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  1. #1
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    Bad experience with drivers this morning

    To make myself more visible and safer on the road, I took the advice of a couple safety posts and read some info at http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/index.htm. But after my commute this morning, I basically feel less safe.

    My first try I wanted to avoid some terrible potholes and a string of parked cars which spanned about 3 blocks. I looked behind me to make sure it was clear and moved into the middle of the right lane. I got buzzed by 3 cars soon after (saw one driver shake her head). While at the stoplight one of the motorists scolded me for not staying on the right. I tried to tell him that it's within my rights under California law, but he argued back that it wasn't and that this was for my own safety. What more could I say? (BTW, he was on his phone while yelling this to me.)

    The second time I was going around some trees that I usually duck under and again some bad potholes. I checked behind me to make sure it was clear, made my move into the middle of the right lane, and proceeded to get honked at (although she did go around me).

    In both these cases, the road was clear and the cars were far behind me as I made my move into the lane.

    These incidents raised a couple questions in my mind... What else could I have done? How do you argue with a motorist regarding this? Does "forcing" yourself onto the road help educate drivers that the road needs to be shared? What state/national efforts are there to raise awareness? What legal recourse is there for being buzzed (is it attempted vehicular homicide)?

    I'd like to stay off the sidewalks and keep myself safe from parked cars, but I'm not sure I can do this if I'm to be buzzed and honked at each day. It really seems like a no-win situation.

  2. #2
    that bike nut BikingGrad80's Avatar
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    The law states as far to the right as practicable. Riding into obstacles and the door zone is not practicable.

    Also, the law makes the exception to move to the left to avoid obstacles. The door zone, with its potential to have an opening door kill you is an obstacle. So you have 2 different aspects of the law working in YOUR favor.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by BikingGrad80 View Post
    The law states as far to the right as practicable. Riding into obstacles and the door zone is not practicable.

    Also, the law makes the exception to move to the left to avoid obstacles. The door zone, with its potential to have an opening door kill you is an obstacle. So you have 2 different aspects of the law working in YOUR favor.
    Right, we know this but I'm guessing the vast majority of motorists don't.

    For those of you who ride the lanes how often do you get harassed?

  4. #4
    ...addicted... rocks in head's Avatar
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    rarely... I am very bright and reflective, and usually ride in the right-hand wheel rut. I ride in the middle when there are parked cars / potholes. One of the only times I was yelled at ("move N***ER") I think was because I was reflective and caught attention. Needless to say I was really pissed anyway.

    I've had people roll down their windows to scold me for running lights, but that's to be expected and the guy was, if not polite, no ruder than I'd expect... after all, I had just run a light.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member mtnwalker's Avatar
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    I rarely get buzzed. If I did, I pay no attention to it and concentrate on my riding. One thing I never do, though, is ride in the middle of the lane unless it is absolutely necessary. If the lane is too narrow or there are parked cars on the side, I will ride on the right wheel marks on the street. But that is the farthest I will go. The reason for this is it gives drivers enough room to pass you without having them taking the whole lane to their left. I guess its psychological. It makes drivers think "At least this guy is not hogging the whole lane". That's my take anyway.
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  6. #6
    Blasted Weeds Tude's Avatar
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    My Club, Rochester Bicycling Club hands "Street Smarts" out to all new members. In fact John Allen (author) came to two year's ago Crit. I caught him yelling at some racers warming up on the street - and then traveling down an abandoned sidewalk - but behind John - telling them to get on the road.

    I've actually changed some of commute to sidewalk for a block or two - and I'm NOT a person to ride sidewalks believe me - but going by an expressway entrance in the morning with three lanes potentially riding beside you - just sucks. Nope I'm going to feel safe - and sidewalks carry their own perils as well! As soon as I'm by the big nasty - I hop the sidewalk and get back into traffic.

    As a bicyclist - you will, unfortunately run into this stuff. I don't foresee it stopping, even though I, and other people, clubs, organizations campaign for driver awareness of bicyclists rights to the road --- sigh, especially when the "new" generation rolls down the window and a 5 yr old kid blats out to get on the sidewalk.

    Nice.

    Just stay true, stick to your guns, develop a hard exterior and don't give them what they want (a response - however, I must say - it does freaking feel good to let it allllll hang out - JERKS!) -- but most of all - be safe. You do NOT know what that driver may be packing - or how full of rage they are. Hang in there!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by rocks in head View Post
    rarely... I am very bright and reflective, and usually ride in the right-hand wheel rut. I ride in the middle when there are parked cars / potholes. One of the only times I was yelled at ("move N***ER") I think was because I was reflective and caught attention. Needless to say I was really pissed anyway.

    I've had people roll down their windows to scold me for running lights, but that's to be expected and the guy was, if not polite, no ruder than I'd expect... after all, I had just run a light.
    I'm confused, are you saying being very bright and reflective has an effect on whether a driver will harass you or not? It was around 9am and there was plenty of light and visibility so I don't feel that was the issue. Also, I made it a point to be in the middle of the lane.

    It didn't seem to be a case of visibility, but just that I was blocking their path.

  8. #8
    Warning:Mild Peril Treespeed's Avatar
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    v6v6v6,

    Where in Los Angeles are you riding?
    I ride mostly on Venice after San Vicente and I think it helps having stop and go traffic and three lanes. Which isn't to say I still don't get the occasional honk, it seems rarer these days.
    Curious where you're having trouble.
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  9. #9
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    Yeah, I travel Venice between Overland and Crenshaw. The problem I experienced this morning was on Crenshaw between Wilshire and Venice.

  10. #10
    I like bikes dr.raleigh's Avatar
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    I always ride sidewalks with no trouble at all. But in this town I'm usually the only one on the sidewalk.
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  11. #11
    Warning:Mild Peril Treespeed's Avatar
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    I find the more confidently you assert your space the easier it gets. That being said, Crenshaw is a very busy street.
    Non semper erit aestas.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by v6v6v6 View Post
    I'm confused, are you saying being very bright and reflective has an effect on whether a driver will harass you or not?
    Actually, looking like you know what you're doing, and that you're doing the right thing seems to lower the number of harassments. Dressing the part (call it fred-like if you wish) seems to help project that image.

    FWIW, I notice that when I'm commuting at night - with lights ablaze and reflectors reflecting - people actually seem to be more considerate than a typical day-light commute.

    Guess this is a long winded +1 to Treespeed's comment... but yeah, take the space you need, keep it, and don't be fazed by JAMs.

  13. #13
    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by v6v6v6 View Post
    Right, we know this but I'm guessing the vast majority of motorists don't.

    For those of you who ride the lanes how often do you get harassed?
    Nearly never. Be confident and assertive. Body language means alot.
    Not too much to say here

  14. #14
    Laid back bent rider unixpro's Avatar
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    You were doing all the right stuff. Ride as close to the right as you feel safe. It's not something that other drivers, the cops, or anyone else can tell you. It's a judgment call that you and only you can make.

    I generally ride fairly close to the right side of the road, but there are a few places where I'll take the lane because the road is too narrow for me to ride safely to the right. There are also times, like when there's a big puddle from an overflowing drain, that I'll move to the left to avoid it. If you can, don't ride through puddles. You may think you know whats under them, but you can't be entirely sure. There may be a pothole, a rock, a bunch of slick leaves, or something else that will put you over.

    If someone insists on arguing with you about your rights, tell them to call the cops. Of course, they'd have to hang up their other call first, so I rather doubt they'll do that.

  15. #15
    www.chipsea.blogspot.com ChipSeal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by v6v6v6 View Post
    Right, we know this but I'm guessing the vast majority of motorists don't.

    For those of you who ride the lanes how often do you get harassed?
    Is this your commute route? Don't back down. They will get to know you.

    Look, they are not going to run you down. They are yielding to you, but if they are persistent in buzzing you, move further left. Let 'em yell! If it wasn't you out there they would be yelling at some other motorist instead. If they honk, it means they see you.

    If the same guy keeps "scolding" you at stops, stop trying to reason with him. Explain once, and after that ignore him or preach the Gospel to him.

    Your safety is more important than his convenience or being annoyed for a few minutes. Tailwinds!


    I have been car free for a few years in the Dallas area- 6,600 miles so far this year.
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  16. #16
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    A mirror can help you control getting buzzed. Using my Take-a-Look mirror, when I see an overtaking vehicle that's not moving far enough left, I drift the bike to the left.

    This nearly always forces overtakers to move left. This is especially important when the overtaking vehicle is towing a trailer, or when the overtaking vehicle has other vehicles close behind it.

    Even if the overtaker wants to buzz you, they're unable to do so because you now have plenty of space to the right to move into as they get close.

    Of course, this might not work for homicidal/deranged/impaired drivers, but it's easy to monitor them with the mirror and bail out if necessary. In my experience, this technique works to reduce close shaves to nearly zero.


    Note: you might also want to examine your commuting route and see if there might be nearby streets with less traffic.
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  17. #17
    Devilmaycare Cycling Fool Allister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by v6v6v6 View Post
    While at the stoplight one of the motorists scolded me for not staying on the right. I tried to tell him that it's within my rights under California law, but he argued back that it wasn't and that this was for my own safety.
    You could ask him if that was a threat. If so, then he's the one that should be modifying his behaviour, if not, where's the danger? Is he that uncertain of his own driving skills?

    Quote Originally Posted by v6v6v6 View Post
    What more could I say? (BTW, he was on his phone while yelling this to me.)
    You could suggest that if he hangs up, he might not pose so much danger to other road users.

    Good luck trying to get that to sink in though. Usually it's not worth even entering into such discussions.
    If we learn from our mistakes, I must be a goddamn genius.

  18. #18
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    wear street cloths to commute other than my helmet and get far less people/any harassing me than my friends who wear all the cycling wear. although they do joke that i look like i could be packing a 9mm when i ride cause in hot weather i ride in a tank top and change to a short sleeve at work and in cold weather i ride in a over sized hoodie with a beanie under my helmet.

  19. #19
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    No accounting for morons. I live in the 'burbs, and I go a couple of miles out of my way on my commute to use less traveled (but still 4-lane) roads. As a result no driver is more than minimally inconvenienced by my presence, so if they have a problem with it they can kiss my butt. I rarely have a problem. Then again, my community is pretty cyclist-friendly. I used to live near LA, so I can imagine how your experience as a commuter might differ a tad from mine.

    All I can say is stay safe. The mirror is a good suggestion. Other than that, best thing to do is just be predictable to drivers. If you're switching between taking the lane and riding in the gutter a lot, it may be worth it just to stay in the lane for a while. If people have a problem with that, tough. I try to accomodate drivers when possible, but not at the expense of my safety.

  20. #20
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    I basically chickened out and stuck to the very right on my commute back home, but after reading your posts I feel a bit more encouraged. Will try to be confident. I'm definitely gonna look into a mirror.

    Quote Originally Posted by unixpro
    If someone insists on arguing with you about your rights, tell them to call the cops.
    Maybe I'll even offer to call the cops for them, LOL.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Underbridge
    No accounting for morons.
    While this is true for some folks, I feel others are just totally unaware that 1) bikers have a right to operate on the road just as any other vehicle and 2) that there's a reason we don't ride all the way to the right (parked cars, obstructions, etc.) I know I was ignorant of this before I started cycling.

  21. #21
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by v6v6v6 View Post
    Yeah, I travel Venice between Overland and Crenshaw. The problem I experienced this morning was on Crenshaw between Wilshire and Venice.
    It's been a while but I've ridden that area quite a bit. Not as bad as Hollywood or downtown. You have a right to avoid obstacles. Looking ahead so that you can start pulling out well ahead of the obstacle so that you don't appear to be weaving aimlessly back and forth helps.

    And yes, sometimes you get ignorant drivers who will yell at you. They are jealous. You are getting away without paying those high gas prices... That takes a bit of a thick skin to get used to. Learn to let it roll off your back. Don't take it personally.

    Read the Drivers' Manual for a good refresher of what your rights are. Join your local bicycle advocacy group. Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition would be a good place to start. Lots of good people.

  22. #22
    Senior Member roseskunk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TonyCtattoo View Post
    wear street cloths to commute other than my helmet and get far less people/any harassing me than my friends who wear all the cycling wear. although they do joke that i look like i could be packing a 9mm when i ride cause in hot weather i ride in a tank top and change to a short sleeve at work and in cold weather i ride in a over sized hoodie with a beanie under my helmet.
    what's wrong with a 9mm?

  23. #23
    Raving looney
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    I take the lane a lot, I rarely get hassled - last night was one of the first times I got honked at. I was riding the centre line while avoiding parked car-door zone intermittently (I was keeping up with the left lane traffic, riding alongside the rear panel of one car in fact) - buddy thought it wise to try and whizz by in the right lane inbetween parked car gaps with me there. He surprised me when I saw him, I gestured "wtf are you doing?" then moved right the hell away from him near the curb - menace to the roads don't belong close to me He then finally got chance to pass around and honked as he passed me, so I yelled a short "f&*^ off" and got on with the ride - no harm done.

    I rarely get hassles, but can sometimes get buzzed more often than I'd like - if I get chance I'll yell, more often than not now I'm starting to ignore them unless they're super close/dangerous - I'm not perfect at times too, and so long as I don't feel endangered I'll let it go.

  24. #24
    One speed: FAST ! fordfasterr's Avatar
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    I've tried the educational approach with no luck.

    What I do nowadays is try and snap pictures of the offenders and post them on BF... good times.


    Like you, I usually take the lane whenever I feel like it. If a cager doesn't like it - too bad so sad. Their trip is not any more important than mine just because they are in a car.
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  25. #25
    Senior Member crazybikerchick's Avatar
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    I hate this aspect of taking the lane. I wish that the city would put up signs saying Cyclist entitled to use of full lane, so that ignorant motorists would clue in. I've tried having conversations with motorists that try to buzz me on purpose to frighten me back where they think I belong. Their basic premise is if you can't do the speed limit get off the road (never mind that two blocks before I was creeping along behind them at a standstill due to congestion)

    Sadly there does not seem to be a good way to educate these folks so I don't bother trying any more.
    Some things that seem to work,
    1. Turning my head to look at and glare at a motorist that is revving or tailgating too close. This seems to remind them there is a human there and they back down a little bit
    2. Act like you belong there. If you look the least bit indecisive about your decision on where to be in the lane aggressive drivers will jump on this
    3. Use the right hand space as an escape route - if worst comes to worse and someone does look to be about to buzz you you can move further right to give yourself more space. I find it really irritating though why they insist on splitting lanes to buzz me when the one to the left is perfectly clear to just move over into.
    4. Riding with a buddy or several - The more space you occupy the better
    5. Wearing a safety vest seems to help marginally - if perhaps people are conditioned to behave better around road construction crews.
    6. Keeping up with traffic always creates much less hassles than going slow, so taking the lane works better on slower moving urban roads. Is it a fairly fast moving road you are having hassles on? It can be pretty scary to take the lane when the speed differential is great.
    7. Try to ignore the honks. Most people aren't going to step up their road rage from a simple honk. Usually they'll lay on the horn before they start getting really stupid.
    8. Don't go back and forth - although it may seem "nice" to move over and let people pass, usually if you let one person by, everyone starts expecting it and its hard to gain your road space back again.

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