclists' polls. But the other side of the coin is inconsiderate cyclists. Especially bad are the cycling clubs or groups that clog the roads, twenty, thirty, forty strong, and refuse to allow motorized traffic through. Or the ones on narrow, winding rural roads with ample bike lanes who insist on riding in the road, and will not shift for vehicles hauling trailers (especially horse trailers), or better yet, will swerve across the front of such vehicles. A truck hauling a trailer can't brake on a dime, and especially if there's live cargo back there, can injure the cargo with a sudden, drastic slamming of brakes, or lose control and flip over.

Failure to honor traffic signals is a big one. Their ecological superiority does not entitle them to do whatever they please. That's the root of a lot of the hostility here.

If a cyclist is riding safely and sensibly in the designated lane, following the traffic laws, I do my best to give her a whole lane's worth of room. I'm watchful, too, because I drive a pickup and it's easy to lose a small object, like a cyclist, in the blind spots. (Cyclists should watch where they ride in relation to vehicles--from some angles they're completely invisible to the drivers of those vehicles.)

The problem is that, at least here, the considerate and law-abiding cyclist is in the minority. Far more common is the group riding two, three, or four abreast on a curve with oncoming traffic--if they go single file, there's more than enough room to pass safely, but when they have to ride in a big, social, chatty clot, rambling along any old how, that's an accident waiting to happen.

Everybody needs to be more considerate.
9th-Jul-2010 04:20 pm (UTC)
Good points.

Whether cycling or riding, I am always vigilant of horse trailers. (An old riding instructor made us do the famed riding-around-the-barnyard-in-the-trailer-on-all-fours to let us see what it was like for the horses, I'll never forget the lesson there.) I know the drivers of such get a lot of unwarranted abuse as well.
9th-Jul-2010 04:59 pm (UTC)
Far more common is the group riding two, three, or four abreast on a curve with oncoming traffic--if they go single file, there's more than enough room to pass safely, but when they have to ride in a big, social, chatty clot, rambling along any old how, that's an accident waiting to happen.

The same thing, minus the danger, goes for pedestrians, both inside and outside. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who seem to feel their need to talk to someone they are walking with supersedes everyone else's right to have a pedestrian space (be it pavement, concourse, or hallway) be usable in both directions.

Everybody needs to be more considerate.

Oh so true, in so many areas of daily life.
10th-Jul-2010 08:01 am (UTC)
Far more common is the group riding two, three, or four abreast on a curve with oncoming traffic--if they go single file, there's more than enough room to pass safely, but when they have to ride in a big, social, chatty clot, rambling along any old how, that's an accident waiting to happen.

Often riders do this on purpose where the road is narrow or the view is obstructed. The purpose is to force traffic to wait until it is safe to overtake using the opposite lane, rather than trying to squeeze past where it's not safe to do so.
10th-Jul-2010 08:42 am (UTC)
This. Plus any time, even if there's an inadequate/unrespected bike lane, if you don't feel safe you've every right to claim the lane for yourself. Better to be visible and in the middle of a road and then pull over when you judge it's safe for them to pass than have them fly on up and wedge their way through, even in places where you are going slower than them.

the hatter
11th-Jul-2010 08:00 pm (UTC)
Amen, sister.
12th-Jul-2010 09:13 am (UTC) - Brave!
Wow you are brave cycling in Aberdeen! I'm no so brave, I'm too concerned that I'd be squashed - I've seen examples of the problems you are pointing out in the city. There are more cycle lanes now but as you point out people often drive in them. If a lot more people were to cycle in Aberdeen other road users may get more used to them but so many drivers act like they've never seen a bike on the road before.

For the majority of the time I'm a car driver and I do try to take care of the few cyclists I pass on the way to and from work. There are a few of them which really irk some drivers though. As you said you're not responsbile for other cyclists. One of the things I dislike is when cyclists use pedestrian crossing (I know some are for cyclists too - those excepted) to stop the traffic then cycle across or just join the traffic ahead of the light.

When I lived in Cambridge I used to get quite outraged at the number of cyclists cycling home from the pub at night with no lights, no high-vis clothing and no helmets after more than a few pints. They would wiggle all over the road, once when I was crossing a narrow bridge slowly behind a cylist who had had quite a few by the looks of it who fell off his bike in front of me and gave me quite a fright, luckily I had given him plenty of space. I was pretty angry and did have a bit of a go at him for cycling drunk. He said what's it got to do with you, it's my life etc. Not everyone is Cambridge was like this of course.

Everyone who uses the road needs to take the same responsbility to look out for each other and to be in a fit state to be using whatever method of transport they are on. Cyclists are a lot more vulnerable and so should take some basic precautions, they may think that it'll only effect them but if they are involved in an incident it will effect everyone involved.

Sorry I've done on long enough - maybe I should write my own post on this!
I'll be watcing out for the Aberdeen cyclists - thanks for the reminder.

12th-Jul-2010 09:51 am (UTC) - Re: Brave!
Thanks for reading. :)

maybe I should write my own post on this
Definitely! Anything that gets the conversation going and reaches more people gets a cheer from me.
17th-Jul-2010 07:55 pm (UTC)
a motorist tried to teach me a lesson yesterday when i was making a drop-off in san francisco. there was a line of perhaps 10 cars all waiting in a line that one can either turn left or go straight from. all cars were stopped as a red light and so i took the opportunity to safely get closer to the front of the line so that i wouldn't keep motorists behind me from going once the light changed...

so i got between the first and second car in line (the front car was turning left) and the second car (behind me) laid into his horn (a good 5-8 seconds solid) and started creeping closer and closer to my rear.

the light finally turned green and again the motorist behind me starts to honk his horn, despite the fact that i was waiting behind the car in front of me so that we could both turn left. finally the intersection was clear for me to turn left, which i did. the motorist behind me who never put on his signal to turn ended up turning left behind me, flooring the gas pedal and swooping past me, in front of me, and into the right turn lane in the next block. however, there was already a line of cars in the turning lane so immediately thereafter he had to slam on his breaks.

this is referred to as the "right hook" -- but took place in a far more antagonist manner than is typically the case (when motorists simply don't look for or see cyclists in a lane that is both for those going straight or turning right).

*le sigh*
17th-Jul-2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
That sort of behaviour is so dangerous. It just makes me hateful to motorists. Glad you're not hurt at least!

Do you generally cycle for a commute?
17th-Jul-2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
yes, i commute by bike almost every day.
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