I decided to post this experience in A&S as a reasonable response to the cycling "Obey Every Law" members of this fine place, and for every one else who might be mildly interested to "Meh...see it every day". For those of you "worried" about how motorists perceive us out there this experience will highlight why I don't worry about motorist perception of cyclist behavior all that much.
I took a road trip by automobile this past Thanksgiving weekend - an evil and hateful time to drive a car on Interstate highways - and as always I start out loving my fellow man with a live and let live attitude, my wife and wanderlust by my side. The journey covered 160 miles mostly on Interstate 10 between New Orleans, LA to just beyond Mobile Alabama. I set the cruise control at 72mph in a 70mph zone.
Here are some observations keeping in mind that I probably will never encounter other motorists driving very close to my speed:
Most of the large Semi-Tractor-Trailer vehicles were traveling roughly my speed - give or take 2mph.
By my count (roughly) I would catch up to a slower vehicle (probably going EXACTLY 70mph) every ten minutes or so. On some of the more crowded stretches of roadway as many as 300 passenger vehicles would pass me for every vehicle I passed. For the most part most motorists maintained a respectful distance behind the car in front of them UNTIL congestion caused us to slow down below 70mph. This is when the fun started. Tailgating, dangerous and frequent lane changes, expressions of road rage, and just silly behavior based on the fact that NONE OF US were going to bypass the traffic ahead. At one point Sunday around noon I decided to bail from the Interstate and use a parallel state highway instead. I was not all that worried about being involved in an accident but more getting TRAPPED on the Interstate due to an accident up ahead.
Another observation - whenever the posted speed limit dropped to 60 or 65mph on I-10 for whatever reason I set the cruise on 65 or 68 accordingly which only served to increase the number of vehicles passing me at much greater speeds. If I felt that keeping up with the flow was safer than creating a "rolling roadblock" I stopped looking at the speedometer and just followed the car ahead of me until things calmed down. Very few motorists were willing to obey a posted speed limit below 70mph - I would say a statistical ZERO unless their car had physical problems (i.e., looked like rolling junk to me).
It is common knowledge that the vast majority of motorists roll through stop signs and speed on surface streets in urbanized areas in the Deep South - I see it every day during my commute and cycling errand running. Freeway drivers also seem to do whatever they want to do as it pertains to the law (if we all agree that the term Speed LIMIT is the fastest speed anyone should be traveling out there). I can safely say that during my road trip at least 75 percent of motorists break the law continuously on the Interstate either by speeding when the coast is clear, or tailgating when traffic is forced to slow below the posted limit.
So again I ask the question - why should I care what motorists think of my behavior on my bicycle? If the status quo is anarchy why should I toe the line?