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  1. #1
    Senior Member Papa Tom's Avatar
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    How Much Clearance Do Drivers Think We Need, Anyway?

    I've noticed a certain behavior for a very long time, but tonight, while riding to a local beach, I actually took a count of how many drivers actually did this as they passed me.

    You've all seen it on your commute...you're riding as far to the right as possible, sometimes leaving enough room between you and the beginning of the automobile lane to fit five or six more cyclists to your left. Still, the cars passing you veer so far to the left that they become a peril to oncoming traffic.

    On my ride tonight, fully 100% of the cars that passed me (on very quiet suburban roads) crossed the yellow line by almost half their cars' widths as they drove by. In one case, an oncoming pickup truck had to lean on his horn to warn the driver to get back in her lane. I found it all quite amusing, but I realize there must be some reason all these drivers feel the need to leave so much space.

    Does anybody have a theory? And does anybody have any ideas about how we can educate drivers more effectively so we're all a little safer?
    Papa Tom

    "I just need a rest...and by 'rest' I mean a really long bicycle ride."

  2. #2
    Senior Member Shimagnolo's Avatar
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    The stupidest thing I've seen like this is morons who cross completely into the oncoming lane on a BLIND HAIRPIN TURN.
    And the icing on the cake is that I am off to the side in a bike lane, so there was no reason whatsoever for them to leave their lane.

  3. #3
    just ride
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    Fortunately these are balanced out by the times when you're on a straight road with no shoulder, great visibility, no other cars in sight - and they buzz you because heaven forbid they cross that yellow line. The equilibrium of the Universe is maintained.
    Last edited by bubbagrannygear; 08-29-14 at 08:34 PM.

  4. #4
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    Around here it's about 6" to some, because they seem to think you shouldn't be on "their road"... So they are sending you a "message"...
    He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts...for support rather than illumination. I do like my beer, so sometimes I do end up leaning on the lamp-post...

  5. #5
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    You said "think!?"
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

    Tom Reingold, noglider@pobox.com
    Residences: West Village, New York City and High Falls, NY
    Blogs: The Experienced Cyclist; noglider's ride blog

  6. #6
    Senior Member
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    Yes, "think" an Oxymoron...
    He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts...for support rather than illumination. I do like my beer, so sometimes I do end up leaning on the lamp-post...

  7. #7
    Senior Member TransitBiker's Avatar
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    Fr me it ranges from 2 inches to a full lane passing around me. The 2 inches crowd needs to clue in that if they clipped me i'd probably end up suing them & in the ER and they would be a "court appointed cyclist".

    Is it really that effing difficult to put a blinker on, steer over a bit, put other blinker on, steer back, turn blinker off & continue as usual? I mean really? It's the same BS mentality that has 3-4 cars parked unattended & unoccupied in front of a dry cleaner in the fire lane of all places.

    If you can't be bothered to drive safely and following traffic regulations, dont fricking drive!!!!!!

    /rant

    - Andy
    I can't wait for the next pint of good chocolate milk after a long ride.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
    Does anybody have a theory? And does anybody have any ideas about how we can educate drivers more effectively so we're all a little safer?
    My theory is that most people don't comprehend the dimensions of their own vehicle and the space it occupies on the road or in a parking spot.

    Nothing you can do about it.

  9. #9
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    In addition to the people that veer wildly into oncoming traffic and the ones that buzz you, there's also the ones that follow you slowly up the hill, not passing with gobs of room, then finally take the pass after accumulating a long line of angry drivers who are pissed at YOU!

    Goes with the territory. Let go of what you can't control.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Papa Tom's Avatar
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    I didn't mean for this to turn into another piss-on-auto-drivers thread. The fact that EVERY SINGLE DRIVER on this ride did the same thing says to me that it must be really difficult for drivers (who don't also ride bicycles) to judge how much space is between them and the cyclist to their right.

    When I was learning to drive and all cars still had hood ornaments, the instructor told me to line up the hood ornament with the side of the road in order to determine how far to the right I should be driving. I wonder if there's a similar trick for judging how close you can get to a cyclist without clipping him or her.
    Papa Tom

    "I just need a rest...and by 'rest' I mean a really long bicycle ride."

  11. #11
    Senior Member mihlbach's Avatar
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    When passing any vehicle, including bicycles, I always move 1 lane to the left. Naturally, if the view is obstructed by a turn or hill, or if there is oncoming traffic, I wait to pass. It's really not that difficult.

  12. #12
    Senior Member mihlbach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
    When I was learning to drive and all cars still had hood ornaments, the instructor told me to line up the hood ornament with the side of the road in order to determine how far to the right I should be driving. I wonder if there's a similar trick for judging how close you can get to a cyclist without clipping him or her.
    Yes, the trick is moving to the left lane.

  13. #13
    SeŮior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    I get this every day and it's a mystery to me. I think probably these drivers think that cyclists are potentially extremely unpredictable and might veer around wildly at any time without warning.

    I've had people pull so far to the left that they're driving in the other shoulder. One part in my ride has a pretty good paved shoulder, about 3 feet wide, and the main lane is plenty wide as well, yet I've had people driving compact cars that could pass me within the lane even if I was riding left of the fog line wait behind me until oncoming traffic is clear and then pull all the way into the far lane to pass. The could have easily passed with 4 or 5 feet of clearance but apparently they think I need 20 feet of clearance.

    Then I have people who pass around blind curves. I have video of several of them.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  14. #14
    Captain Big Ring tractorlegs's Avatar
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    Hi Papa Tom,

    The same thing happens to me all the time in my dusty corner of the world, but it happens more at night and/or when I have a reflective vest on. I use a lot of lighting both day and night, too. I've noticed that they veer very far to the left, or follow slowly at a great distance, when my vest is on and my lights are blazing. When I'm not wearing the vest, and when I'm conservative in lighting, not so much.

    On your bike(s) are you well lit?
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  15. #15
    Gearhead old's'cool's Avatar
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    I've always interpreted the passing with maximum possible space as a courteous gesture, which I appreciate. Not that I would want a motorist to assume any undue risk by doing so. Either there is enough room to pass safely, or it is necessary to wait until there is a safe opportunity.
    Geoff
    "I think that I think, therefore I think that I am"

  16. #16
    Senior Member Papa Tom's Avatar
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    >>>On your bike(s) are you well lit?<<<<

    I don't ride at night, but I do have a very bright 32-LED flashlight rigged up for headlight use at a moment's notice. I also have a good blinky on the rear.

    These instances of cars veering way too far left to pass me all occur during the day and, as others have mentioned, often around blind corners. Based on a lot of the cyclist behavior I see on the roads, I totally understand how drivers can assume all cyclists are "unpredictable," but I have to say that I am like a traffic cop when I'm out on the road, constantly making eye contact with drivers and giving them friendly waves to reassure them that it's safe to pass. Still, the constant misjudgement on the part of passing cars is astonishing to me.

    I don't want to just bash the drivers for this; I want to figure out a way to fix the problem.
    Papa Tom

    "I just need a rest...and by 'rest' I mean a really long bicycle ride."

  17. #17
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    You live on Long Island. Nobody in NYC or that close to NYC can be reasonably sure they won't get shot if they get too close to some stranger. And - YOU RIDE A BIKE! So you obviously can't afford a car, right? So you are probably homeless as well. And on drugs. And prone to recreational use of alcohol. And I bet you stomp on baby birds you find fallen from nests. You are the unpredictable alien. No eye contact give him SPACE.

  18. #18
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    But more seriously - I am often on both sides of this and have many miles of professional driving behind me. I usually give the bike the full lane if there are two lanes to be had. If there is only one lane I slow behind the bike and give the rider space when I can safely (SAFELY!!) do so. But not so much space as described in the OP. That seems strange.

    The line I want to give some cage driver some day (I have not had the chance yet) who refuses to give me space is something like "Sorry, but I am not sure how much space you consider it prudent to yield to a cyclist for safety. How about you demonstrate by giving me the same space you expect me to give your child on their bike when I have 18 wheels under me?"

    I always appreciate the space I am given when I am on my bike. My closest call was some amateur who passed me in his pickup truck without giving me more than "just enough" space - who was towing a trailer wider than his truck. That was probably as close as I have come to the reaper (grim) in some time.

    Know what ... there's lots of unpredictable peoples out there.

  19. #19
    one life on two wheels cobrabyte's Avatar
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    If your major complaint is drivers giving you TOO MUCH space, consider yourself one lucky cyclist...

  20. #20
    Senior Member Clyde1820's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
    On my ride tonight, fully 100% of the cars that passed me (on very quiet suburban roads) crossed the yellow line by almost half their cars' widths as they drove by.
    I'm in the camp that counts you as a fairly fortunate rider, if that's the frequency with which folks give you a wide berth. Of course, as you point out, it could be messy for oncoming traffic in the right circumstances.


    Myself ...

    If driving on a clear two-way road with one lane in each direction, I generally will go about one-third into the oncoming lane in order to make enough space for a cyclist who is along the right-hand side of the single lane.

    If driving on a two-way road with one lane in each direction but where an oncoming car is going to get close enough to matter, then I won't pass a cyclist on the right of the lane until that car has passed. I figure rushing through is pointless, putting everyone at risk of thinking I've got to be somewhere so vitally that I'm willing (which I'm not) to put people around me in jeopardy. (My driver's ed instructors were far to effective for that ever to happen consciously, bless them both. I still thank my stars each day, on behalf of the both of them.)

    If there's a decent bike lane on the right, I stay slightly left of center in the car lane (as always). Might slow down somewhat, depending on conditions, proximity or the width of the lanes.

    I consider ^that to be simple good manners, good precaution, while remaining very safe and fairly low-risk to oncoming traffic that might suddenly appear (ie, someone pulling out but not realizing I'm about one-third into that oncoming lane).

  21. #21
    Disco Infiltrator Darth Lefty's Avatar
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    Lanes are roughly two cars wide. That means there's a car's width of clearance between cars. They want to give you a car width too, because that's what they are comfortable doing.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Clyde1820's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
    Lanes are roughly two cars wide.
    Not where I live, they're not. Congested downtown feel to most streets. There's most definitely not space enough for two cars in a lane.

    On many streets, there is just enough space for an SUV in each lane. On those streets, it can be very dangerous for a cyclist, with nowhere for the car or cyclist to go in the event the car attempts an in-lane pass.

    Places differ.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Clyde1820's Avatar
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    Relevant observations (satire) @ Dave Moulton's blog:

    10 useful tips for car drivers

    1.) If you see a cyclist ahead and you canít pass because of opposing traffic, resist the urge to run over him, even though you can. You know what a mess it can make of your car if you hit a deer; a cyclist will probably do even more damage.

    2.) Donít throw stuff at cyclists: In some states there is a $250 fine for this; plus there is a $1,000 fine for littering; it can add up. If you feel you must throw something at a cyclist, think of the environment; throw something that is biodegradable.

    ...

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post

    I want to figure out a way to fix the problem.
    learn to accept that any pass without contact is a "good" pass, or give up riding on public roads. If you try to "fix" the world you will fail at you're own expense, or become worse than what you're trying to "fix".

    Don't worry, stay aware, think positive.

  25. #25
    Senior Member FenderTL5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cobrabyte View Post
    If your major complaint is drivers giving you TOO MUCH space, consider yourself one lucky cyclist...
    My thoughts exactly. I get 3'-5' most of the time, the rest are gonna' be closer. It's only the occasional vehicle that will completely use the adjacent lane.
    Nashville, like L.A. without a tan.

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