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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 08-25-16, 08:39 PM   #1
king88uy7
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Scared of the cars passing me

I'm curious how other commuters handle getting close passed.

To get to work, I have to get off the MUP and ride on a two lane street for about two miles. Because I have to cross an aqueduct and a freeway, the road choices are few.

I give myself about four feet from the parked cars and this puts me about a foot inside the lane. This lane position causes drivers to squeeze past me in the same lane. If I move left to take the lane, drivers punish me by passing close at high acceleration. These are both scary.

How do you all handle this situation? I'm thinking the best thing is to just stay as far right as possible and ignore the close passes. Does anyone have any advice? Thanks.
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Old 08-25-16, 08:56 PM   #2
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I had a section like that and took the lane each time. It was actually more tolerable in the dark with a very bright red light mounted on my left bar facing backwards.

Eventually, the city painted sharrows in this lane, and drivers have been a bit more accommodating.
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Old 08-25-16, 09:00 PM   #3
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All you can do is ride as close to the right as safety will permit and possibly wear one of these.
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Old 08-25-16, 09:40 PM   #4
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Wow, it sounds like you have extra rude drivers. How fast is traffic on the road? I generally ride left enough in the lane to make sure there is no space for a car to pass while still in the lane.

Does your local bike coalition offer urban cycling classes? It is helpful to do those to get tips on road positioning too! It made me fee l a lot better on the road.
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Old 08-25-16, 09:59 PM   #5
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Id take the lane and let them be mad.
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Old 08-25-16, 10:42 PM   #6
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Wow, it sounds like you have extra rude drivers. How fast is traffic on the road? I generally ride left enough in the lane to make sure there is no space for a car to pass while still in the lane.

Does your local bike coalition offer urban cycling classes? It is helpful to do those to get tips on road positioning too! It made me fee l a lot better on the road.
Ride Smart | League of American Bicyclists
Thanks for this link. There are some classes coming up I could go to. That's a good idea.

There is a lot of car traffic where I live so people just drive as fast as possible. The speed limits don't necessarily apply.

From reading the responses here, do most people just ignore the close passing? Maybe looking at it from a, "it's uncomfortable but not dangerous" point of view?
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Old 08-25-16, 10:53 PM   #7
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Take the lane.
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Old 08-25-16, 10:55 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by king88uy7 View Post
Thanks for this link. There are some classes coming up I could go to. That's a good idea.

There is a lot of car traffic where I live so people just drive as fast as possible. The speed limits don't necessarily apply.

From reading the responses here, do most people just ignore the close passing? Maybe looking at it from a, "it's uncomfortable but not dangerous" point of view?
I hate close passing. So usually I try to move in a lane position that makes it pretty hazardous to the driver! On some streets that means riding in the middle of the lane! A smart car wouldn't be able to pass without driving in the other lane. I have found, unless the driver is a real a-hole, they'll just pass with the full second lane, leaving me space.

I also use the sidewalk wisely. One of the last blocks home for me has fast traffic, a hill, and a light that doesn't pick up bikes. I just use the sidewalk, and walk my bike or pedal really really really slowly if there is a pedestrian (think walking speed).
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Old 08-25-16, 11:07 PM   #9
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That is a good point, I suppose. The cars that pass too close are an annoyance. The cars that hit you are the real problem.
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Old 08-25-16, 11:36 PM   #10
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I think traffic bothers most people at first. The more you ride the more confidence you'll get and sooner or later it will all seem normal.

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Old 08-26-16, 10:30 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by king88uy7 View Post
From reading the responses here, do most people just ignore the close passing? Maybe looking at it from a, "it's uncomfortable but not dangerous" point of view?

No, I would not recommend ignoring close passes. A few times a year, sure, but not every day or even week. If you're getting close passed often you need to change things up.


Things to try:
Hi vis jersey/ jacket/ shirt
Bright flashing tail light
More assertive lane position
Higher speed
Rear view mirror
Hand signal and/or "Look backs" when cars are approaching too close behind without slowing or changing lanes. (the mirror helps with this)
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Old 08-26-16, 11:25 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by king88uy7 View Post
I'm curious how other commuters handle getting close passed.

To get to work, I have to get off the MUP and ride on a two lane street for about two miles. Because I have to cross an aqueduct and a freeway, the road choices are few.

I give myself about four feet from the parked cars and this puts me about a foot inside the lane. This lane position causes drivers to squeeze past me in the same lane. If I move left to take the lane, drivers punish me by passing close at high acceleration. These are both scary.

How do you all handle this situation? I'm thinking the best thing is to just stay as far right as possible and ignore the close passes. Does anyone have any advice? Thanks.
Four feet sounds like a lot; are you that worried about the parked cars?

If you pay attention to things like tail lights and side view mirrors you get good at spotting who's still in their car and might be about to open their door...
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Old 08-26-16, 11:29 AM   #13
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If I'm getting close passes on a particular road I move out in the lane more. We tend to interact with the same drivers over many commutes. Over time they learn how to drive around bicycles and then I don't have to be so aggressive in positioning.
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Old 08-26-16, 11:32 AM   #14
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Quote:
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Four feet sounds like a lot; are you that worried about the parked cars?

If you pay attention to things like tail lights and side view mirrors you get good at spotting who's still in their car and might be about to open their door...


That works until you get a line of SUVs with blacked out windows. IMHO it's better to assume every car is occupied by a midget who's about to open her door than to try to swerve out when you spot an occupied car, or even to play the guessing game of "which door will open?"
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Old 08-26-16, 11:42 AM   #15
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That works until you get a line of SUVs with blacked out windows. IMHO it's better to assume every car is occupied by a midget who's about to open her door than to try to swerve out when you spot an occupied car, or even to play the guessing game of "which door will open?"
Agree. I also assume the widest possible door. Like a Lincoln Mark IV.
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Old 08-26-16, 12:01 PM   #16
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Take the lane. Generally, I ride on the right edge of that dark band in the middle of the lane. Thereís been many occasions when Iím on the left half of the lane too.

And yes, there will still be some A-holes straddling or trying to stay on the right lane when thereís clearly not enough room for him even though it would have been easier to just finish the lane change as so many other motorists do without any problems.

In my morning commute, I am on a diamond lane, reserved for buses, taxis cars with two or more occupants, motorcycles and bicycles. In these lanes, during morning and afternoon rush hours, I have no qualms of taking the entire lane but I use the motorcycle block position to prevent motorists stuck in the other lanes from getting into mine. I have no qualms of having a line of traffic behind me as we are already moving faster than the traffic in the other lanes.
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Old 08-26-16, 12:37 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by king88uy7 View Post
I'm curious how other commuters handle getting close passed.

To get to work, I have to get off the MUP and ride on a two lane street for about two miles. Because I have to cross an aqueduct and a freeway, the road choices are few.

I give myself about four feet from the parked cars and this puts me about a foot inside the lane. This lane position causes drivers to squeeze past me in the same lane. If I move left to take the lane, drivers punish me by passing close at high acceleration. These are both scary.

How do you all handle this situation? I'm thinking the best thing is to just stay as far right as possible and ignore the close passes. Does anyone have any advice? Thanks.
Generally, take the lane. But some of that depends on where you are riding. I've noticed a big difference between communities. As mentioned, in places where there are more cyclists, motorists behave better.

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Id take the lane and let them be mad.
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Take the lane.
Almost always the right answer. To this I'd add, the more you look like (i.e. lighting) and act like a vehicle, generally that leads to more rational driver behavior. They know those rules. Taking the lane is part of that.

I also tend to force drivers to follow the rules and not give special dispensation to cyclists. Typical example is a car stopping to allow me to go across as if I'm a pedestrian (which I am not). I will stop, as I am required to do, and then wave the driver across. Often they will again attempt to defer to me. I will then put both feet down making it clear I'm waiting for them. Often this irritates them, but the last thing I'm going to do is get out in front of a driver that doesn't know the rules and who makes themselves a big target. That stopped car, that shouldn't have stopped, is just waiting to be rear ended. Not what I want to be in front of.

J.
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Old 08-26-16, 12:43 PM   #18
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Thank you for all the responses. I appreciate it. So far it seems like taking the lane brings malice as opposed to careless indifference. But I will do some more experiments next week. It's only two miles. Hopefully I can figure it out.
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Old 08-26-16, 01:12 PM   #19
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This web site has a lot of videos that I found helpful to sort out when, where, and why to take the lane: CyclingSavvy | A Program of the American Bicycling Education Association.

This one might be helpful for your situation: https://vimeo.com/album/1881848/video/17300276.
@tsl often recommends this one, which illustrates nicely why we need to take control ("lead the dance") and communicate clearly: https://vimeo.com/album/1881848/video/9827254.

One more resource: http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/chapter2a.htm. The illustrations throughout this little online booklet are well done.

Good luck!

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Old 08-26-16, 01:15 PM   #20
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Take the lane and then act like you belong there. Because you do belong there. And be aware of your surroundings too by using a mirror and looking around you.
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Old 08-26-16, 01:27 PM   #21
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Put a lot of blinkies on the back of your bike and your helmet, wear bright clothing, put a child carrier on the back with a fake infant, and a couple lollipops sticking out the side. In other words, try to look weird, and no one will mess with you. Maybe a couple rear view mirrors too.
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Old 08-26-16, 03:25 PM   #22
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I've always found that if I ride at the same time every day, obey traffic laws, take the lane when I need to and get out of the way as soon as I can, the auto commuters get to know and respect me and my right to be where I am. Also, I've found that if I haven't been riding in traffic for a while, it usually takes me a couple weeks before I really get used to it again.
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Old 08-26-16, 03:59 PM   #23
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Thank you for all the responses. I appreciate it. So far it seems like taking the lane brings malice as opposed to careless indifference. But I will do some more experiments next week. It's only two miles. Hopefully I can figure it out.
Two miles is not a trivial distance. I agree with others. 4' from parked cars is a bit much. The take the lane advocates surely do not assume that stance for an entire two miles! A sharrow is one thing, FRAP is another. I don't know of any two mile long sharrows! My time is as important as a drivers. Stopping periodically to let drivers pass is not the best way to a decent ETA. On the other hand, maintaining a steady, but moderate speed, perhaps 2' from the parked cars should at least allow you to dump excess delta vee (Δv) into the soft, yielding, flesh of the inconsiderate driver in the way without killing either of you, and allow easier passing to the left of you. Win-win. I only get upset if I've been hit, luckily that hasn't happened yet.
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Old 08-26-16, 04:13 PM   #24
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Four feet sounds like a lot; are you that worried about the parked cars?

If you pay attention to things like tail lights and side view mirrors you get good at spotting who's still in their car and might be about to open their door...
I passed a car with no lights on at night under a street lamp. 9:00 at night, long after the library across the street closed. Door opened into my handlebars. I passed a VW squareback I could see into and saw no one. The mom inside was bent forward gathering her kids toys from the passenger floor. She opened the door into my face.

Your advice works most of the time. The times it doesn't you will remember the rest of your life. Trust me. That second door was a concussion, wrecked shoulder and would have been a lost ear had my helmet not knocked my head aside. Both crashes I was deposited in the middle of the car lane, rather quickly. Those were 1969 and 1982. I learned. I give 4 foot berth often. (Edit: I just measured 4'. It is a lot. I give it more like three.)

Ben

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Old 08-26-16, 04:16 PM   #25
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I passed a car with no lights on at night under a street lamp. 9:00 at night, long after the library across the street closed. Door opened into my handlebars. I passed a VW squareback I could see into and saw no one. The mom inside was bent forward gathering her kids toys from the passenger floor. She opened the door into my face.

Your advice works most of the time. The times it doesn't you will remember the rest of your life. Trust me. That second door was a concussion, wrecked shoulder and would have been a lost ear had my helmet not knocked my head aside. Both crashes I was deposited in the middle of the car lane, rather quickly. Those were 1969 and 1982. I learned. I give 4 foot berth often.

Ben
Night time is of course a different story.

I've had many close calls with car doors; sorry yours went so badly...
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