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  1. #1
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    VC on high-speed arterials?

    Being away from the lovely cycling utopia where I normally live, I've been exposed to a lot of suburbia-style road designs that I'm not familiar with riding on. While I know some alternate routes that can help me keep off the arterials that concern me, there's really no way to avoid these arterials on some of their worst sections.

    What has really concerned me though is a tendency I've started to notice in drivers making last-second merges to avoid running me down (as I really have no choice but to take the lane). Even worse, the clueless driver behind them who had an obstructed view has even less time to realize what's going on, and these roads are sopping wet and being traveled at speeds of 50-55 mph. It's not that they don't have a lane that they could easily pass me in, but they're waiting until the last second to do so... and that ability for them to merge over is dependent on whether traffic is in that lane or not. And the car behind is put in an even more precarious position.

    I've literally taken to walking my bike down the sidewalk on the few occasions I actually try to ride my bike around here (couldn't ride it... power lines and fire hydrants right in the middle) to avoid some of these stretches, because it just doesn't feel safe. I really don't know what to do... the last thing I want is become roadkill for some SUV, but I also don't want to feel mandated to drive a car to get around town (which has essentially become my current solution... I drive my car into other neighborhoods where these street designs aren't used).

    Anybody got advice? Like I said, I'm really concerned about turning in to roadkill here and this seems like a really bad thing to have happening behind you. Anybody think anything or have experience with this?
    Last edited by Saving Hawaii; 11-14-08 at 03:25 AM. Reason: posted here because I'm asking for advice, not trying to debate VC

  2. #2
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    How bright are your tail-lights? Make sure to maximize your visibility.
    Current stable: Sun Atlas X-type (mine), Trek Navigator 3 (wife), two Sun Revolution cruisers (wife, daughter)

  3. #3
    Arrogant Safety Nanny
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    Yeah that's my worst nightmare...taking the lane on a high speed road, SUV swerves at the last second into the left lane, vehicle tailgating them at high speed doesn't see what's going on doesn't have time to react. Usually I take the FULL lane to try to get the people coming up from behind to realize they have to change lanes to pass as soon as possible...hopefully they change lanes before the last second. If I see somebody coming up fast in the same lane looking like they're gonna try a last second lane change I pay alot of attention to the rear view mirror to see if there's gonna be a last second vehicle behind them, and prepare to bail if necessary. Of course the idiot tailgating at high speed behind the 1st vehicle would be at fault if they rear ended you, but that doesn't make you any better off if they do hit you.

    I do agree with Justice. I run 2 Dinotte 140Ls flashing to the rear minimum at all times day or night, and always wear something in ANSI lime (safety vest, shirt, or windbreaker as appropriate).

    Be confident/assertive, take the full lane, but pay attention to what's going on behind you when it looks like things could get hairy, and don't be afraid to swerve into the gutter if things start going bad in a hurry.

    You may also mention the problem to local law enforcement and see if they could start ticketing people for following too closely and/or speeding in the areas you're having problems.

  4. #4
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    high speed arterials with high ADT are tedious during typical high volume commute times.

    Like others have said, maximize your visibility and use a mirror. intersections ahead also pose potential problems, i recommend daytime visible flashing LEDs on the front to increase your visibility to motorists pullouts and the left crossing your path.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

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    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saving Hawaii View Post
    What has really concerned me though is a tendency I've started to notice in drivers making last-second merges to avoid running me down (as I really have no choice but to take the lane). Even worse, the clueless driver behind them who had an obstructed view has even less time to realize what's going on, and these roads are sopping wet and being traveled at speeds of 50-55 mph. It's not that they don't have a lane that they could easily pass me in, but they're waiting until the last second to do so... and that ability for them to merge over is dependent on whether traffic is in that lane or not. And the car behind is put in an even more precarious position.
    I share your scenario for 12 of the 24 mile R/T distance of my commute and also your concern. I also agree with the other posters who recommend good rear lighting and use of a mirror to keep aware of traffic to the rear. I also suggest mounting lights as high as possible to deal with the problem of the traffic behind the first car. Pictured is the array of lights I use for my commute which is in hours of darkness every morning for 10 months of the year. A few BF posters have posted smirking posts about the Freddishness of such lights, but I seriously doubt that they share our cycling scenario.

    I prefer to ride in the right third of the 10 foot wide lane; seems to cause much less bad attitude from drivers than taking the center of lane; 99% of drivers merge into the left lane and give plenty of room, a few merge left only as far as they need to and give me about 3 feet of clearance.
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    Yabba-Dabba-Doo! AlmostTrick's Avatar
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    Another good read on the same subject...

    High speed road, tailgating motorists: how to stay safe?
    Have Bike, Will Travel

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    I share your scenario for 12 of the 24 mile R/T distance of my commute and also your concern. I also agree with the other posters who recommend good rear lighting and use of a mirror to keep aware of traffic to the rear. I also suggest mounting lights as high as possible to deal with the problem of the traffic behind the first car. Pictured is the array of lights I use for my commute which is in hours of darkness every morning for 10 months of the year. A few BF posters have posted smirking posts about the Freddishness of such lights, but I seriously doubt that they share our cycling scenario.

    I prefer to ride in the right third of the 10 foot wide lane; seems to cause much less bad attitude from drivers than taking the center of lane; 99% of drivers merge into the left lane and give plenty of room, a few merge left only as far as they need to and give me about 3 feet of clearance.
    That is a great-looking light array. Height is good in rolling terrain, but I think the most effective bicycle lighting is at motorist eye level, which admittedly varies considerably from Mazda Miata or Tesla roadster to jacked-up pickup or SUV. I concur with a right-of-center lane bias on fast roads, but I do take the center of the lane on a 30mph/50kph road in a central business district with a mix of diagonal and parallel parking.
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  8. #8
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saving Hawaii View Post
    Being away from the lovely cycling utopia where I normally live, I've been exposed to a lot of suburbia-style road designs that I'm not familiar with riding on. While I know some alternate routes that can help me keep off the arterials that concern me, there's really no way to avoid these arterials on some of their worst sections.

    What has really concerned me though is a tendency I've started to notice in drivers making last-second merges to avoid running me down (as I really have no choice but to take the lane). Even worse, the clueless driver behind them who had an obstructed view has even less time to realize what's going on, and these roads are sopping wet and being traveled at speeds of 50-55 mph. It's not that they don't have a lane that they could easily pass me in, but they're waiting until the last second to do so... and that ability for them to merge over is dependent on whether traffic is in that lane or not. And the car behind is put in an even more precarious position.

    I've literally taken to walking my bike down the sidewalk on the few occasions I actually try to ride my bike around here (couldn't ride it... power lines and fire hydrants right in the middle) to avoid some of these stretches, because it just doesn't feel safe. I really don't know what to do... the last thing I want is become roadkill for some SUV, but I also don't want to feel mandated to drive a car to get around town (which has essentially become my current solution... I drive my car into other neighborhoods where these street designs aren't used).

    Anybody got advice? Like I said, I'm really concerned about turning in to roadkill here and this seems like a really bad thing to have happening behind you. Anybody think anything or have experience with this?
    Yeah these situations are not comfortable at all. One road I commute on has a 50MPH speed limit (which is never followed... I know because when I drive it, nearly everyone is speeding). On occasion a maintenance crew (phone, power, lawn) will park in the BL and I have to take the lane to ride around... watching the motorists peel off as you described, while coming closer and closer is very unnerving... and the most irritating thing is they have 3 lanes going this way, they could easily move over and lend me one lane.

    If I have the opportunity the safest thing is to signal and slow down a car and use them for a shield as you take the lane... but that takes a co-operative motorist... often they don't want to go slow on the fast arterials either.

    In my area this is not just a suburban issue, but often such arterials connect mesas that are separated by canyons... and there are no alternative roads, or the alternative is freeway.

  9. #9
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    The rules and principles for riding on the 4-lane arterials are the same as they are on any other streets... there's just a lot more mental pressure simply from the increased number of vehicles, but the traffic rules are just the same as anywhere else. Give yourself some extra time to set yourself up for lane changes and turns, and ride within your comfort level. Being anxious is okay, but being scared means you're beyond your level of experience and confidence. Ride as you're comfortable, and work up to more complex situations as you feel you're ready.

    Tom

  10. #10
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pscyclepath View Post
    The rules and principles for riding on the 4-lane arterials are the same as they are on any other streets... there's just a lot more mental pressure simply from the increased number of vehicles, but the traffic rules are just the same as anywhere else. Give yourself some extra time to set yourself up for lane changes and turns, and ride within your comfort level. Being anxious is okay, but being scared means you're beyond your level of experience and confidence. Ride as you're comfortable, and work up to more complex situations as you feel you're ready.

    Tom
    Of course the rules are the same... But bear in mind it is not the cyclist that is doing anything different... it is the motor traffic moving at high speeds that changes the picture... they only have so much time to see us, determine that they need to change lanes, and react, and the following motorists have even less time... never mind that a cell phone in any motorists hand changes their reaction time.

    Giving yourself "extra time" doesn't mean squat when the motorists are not even visible down the road past some curve when you start your moves... and then they arrive on the scene when you are mid road...

    The real issue is freeway like speeds on roads we share. Such speeds reduce the amount of time for recognition, determination and reaction... that is a basic law of physics.

    20 years ago such speeds did not exist on typical surface streets... the national speed limit was 55 and arterial roads were usually signed at less than that. Times have changed. I can show you shared roads that are marked at 65MPH... does that make sense for cyclists and other road users???

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    Tom, I don't think that the problem lies in me being uncomfortable riding in traffic or asserting myself on the road. I have no problem with lane changes either, and this isn't what this is about. Rules are wonderful and all, but drivers aren't especially good at obeying them and just because it isn't legal for them to turn me into roadkill isn't making me happy about this situation. What I'm asking is how one would best to go about dealing with this situation. My alternatives are driving and walking... to leave my neighborhood there is essentially no way to avoid the streets where this happens at 55mph. Can't wait to go back to where I normally ride.



    I took the liberty of creating the absolute worst MSPaint image ever to illustrate what I'm having a problem with.

    -----

    As for the visibility thing, nice bright green jacket and decent rear-facing lights that I have on flash. I've no doubt that the car in front of the chain can see me... but with all the glare and a vehicle obstructing their view of me, it's hard for every other car in this chain to see me until the car in front decides to swerve into the left-lane at the last second.
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    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saving Hawaii View Post
    ...but with all the glare and a vehicle obstructing their view of me, it's hard for every other car in this chain to see me until the car in front decides to swerve into the left-lane at the last second.
    That's why I recommend as high a placement as rear lights as possible. The purpose of my light pole is to deal with this specific issue of visibility to trailing motorists. And it has worked quite well in resolving it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    The real issue is freeway like speeds on roads we share. Such speeds reduce the amount of time for recognition, determination and reaction... that is a basic law of physics.
    Exactly. You can VC from Alaska to Florida, but the risk level of the maneuver will always be proportionally related to the speed of passing auto traffic. The rider's skills become less and less relevant as the cars move faster; it simply becomes a question of whether or not they see you in time to avoid you.

    JesseDuncan:I just love how "cars will be forced to cross the double yellow lines on dangerous limited visibility roads".

    I don't want to have a head on but oh god, I HAVE to fling myself into oncoming traffic to pass, theres no alternative!!!

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    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    That's why I recommend as high a placement as rear lights as possible. The purpose of my light pole is to deal with this specific issue of visibility to trailing motorists. And it has worked quite well in resolving it.
    Do you find motorists moving over well in advance and giving you a nice margin of safety?

    It is those late peel off motorists that get me shaking in my boots... watching each subsequent car come closer and closer before deciding to peel off...

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    uke
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    As a side note, due to the vast speed differentials, riding at 15 mph in 55 mph traffic is no different (in terms of the damage you'd experience if hit) from walking in the right lane amidst 43 mph traffic. If you get hit, the chance of death is 85% at a 40 mph speed differential (there was a study done on this in Australia). This is why your visibility is pretty much the only thing you have going for you.

    JesseDuncan:I just love how "cars will be forced to cross the double yellow lines on dangerous limited visibility roads".

    I don't want to have a head on but oh god, I HAVE to fling myself into oncoming traffic to pass, theres no alternative!!!

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    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    Do you find motorists moving over well in advance and giving you a nice margin of safety?

    It is those late peel off motorists that get me shaking in my boots... watching each subsequent car come closer and closer before deciding to peel off...
    There are a few dummies that pull that stunt, but it is much rarer than before I installed the light tower. And the cars behind have already seen me due to the high placement of the lights.

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    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by uke View Post
    As a side note, due to the vast speed differentials, riding at 15 mph in 55 mph traffic is no different (in terms of the damage you'd experience if hit) from walking in the right lane amidst 43 mph traffic. If you get hit, the chance of death is 85% at a 40 mph speed differential (there was a study done on this in Australia). This is why your visibility is pretty much the only thing you have going for you.
    Well heck that means you have a 15% survival rate... I am sure someone can twist that to mean that it is a perfectly safe thing to do.

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    One thing I've also noticed is that when a vehicle that has been trailing me in the right lane finally starts edging over into traffic in the left lane, the impatient driver in the next car back will often hit the gas while veering to the extreme right side of the lane in order to try to pass faster... I guess they are assuming that the car in front of them was changing lanes for an upcoming left-hand turn, and there is nothing in front of them but open road in the right lane.

    And of course riding further left in a "lane control" position means they see you that much later. I've had a few cars almost wedge in between me and the curb.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by JusticeZero View Post
    How bright are your tail-lights? Make sure to maximize your visibility.
    I Ride twice each day on a Two Lane with No Shoulder.
    The vehicles get released from a red Light and come in groups of 20 or 30 at one time.
    Once the First One moves Left, they All Follow.
    Add a Dinotte 140 L, last week. Now They move left sooner and furhter left.
    Mounted the light at driver eye level.

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  20. #20
    www.chipsea.blogspot.com ChipSeal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saving Hawaii View Post
    Anybody got advice? Like I said, I'm really concerned about turning in to roadkill here and this seems like a really bad thing to have happening behind you. Anybody think anything or have experience with this?
    I have hundreds of hours of experience cycling on this type of road.

    The situation you fear simply does not occur. Traffic in the on-coming "platoon" spot you from afar (If you are taking the lane) and either slow or merge without a fuss. I am as calm on this type of road as I am at my keyboard.

    If you ride to the right, the drivers in the first vehicles will resist the idea that they have to merge, and may put off the decision until the last moment. If you are riding large, making it plain that there is no way they can share the lane with you, they begin merging at the moment they see you.

    Tailwinds!
    Vehicular cycling techniques have not been tried and found difficult. They have been presumed difficult and not tried.

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    uke
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    Well heck that means you have a 15% survival rate... I am sure someone can twist that to mean that it is a perfectly safe thing to do.
    Haha, indeed!

    JesseDuncan:I just love how "cars will be forced to cross the double yellow lines on dangerous limited visibility roads".

    I don't want to have a head on but oh god, I HAVE to fling myself into oncoming traffic to pass, theres no alternative!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChipSeal View Post
    I have hundreds of hours of experience cycling on this type of road.
    Spend a lot of time in suburban Seattle, do you?

    The situation you fear simply does not occur. Traffic in the on-coming "platoon" spot you from afar (If you are taking the lane) and either slow or merge without a fuss. I am as calm on this type of road as I am at my keyboard.
    So, you simply don't believe me. I don't feel at all comfortable on the few roads where this happens (which are unavoidable, as they're the only way off of the hill that I live on). You talk about slowing and merging without a fuss, and I'm getting buzzed by cars moving in the mid 50s... usually not the first car to do this, it's usually the second that buzzes me. The first saw me and decided to merge at the last second, and the second freaks out and barely misses me.

    If you ride to the right, the drivers in the first vehicles will resist the idea that they have to merge, and may put off the decision until the last moment. If you are riding large, making it plain that there is no way they can share the lane with you, they begin merging at the moment they see you.
    I'm not white-lining it buddy, I'm pretty forceful about riding well into the lane or completely onto the shoulder (which is only at times). No gutterbunny operations here.

    Either way, I've given up. Driving the bike off this bloody hill is about the only thing that feels safe, and I don't feel like an idiot for walking a bike nearly half a mile. At this point, the only convenience of the bike is that it's fun... any practicality is lost in the fact that I'm driving it halfway to anywhere. I'll be out of this dump soon enough.

  23. #23
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChipSeal View Post
    I have hundreds of hours of experience cycling on this type of road.

    The situation you fear simply does not occur. Traffic in the on-coming "platoon" spot you from afar (If you are taking the lane) and either slow or merge without a fuss. I am as calm on this type of road as I am at my keyboard.

    If you ride to the right, the drivers in the first vehicles will resist the idea that they have to merge, and may put off the decision until the last moment. If you are riding large, making it plain that there is no way they can share the lane with you, they begin merging at the moment they see you.

    Tailwinds!
    Yeah, sure, thanks for your sage knowledge about what others experience. Your experience (hundreds of hours!) has made you as wise as the former guru of "large," alpha dawg cycling. Your observations are just as useful to others too!

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruiser View Post
    One thing I've also noticed is that when a vehicle that has been trailing me in the right lane finally starts edging over into traffic in the left lane, the impatient driver in the next car back will often hit the gas while veering to the extreme right side of the lane in order to try to pass faster... I guess they are assuming that the car in front of them was changing lanes for an upcoming left-hand turn, and there is nothing in front of them but open road in the right lane.

    And of course riding further left in a "lane control" position means they see you that much later. I've had a few cars almost wedge in between me and the curb.
    This is why once I see the car directly behind me start to merge left, I'll sometimes move a little to the right so the vehicle behind them will see me sooner. This is not necessary when the first car is small, and anyone behind them can clearly see you.

    The only "buzzings" I receive seem to be more of the intentional type by motorists who clearly seen me but are upset and want to teach me a lesson, not motorists who didn't see me until the last second. Not much I can do about that except be aware and prepared to move a little right.
    Have Bike, Will Travel

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    i have been using the generic orange safety flag mounted to white fiberglass pole. This is 6 feet (70") tall. It is mounted on inner vertical support of rear rack, flag base stands 14 " from ground, or 7 feet total height!

    Currently, i have a red string light set wrapped around the pole length, the battery/controls inside rackpack. This #12 mini-light set is LED, battery powered, waterproof, and has flashing or steady modes. With it, i can slightly wiggle when i see cars approach from my rear view mirror and notice their choice of space is contrary to mine. The flag pole/lights become an active arc, the more i wiggle, the greater the arc!.

    This may be somewhat of an overkill, but added to the other lightsets i use (helmet and front handlebar lights - white, steady and flashing), 3 rear red steady/flashing lightsets on each rear pannier and rackpack, i have increased comfidence of being seen. The pole-light set is my latest addition.

    The above listed light set-up is passive though. I am looking into active lighting and would appreciate best available, will check archives for insight.

    Be Seen!

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