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  1. #1
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    High speed road, tailgating motorists: how to stay safe?

    From another thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by AlmostTrick View Post
    Ok, we all know how common it is for motor vehicles to follow each other much too closely, which makes conditions ripe for the type of accident in the OP. As an individual motorist, it is easy to take steps to ensure that we do not end up in a situation where we are surprised by a situation that we are not prepared to handle. But what about when we cycle in these conditions? What additional steps can a cyclist take to not get rear ended by a tailgating motorist who did not see him until it was too late?

    Hi Vis clothes
    Rear view mirror
    Signal / communication with motorists
    And...
    I think this a great question. In my experience, I've always been able to get motorists to change lanes soon enough but that doesn't guarantee me anything for the rest of my life. I've seen ILTB's lights on a broomstick solution. Anyone have anything else to offer?

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    Twincities MN kuan's Avatar
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    Sometimes we just have to step off the roadway. I do it when running on roads with no shoulder.

    If you notice traffic coming up ahead, and you hear, or see if you have a mirror, traffic coming up from behind, unclip and move off the roadway.

    Then flip them off as they pass you or better yet, moon them.

  3. #3
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    In Finland somebody produced an attachment for your rear rack that sticks out about 2 feet into traffic. It actually had a spinning relector (moved by bikes forward motion) to attact attention. They were briefly imported into the US several years back. Motorists kept their distance as they did not want to scratch up their paintjob!

  4. #4
    Senior Member rando's Avatar
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    lots of people advocate for having bright lights and blinkies even in the daytime for visibility.
    if you can, find a mellower route.
    "Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world". ~Grant Petersen

    Cyclists fare best when they recognize that there are times when acting vehicularly is not the best practice, and are flexible enough to do what is necessary as the situation warrants.--Me

  5. #5
    Yabba-Dabba-Doo! AlmostTrick's Avatar
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    For those who may not know, this question was raised in this thread,

    Bicycle - Auto Accident

    where a motorist swerved out of the lane to avoid a cyclist, and the motorist following him was unable to avoid hitting the cyclist. I ride in the same conditions for a short distance (a little less than a mile) every time I commute to work as there is no alternative. I have found it best to not allow the first motor vehicle to get close behind (without slowing down) if at all possible. This way no tailgater behind him can be surprised by my presence. Some of the things that work for me are...

    Hi Vis safety vest or jersey
    Blinking tail light(s)
    Crank it up. (speed)
    Get in the center of the lane. Not the edge, not the right tire track. It must be completely obvious that a car CAN NOT squeeze by.
    Monitor with my mirror. Before a vehicle gets close, I move slightly farther left and signal slow / stop. (sometimes with a look back) If they are not responding by changing lanes or slowing down, I start pumping the slow / stop signal. This lets them know I'm NOT moving off the road.
    Hold your ground and be prepared to bail, but don't bail needlessly.

    Over 200 trips and I have never had to bail off the road yet. The worst I've had is a few buzzes, but these I can see ahead of time and have space to move towards the right as they pass. I would like to hear other peoples suggestions for making these conditions safer.
    Last edited by AlmostTrick; 08-17-07 at 09:52 PM.
    Have Bike, Will Travel

  6. #6
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951 View Post
    I think this a great question. In my experience, I've always been able to get motorists to change lanes soon enough but that doesn't guarantee me anything for the rest of my life. I've seen ILTB's lights on a broomstick solution. Anyone have anything else to offer?
    Iíve been experimenting with being further left (smack in front of the driver or near left stripe) or further right (assuming that position will be out of traffic flow.)

    So basically be in their face or totally out of their way.
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  7. #7
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    lobby for bike facilities on those types of roads where mixing it up with high speed traffic with only narrow lanes. Clean, wide shoulder, or a wide lane of 16-18 feet, better yet a preffered class bike lane.

    until then, everything else mentioned by Almost Trick.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  8. #8
    Perineal Pressurized dobber's Avatar
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    Find a different route?
    This is Africa, 1943. War spits out its violence overhead and the sandy graveyard swallows it up. Her name is King Nine, B-25, medium bomber, Twelfth Air Force. On a hot, still morning she took off from Tunisia to bomb the southern tip of Italy. An errant piece of flak tore a hole in a wing tank and, like a wounded bird, this is where she landed, not to return on this day, or any other day.

  9. #9
    Twincities MN kuan's Avatar
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    Seriously, I don't think taking 10 seconds out of your busy schedule and stepping off the roadway will make a huge difference in your life. We talk about drivers being impatient, we can have some patience ourselves.

  10. #10
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlmostTrick View Post
    I have found it best to not allow the first motor vehicle to get close behind (without slowing down) if at all possible. This way no tailgater behind him can be surprised by my presence. Some of the things that work for me are...

    Hi Vis vest or jersey
    Blinking tail light(s)safety
    Crank it up. (speed)
    Get in the center of the lane. Not the edge, not the right tire track. It must be completely obvious that a car CAN NOT squeeze by.
    Monitor with my mirror. Before a vehicle gets close, I move slightly farther left and signal slow / stop. (sometimes with a look back) If they are not responding by changing lanes or slowing down, I start pumping the slow / stop signal. This lets them know I'm NOT moving off the road.
    Hold your ground and be prepared to bail, but don't bail needlessly.
    Several comments:
    1. Some drivers have no problem seeing a cyclist and of course the lights and Hi Vis vest help,; the problem remains that for whatever reason they don't begin to alter lateral to pass until the last moment. This leaves the cyclist in the traffic lane in the position of "suddenly appearing" to the following vehicle's motorist. None of your suggested courses of actions would seem to alter that fact.

    2. Hand signals, especially "slow / stop signal" from a bicyclist are probably undecipherable to most motorists approaching at 55mph and are invisible in hours of darkness.

    3. Unless the cyclist can "speed up" to maintain a speed of approx. 40 mph there still is a significant speed differential between the cyclist and the following automobiles with a relatively short time for reaction by the second motorist in the scenario under discussion.

    4. I think your statement about monitoring with the mirror and "signaling" by moving left while keeping options open to bail out is very good advice. Maybe because that is what I do on the six mile stretch of my 12 mile commute that is under those conditions. And of course use my locally renowned light tower so that following cars can see me prior to the first car making a move to pass.

  11. #11
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kuan View Post
    Seriously, I don't think taking 10 seconds out of your busy schedule and stepping off the roadway will make a huge difference in your life. We talk about drivers being impatient, we can have some patience ourselves.
    Perhaps if you understood the scenario under discussion you might offer more useful advice. Thanks anyway.

  12. #12
    Twincities MN kuan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Perhaps if you understood the scenario under discussion you might offer more useful advice. Thanks anyway.
    You talk like you're the only one who has ever been run off the road.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlmostTrick View Post
    For those who may not know, this question was raised in this thread,

    Bicycle - Auto Accident

    Crank it up. (speed)
    Get in the center of the lane. Not the edge, not the right tire track. It must be completely obvious that a car CAN NOT squeeze by.
    Not everyone has the luxury of taking up the lane like a car can. In Montreal apparently by law it states cyclist are to keep to the far right in between the lane where the cars are parked on the side of the road and the first line of the right most hand lane.

    My gf freaks at me every time I just use logic and say that isn't safe nor does it make any sense and to just stay in the middle of that traffic lane behind the car. More motorists see you in the middle of their lane / following right in their rear view. Not only that, I find the people behind you when you do that get pissed off, but I would rather have my life and pay a ticket then pay no ticket and possibly not have my life.
    Be Happy, Live Life, Be Strong ~j.michaud / dzinehaus

  14. #14
    Senior Member
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    A couple of comments...

    Quote Originally Posted by The Human Car View Post
    I’ve been experimenting with being further left (smack in front of the driver or near left stripe) or further right (assuming that position will be out of traffic flow.)

    So basically be in their face or totally out of their way.
    This is basically my own strategy regardless of where I'm riding. Unless I'm in a situation where I know I have the motorist's attention like when a driver has already slowed down behind me, I do not use anything but a completely in the way position or a completely out of the way lane position. I find this help immensely with getting the proper response from motorists.

    Quote Originally Posted by dobber
    Find a different route?
    From what I seen driving and cycling on different roads, just about any road, save for the very lightly trafficked roads (wouldn't we all love to be surrounded by them?) has the potential for a cyclist to be approached at high speed by tailgating motorists. Some of my more tense moments in cycling have happened on 25mph roads that are well removed from the main arterials.

    Quote Originally Posted by kuan
    Seriously, I don't think taking 10 seconds out of your busy schedule and stepping off the roadway will make a huge difference in your life. We talk about drivers being impatient, we can have some patience ourselves.
    Depending on the type of road you are travelling on, you could be waiting for a few minutes every few minutes in order to not have traffic behind you. This would describe my commute. FWIW, I do have an alternate route but one of the roads I need to use to make it worthwhile (it's a shorter but higher hassle-factor commute) is currently under construction.

    Quote Originally Posted by dzinehaus
    Not everyone has the luxury of taking up the lane like a car can. In Montreal apparently by law it states cyclist are to keep to the far right in between the lane where the cars are parked on the side of the road and the first line of the right most hand lane.
    I'm sure if you read the actual law it will have plenty of exceptions for when you can use the full traffic lane. If exceptions are not explicitly stated, words like "safe" or "practicable" leave the judgement up to the cyclist to determine where they should be riding. With a narrow lane or 12-14 foot wide lane next to parked cars, it's pretty well accepted that "as far right as practicable" is dead center in the lane.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Several comments:
    1. Some drivers have no problem seeing a cyclist and of course the lights and Hi Vis vest help,; the problem remains that for whatever reason they don't begin to alter lateral to pass until the last moment. This leaves the cyclist in the traffic lane in the position of "suddenly appearing" to the following vehicle's motorist. None of your suggested courses of actions would seem to alter that fact.

    2. Hand signals, especially "slow / stop signal" from a bicyclist are probably undecipherable to most motorists approaching at 55mph and are invisible in hours of darkness.

    3. Unless the cyclist can "speed up" to maintain a speed of approx. 40 mph there still is a significant speed differential between the cyclist and the following automobiles with a relatively short time for reaction by the second motorist in the scenario under discussion.

    4. I think your statement about monitoring with the mirror and "signaling" by moving left while keeping options open to bail out is very good advice. Maybe because that is what I do on the six mile stretch of my 12 mile commute that is under those conditions. And of course use my locally renowned light tower so that following cars can see me prior to the first car making a move to pass.
    All good points. Thanks for chiming in.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    And of course use my locally renowned light tower so that following cars can see me prior to the first car making a move to pass.

    What's this "light tower"? Can you tell us more?

  17. #17
    One speed: FAST ! fordfasterr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dzinehaus View Post
    Not everyone has the luxury of taking up the lane like a car can. In Montreal apparently by law it states cyclist are to keep to the far right in between the lane where the cars are parked on the side of the road and the first line of the right most hand lane.

    My gf freaks at me every time I just use logic and say that isn't safe nor does it make any sense and to just stay in the middle of that traffic lane behind the car. More motorists see you in the middle of their lane / following right in their rear view. Not only that, I find the people behind you when you do that get pissed off, but I would rather have my life and pay a ticket then pay no ticket and possibly not have my life.



    pffffft... EFF laws.

    I would not obey any law the puts my life at risk.

    I value my life above any law.
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  18. #18
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by treehog59 View Post
    What's this "light tower"? Can you tell us more?
    Sure. Click attached thumbnails.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  19. #19
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by AlmostTrick View Post
    For those who may not know, this question was raised in this thread,

    Bicycle - Auto Accident

    where a motorist swerved out of the lane to avoid a cyclist, and the motorist following him was unable to avoid hitting the cyclist. I ride in the same conditions for a short distance (a little less than a mile) every time I commute to work as there is no alternative. I have found it best to not allow the first motor vehicle to get close behind (without slowing down) if at all possible. This way no tailgater behind him can be surprised by my presence. Some of the things that work for me are...

    Hi Vis safety vest or jersey
    Blinking tail light(s)
    Crank it up. (speed)
    Get in the center of the lane. Not the edge, not the right tire track. It must be completely obvious that a car CAN NOT squeeze by.
    Monitor with my mirror. Before a vehicle gets close, I move slightly farther left and signal slow / stop. (sometimes with a look back) If they are not responding by changing lanes or slowing down, I start pumping the slow / stop signal. This lets them know I'm NOT moving off the road.
    Hold your ground and be prepared to bail, but don't bail needlessly
    .


    Over 200 trips and I have never had to bail off the road yet. The worst I've had is a few buzzes, but these I can see ahead of time and have space to move towards the right as they pass. I would like to hear other peoples suggestions for making these conditions safer.

    Several comments:
    1. Some drivers have no problem seeing a cyclist and of course the lights and Hi Vis vest help,; the problem remains that for whatever reason they don't begin to alter lateral to pass until the last moment. This leaves the cyclist in the traffic lane in the position of "suddenly appearing" to the following vehicle's motorist. None of your suggested courses of actions would seem to alter that fact.

    2. Hand signals, especially "slow / stop signal" from a bicyclist are probably undecipherable to most motorists approaching at 55mph and are invisible in hours of darkness.

    3. Unless the cyclist can "speed up" to maintain a speed of approx. 40 mph there still is a significant speed differential between the cyclist and the following automobiles with a relatively short time for reaction by the second motorist in the scenario under discussion.

    4. I think your statement about monitoring with the mirror and "signaling" by moving left while keeping options open to bail out is very good advice. Maybe because that is what I do on the six mile stretch of my 12 mile commute that is under those conditions. And of course use my locally renowned light tower so that following cars can see me prior to the first car making a move to pass.
    My commute includes a few miles along a 6 lane arterial with 45 mph limit, 50+ mph actual normal traffic speeds, and relatively narrow outside lanes, a freeway overpass, etc. I encounter traffic approaching from behind quite frequently.

    I was going to reply to this thread with pretty much the same response that AlmostTrick provided, especially the parts I bolded above. What I would add to that list, which I've mentioned many times before, is zig-zagging and turning your head to look back.

    With respect to ILTB's points...

    1. The reason I monitor with a mirror is to avoid a situation where "they don't begin to alter lateral to pass until the last moment". In other words, I take action long before it gets to that point. What doing stuff like adjusting lane position to be further left, zig-zagging, using the slow/stop left arm signal, and looking back does is get their attention, causing them to slow down and/or alteral lateral to pass well before the last moment. If they don't, then you have to be prepared to bail, but I've never had any trouble preventing that scenario. Monitoring with a mirror also lets you know whether there even is, or may be, another vehicle behind the one approaching. In short, if someone approaches from behind quickly and doesn't "adjust lateral to pass until the last moment", I would consider it to be a failure on my part to allow that to happen.

    2. I find the slow/stop hand signal to get driver's attention with a very high rate of success. Until about a year ago I used it much more often than I do now. This is because I've started using the lateral adjustment more often, and that seems to be just as effective and easier. If someone approaching from behind is coming too fast, I look back over my shoulder, and move over a foot or two to the left (like from the center of the lane towards the left tire track). At night with a bright flashing red rear light and large red reflectors, the lateral movement accententuated with some zig-zagging seems to do the trick. But I still find the slow/stop signal to be useful. I used it this morning on the way to work, as a matter of fact, on a downhill right-hand curve when I noticed traffic up ahead was backed up from a red light further than normal. As usual, the driver behind me immediatedly slowed in response.

    3. The time to take action is long before the point where the 2nd motorist has a relatively short time for reaction. Again, if I ever allowed the situation to get to that point, I would consider it to be my fault. But, you're right, if you do allow it to get to that point, the amount of reaction time might not be enough.

    4. Agreed with the bold part, but I see no need for the light poll. My focus is on avoiding the situation by dealing with it while the guy behind me is still far enough back. Thus there is no need to be seen yet by the one behind him, because I'm causing the first guy to move laterally and/or slow before it gets to that critical point.

  20. #20
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dzinehaus View Post
    Not everyone has the luxury of taking up the lane like a car can. In Montreal apparently by law it states cyclist are to keep to the far right in between the lane where the cars are parked on the side of the road and the first line of the right most hand lane.
    I would double check that which you believe is "apparently" true. Look up the actual law, and read it carefully, paying particular attention to use of phrasing such as "as far right as practicable" (which is legally very different from "as far right as possible" - very often it is possible to be further right, but it is not practicable to ride there, because, for example, it encourage vehicle drivers to pass too closely), and the various exceptions listed for when the edict to keep right applies.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Sure. Click attached thumbnails.
    Most excellent. Don't suppose you've done a brief writeup on how you anchored everything? I'm strongly thinking about throwing something like that together for this winter.

  22. #22
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head View Post

    1. ...In short, if someone approaches from behind quickly and doesn't "adjust lateral to pass until the last moment", I would consider it to be a failure on my part to allow that to happen.


    3. The time to take action is long before the point where the 2nd motorist has a relatively short time for reaction. Again, if I ever allowed the situation to get to that point, I would consider it to be my fault. But, you're right, if you do allow it to get to that point, the amount of reaction time might not be enough..
    Fine; you believe that your wiggling about and steely eyed gazes, as well as hand signals can be counted on to control the actions of motorists who follow you, including those that cannot see you. That's why you have the rep that you have earned.

    I think very little of your opinions and advice about cycling in any environment outside the friendly confines of Planet Helmet Head.

  23. #23
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Fine; you believe that your wiggling about and steely eyed gazes, as well as hand signals can be counted on to control the actions of motorists who follow you, including those that cannot see you. That's why you have the rep that you have earned.

    I think very little of your opinions and advice about cycling in any environment outside the friendly confines of Planet Helmet Head.
    You know, there is really no need to be insulting.

    My "opinion and advice" is based on what works very well for me and is consistent with that provided by many other cyclists who have studied these issues closely.

    For example:
    http://www.cyclistview.com/laneposition.htm

  24. #24
    Opt-in Member GreenGrasshoppr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dobber View Post
    Find a different route?
    This is not always possible for everyone...

    In my case, I have a choice of four more or less direct routes between my home and my workplace.

    Each one has its difficulties, ranging from bad shoulders, hills and aggressive cager traffic.

    The flatter the route, the more aggressive the traffic, IMHO.

    Thankfully, 40% of the route that is closest to my workplace is on a MUP, so I catch a small break there in the morning... on my way back after work, the number of MUP annoyances increases dramatically.

  25. #25
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head View Post
    You know, there is really no need to be insulting.

    My "opinion and advice" is based on what works very well for me and is consistent with that provided by many other cyclists who have studied these issues closely.

    For example:
    http://www.cyclistview.com/laneposition.htm
    Not an insult at all. Just an honest evaluation of the value of your advice which appears to be unique and based on your dogma clouded vision of the world. Sorry that you feel that a dose of reality is an insult.

    The cited reference from your Cal Pals doesn't deal with "the issue" of this scenario at all.

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