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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 12-04-11, 10:53 PM   #1
dcrowell
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How do I look?

I had a bit of an epiphany today.

I had some errands to run. They were out in the 'burbs requiring use of busy arterial roads. It was cold and rainy. I had a bunch of stuff to haul, so I was riding the Big Dummy.

My "cold wet weather" gear is less than attractive. My $2000 bike with $500 worth of lights is still "just a bike" on the road. I was screamed at 3 times in less than a mile. I think they viewed me as "less than human". They were grouping me in with the homeless.

I don't normally care what others think, but when their idea of me causes stupid behavior, maybe I should care.

I'm not sure what to do. Carry on as-is? Do something stupid (don't know what) to show I'm not indigent? Buy a car? (NO!)

I'll just carry on. If they want to view me as poor and crazy (who else would ride in cold rainy weather on an arterial road carrying a bunch of crap on the back of a bike?) they can. Hopefully they don't throw things or run me over.

Sorry for the negative vibe. I actually had a good day other than about 30 minutes of hell.
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Old 12-04-11, 10:59 PM   #2
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Maybe reflective clothes would make you look like someone who chooses to ride instead of someone who must ride?
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Old 12-05-11, 04:34 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by dcrowell View Post
My "cold wet weather" gear is less than attractive. My $2000 bike with $500 worth of lights is still "just a bike" on the road. I was screamed at 3 times in less than a mile. I think they viewed me as "less than human". They were grouping me in with the homeless.

I don't normally care what others think, but when their idea of me causes stupid behavior, maybe I should care.

I'm not sure what to do. Carry on as-is? Do something stupid (don't know what) to show I'm not indigent? Buy a car? (NO!)
If cyclists are the new outcasts in Kentucky maybe paint a large Star of David on your back.

On a more practical note, take their number and report them. There must be some law against verbally abusing other legitimate road users.
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Old 12-05-11, 05:51 AM   #4
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Some BF members have been recording bad drivers
for a while now. Then they post the clips online, I
guess to embarrass the drivers? Also they feel
the taping might be important just in case things
go from verbal assault to criminal assault.
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Old 12-05-11, 06:52 AM   #5
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I usually just take it, I view myself as the minor on the road and usually just say something back if they verbally abuse me.
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Old 12-05-11, 09:32 AM   #6
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I'm of the same opinion. It doesn't have to look good to work. The boneheads who screamed at you are more than likely just that. Boneheads. They aren't worth the effort of "doing something stupid". Instead, congradulate yourself for handling the incidents in a calm, cool manner.
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Old 12-05-11, 09:52 AM   #7
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Maybe reflective clothes would make you look like someone who chooses to ride instead of someone who must ride?
I wear one of those $4 reflective vests over the top of everything else.
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Old 12-05-11, 09:54 AM   #8
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Like I said, I had a bad 30 minutes yesterday. I did ignore them.

As far as reporting/recording them, the police here won't take it seriously unless they *really* endanger me. I also don't own a video camera. Blah. I was just venting.

Today's commute was much better, although just as rainy. I did see one driver nearly get into a fight because he argued with a pedestrian he almost ran over. Driver was at fault. I was a block away at a red light. I had no issues.
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Old 12-05-11, 09:58 AM   #9
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I wear one of those $4 reflective vests over the top of everything else.
As long as it's lime green and you're wearing it in broad daylight, you're doing it right.
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Old 12-05-11, 10:51 AM   #10
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Smile & wave. If the window is open, yell, "I love you!"

So far for me, it makes both parties feel better.
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Old 12-05-11, 10:53 AM   #11
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I've never looked at a cyclist and thought they were too cheap to drive. I've just thought they weren't as lazy as me.
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Old 12-05-11, 11:25 AM   #12
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One has to understand that there are lots of people that are so miserable they just have to bring others down so they have some company.

I consider these people to be sub-human so shut them outta my mind since they can't hurt you , or annoy you, unless you let them.
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Old 12-05-11, 12:30 PM   #13
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Smile & wave. If the window is open, yell, "I love you!"

So far for me, it makes both parties feel better.
Maybe I'll start doing that when conflicts arise in A&S.
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Old 12-05-11, 12:31 PM   #14
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I'm curious. Why lime green please?

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As long as it's lime green and you're wearing it in broad daylight, you're doing it right.
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Old 12-05-11, 12:33 PM   #15
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I had a bit of an epiphany today.

I had some errands to run. They were out in the 'burbs requiring use of busy arterial roads. It was cold and rainy. I had a bunch of stuff to haul, so I was riding the Big Dummy.

My "cold wet weather" gear is less than attractive. My $2000 bike with $500 worth of lights is still "just a bike" on the road. I was screamed at 3 times in less than a mile. I think they viewed me as "less than human". They were grouping me in with the homeless.

I don't normally care what others think, but when their idea of me causes stupid behavior, maybe I should care.

I'm not sure what to do. Carry on as-is? Do something stupid (don't know what) to show I'm not indigent? Buy a car? (NO!)

I'll just carry on. If they want to view me as poor and crazy (who else would ride in cold rainy weather on an arterial road carrying a bunch of crap on the back of a bike?) they can. Hopefully they don't throw things or run me over.

Sorry for the negative vibe. I actually had a good day other than about 30 minutes of hell.
I don't think they see you as poor and crazy. Annoying and crazy is more like it. I get the same thing all the time.

It's funny - when I used to get all done up in lycra (and had the body to support it), on my road bike, clearly riding for some combination of exercise and fun, I didn't get half the negativity, hostility and abuse I take now when I ride my dorkcycle to the store or around town.

Deliberately exercising to compensate for a mechanized, sedentary existence, is very socially acceptable, as is the practice of wearing outlandish clothing to do it in. So roadies, mountain bikers (off road), etc., may occasionally get buzzed or hassled, but they're basically seen as mainstream.

But a utility cyclist annoys people a lot more. In the first place, they probably see you as someone who is being ostentatiously "green" - which is pointing a finger of accusation at them, implying that you're better than they are because they pollute, use up resources, etc, and you don't. I don't know how people see "greens" in your neck of the woods, but you'd be amazed at the hostility perceived greenness evokes around here.

Then there's the speed/obstruction issue. I don't know your riding style, but if you're a vehicular cyclist who insists on his rights on those busy roads you were on, you're going to be a real target for hostility from motorists who see you as in their way. (And, btw, your expensive rig makes it clear to them that you're not forced to be in their way by economic necessity - you're making yourself an obstruction VOLUNTARILY, ON PURPOSE. There's a saying around here that, if you value your life, you don't come between a NJ commuter and his dinner. It's worse if they think you're in the way when you don't need to be.

We have a fair number of poor people around here - the busboys, short-order cooks, hotel help, etc., who commute by bike. They're decidedly NOT vehicular cyclists - they'll salmon, use the sidewalk, hug the right, ... whatever it takes to stay out of the way of traffic. And it seems that they're not the objects of hostility, maybe because they ride "submissively", but more likely because they don't project an air of moral superiority - everybody understands that they'd be driving a car if they could, so, if anything, they inspire compassion.

On the other hand, if you're on what is obviously a cargo bike, it's clear that you probably could afford a car, but CHOOSE not to drive one. That automatically makes you a weirdo with terminal smugness to most people.

The bottom line is that I don't believe you were hassled because you didn't look good enough. I think it was because you looked TOO good. I'll bet you would have gotten a lot less grief if you were salmoning along with no helmet and no rain-gear on a Walmart BSO, with a bunch of plastic bags draping from the handlebars.

BTW - I get buzzed, cut-off, cursed-at, you name it, all the time. I've even stopped using some roads altogether because, vehicular cycling, shmehicular cycling ... I'd rather be alive than right.
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Old 12-05-11, 12:39 PM   #16
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Smile & wave. If the window is open, yell, "I love you!"

So far for me, it makes both parties feel better.
If someone gets really annoyed at me for something or other, and I'm in my car, I'll sometimes blow the person yelling at me a kiss. That pisses them off even more than giving them the finger. I won't do that when they're in a car and I'm on a bicycle. The odds are way to much in their favor.
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Old 12-05-11, 02:01 PM   #17
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I can understand your thought process, but somehow being on a bike and yelling that disarms people. I was accosted by a carful of high school "yoots"; they were flipping me the bird and slinging f-bombs my way. I waved and yelled that, and they started cracking up. Then they started waving back and yelling, "Cool, man!" It's so incongruous it takes them off their game.
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Old 12-05-11, 02:18 PM   #18
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I can understand your thought process, but somehow being on a bike and yelling that disarms people. I was accosted by a carful of high school "yoots"; they were flipping me the bird and slinging f-bombs my way. I waved and yelled that, and they started cracking up. Then they started waving back and yelling, "Cool, man!" It's so incongruous it takes them off their game.
Whatever works for you. I'm not trying it around here.
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Old 12-05-11, 02:26 PM   #19
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In my town, "real" utility cyclists don't exist. Nobody in their right mind would ride a bike somewhere if they could drive... it's just the way things are here. The lesser-thans who salmon, sidewalk ride, don't wear helmets, and ride crap bikes are ignored for the most part. When I used to commute, I was yelled at, buzzed, etc. on a regular basis. I think a lot of it has to do with them thinking I'm trying to "take their road" when in reality it's everybody's road... just not for those without cars.

I pretty much gave up on commuting by bike in this area until they put in some sort of infrastructure. Even doing everything right, I still got hit and put in the hospital. I could get really upset about it, but that won't change anything. I hated to admit defeat, but I didn't have much choice. The roads and drivers wouldn't allow it safely.

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Old 12-05-11, 02:54 PM   #20
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In my town, "real" utility cyclists don't exist. Nobody in their right mind would ride a bike somewhere if they could drive... it's just the way things are here. The lesser-thans who salmon, sidewalk ride, don't wear helmets, and ride crap bikes are ignored for the most part. When I used to commute, I was yelled at, buzzed, etc. on a regular basis. I think a lot of it has to do with them thinking I'm trying to "take their road" when in reality it's everybody's road... just not for those without cars.

I pretty much gave up on commuting by bike in this area until they put in some sort of infrastructure. Even doing everything right, I still got hit and put in the hospital. I could get really upset about it, but that won't change anything. I hated to admit defeat, but I didn't have much choice. The roads and drivers wouldn't allow it safely.
I guess I'm lucky that, around here, there are safer ways to get just about anywhere, as long as you're willing to travel a little further. I've also stopped using some stores (including the supermarket I've used for over 10 years), and substituted others that are on better roads for cycling.

I work from home nowadays (when I'm not traveling), but when I used to have to go into my office, I used a route that was 26 miles each way instead of the 20 miles it was using the direct route that I would use when I took my car. But that longer route was actually a really pleasant ride once I got about 7 miles from home. Of course, I got hit and put in the hospital about a mile from home...

That was 14 years ago, and I've only recently started riding again, mostly utility riding. I used to be a firm believer in vehicular cycling. I was a vehicle, damn it! The road belonged to me as much as to anyone else! And when I came back to cycling, I held onto those notions. And then I realized that it was no fun. I don't get a kick out of getting buzzed, cut-off, being the object of people's hostility because I'm a slow-moving vehicle keeping them from getting to where they're going at the speed they'd like to go, or at the very least, forcing them to pay attention.

I really don't get into the "us-versus-them" mentality that I see so much on BF (especially on A&S). These people are my neighbors, they're not evil "cagers" versus me, as "virtuous advocate-by-example of sustainable, greener, healthier living". (Doesn't that sound obnoxious, even just rolling off the tongue? It reeks of smugness and self-satisfaction.)

Face it, those people driving are the mainstream. Everything in their experience tells them that the roads are for cars and trucks, and the occasional deferential exercise cyclist or jogger. It also tells them that they need to allow a certain amount of time to get places, and the presence of some dork like me, loaded up with 30 lbs of groceries and moving at 10 mph or less (especially uphill!), making their trip take longer than they budgeted based on their experience ... is infuriating. And being surrounded by a couple of tons of metal makes them feel almost as unaccountable as posting on an anonymous internet forum... Not a good combination.

So I've mostly left the VC fold. If I absolutely have to ride on a busy street during a busy time, I try to do it in a way that interferes with motorist traffic as little as possible. If there's a lot of traffic, rather than move left to turn left, I'll go to the sidewalk, dismount, and cross at the crosswalk - as a pedestrian, walking my bike. I'll even walk the bike half a block on the sidewalk, rather than have to cross over lanes of traffic in the middle of a block. And, as I said, I look for routes that don't put me in the middle of rush hour or afterschool traffic.

I know that my methods are not typical for BF. But I feel (and believe I am) a LOT safer. And in rush hour, a minute or two extra that it takes me is really no big deal.
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Old 12-05-11, 03:01 PM   #21
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I wear one of those $4 reflective vests over the top of everything else.
Maybe if you wore a more expensive vest? Just kidding....certain people always look down on others who are wearing practical clothing. But they would have to be pretty sick to act on their prejudices by actually attacking you. The odds of that happening are probably less than one in a million.
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Old 12-05-11, 03:09 PM   #22
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I can understand your thought process, but somehow being on a bike and yelling that disarms people. I was accosted by a carful of high school "yoots"; they were flipping me the bird and slinging f-bombs my way. I waved and yelled that, and they started cracking up. Then they started waving back and yelling, "Cool, man!" It's so incongruous it takes them off their game.
Or stand on your pedals and do a little happy dance. That'll crack 'em up, if you put a little juice in your caboose!
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Old 12-05-11, 03:14 PM   #23
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I know that my methods are not typical for BF. But I feel (and believe I am) a LOT safer. And in rush hour, a minute or two extra that it takes me is really no big deal.
Thanks for sharing that. VC is only effective with the assumption that the auto traffic around you knows how to react accordingly, and around here, they just don't. Without infrastructure, you are forced to rely on driver courtesy and attentiveness, which is in short supply. I would love to go back to commuting and utility cycling, and if I lived where there were paths and/or educated drivers, I would. It really pains me, but there are days when I can't stand living in southern Louisiana.
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Old 12-05-11, 03:20 PM   #24
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I guess I'm lucky that, around here, there are safer ways to get just about anywhere, as long as you're willing to travel a little further. I've also stopped using some stores (including the supermarket I've used for over 10 years), and substituted others that are on better roads for cycling.

I work from home nowadays (when I'm not traveling), but when I used to have to go into my office, I used a route that was 26 miles each way instead of the 20 miles it was using the direct route that I would use when I took my car. But that longer route was actually a really pleasant ride once I got about 7 miles from home. Of course, I got hit and put in the hospital about a mile from home...

That was 14 years ago, and I've only recently started riding again, mostly utility riding. I used to be a firm believer in vehicular cycling. I was a vehicle, damn it! The road belonged to me as much as to anyone else! And when I came back to cycling, I held onto those notions. And then I realized that it was no fun. I don't get a kick out of getting buzzed, cut-off, being the object of people's hostility because I'm a slow-moving vehicle keeping them from getting to where they're going at the speed they'd like to go, or at the very least, forcing them to pay attention.

I really don't get into the "us-versus-them" mentality that I see so much on BF (especially on A&S). These people are my neighbors, they're not evil "cagers" versus me, as "virtuous advocate-by-example of sustainable, greener, healthier living". (Doesn't that sound obnoxious, even just rolling off the tongue? It reeks of smugness and self-satisfaction.)

Face it, those people driving are the mainstream. Everything in their experience tells them that the roads are for cars and trucks, and the occasional deferential exercise cyclist or jogger. It also tells them that they need to allow a certain amount of time to get places, and the presence of some dork like me, loaded up with 30 lbs of groceries and moving at 10 mph or less (especially uphill!), making their trip take longer than they budgeted based on their experience ... is infuriating. And being surrounded by a couple of tons of metal makes them feel almost as unaccountable as posting on an anonymous internet forum... Not a good combination.

So I've mostly left the VC fold. If I absolutely have to ride on a busy street during a busy time, I try to do it in a way that interferes with motorist traffic as little as possible. If there's a lot of traffic, rather than move left to turn left, I'll go to the sidewalk, dismount, and cross at the crosswalk - as a pedestrian, walking my bike. I'll even walk the bike half a block on the sidewalk, rather than have to cross over lanes of traffic in the middle of a block. And, as I said, I look for routes that don't put me in the middle of rush hour or afterschool traffic.

I know that my methods are not typical for BF. But I feel (and believe I am) a LOT safer. And in rush hour, a minute or two extra that it takes me is really no big deal.
I think you really have to ride vehicularly if you're riding on a main street with other road users present. It's the law--and it really is much safer for you and everybody else if you ride in a visible and predictable manner.

One thing I find that helps is to communicate more fully with the drivers. If I have to hold them up on a narrow one-lane road, a little shoulder shrug can show them that I really can't help it. If I'm riding outside of a bike lane or shoulder because of debris, I'll point to the debris so the drivers can see what I'm dealing with.

When holding up people behind me, I often put my left hand out to the side--fairly low and with the palm facing the driver. This lets the driver know that he mustn't pass me right now, but I'm aware of his presence, and I'll let him overtake me ASAP. When it is safe for him to overtake, I immediately start a circular waving motion with the left hand, clearly indicating that he can go around me now.

I've found that almost every driver can tolerate me "blocking" them, as long as they know that I'm doing it because I have to, and that I'll help them with the situation so traffic flows as smoothly as possible.

I think that a calm and confident manner helps a lot also. This is only possible if you really do know how to deal with traffic. I also remind myself of the old cycling slogan: "I'm not blocking traffic--I AM traffic!"
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"Think Outside the Cage"

Last edited by Roody; 12-05-11 at 03:23 PM.
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Old 12-05-11, 03:43 PM   #25
tony_merlino
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
I think you really have to ride vehicularly if you're riding on a main street with other road users present. It's the law--and it really is much safer for you and everybody else if you ride in a visible and predictable manner.

One thing I find that helps is to communicate more fully with the drivers. If I have to hold them up on a narrow one-lane road, a little shoulder shrug can show them that I really can't help it. If I'm riding outside of a bike lane or shoulder because of debris, I'll point to the debris so the drivers can see what I'm dealing with.

When holding up people behind me, I often put my left hand out to the side--fairly low and with the palm facing the driver. This lets the driver know that he mustn't pass me right now, but I'm aware of his presence, and I'll let him overtake me ASAP. When it is safe for him to overtake, I immediately start a circular waving motion with the left hand, clearly indicating that he can go around me now.

I've found that almost every driver can tolerate me "blocking" them, as long as they know that I'm doing it because I have to, and that I'll help them with the situation so traffic flows as smoothly as possible.

I think that a calm and confident manner helps a lot also. This is only possible if you really do know how to deal with traffic. I also remind myself of the old cycling slogan: "I'm not blocking traffic--I AM traffic!"
I lived by that slogan for a long time, and I still sort of believe it, within limits. I'm traffic. But I'm slow moving traffic in the way of other traffic that would like to move faster. And I'm very, very vulnerable traffic. I'm the equivalent of a farm tractor with a long line of cars waiting for a chance to get by, without the tractor. And rather than living in a farming community where people are used to that sort of thing, I'm in a very densely populated and high-traffic suburb of NYC, and people have NO tolerance for farm tractors (or their two-wheeled analogs) blocking their way. It's just not the culture, and I'm not going to be the one to educate them at the cost of my life or limbs.

If I absolutely have to behave like a vehicle, then I behave like one, decisively. I'll take the lane and do my best to make sure that there's no way a sane person would try to get around me. But "sane person" is saying a lot ... Just within the last month, I've had people speed up, slide over into the oncoming traffic lane, and buzz me with a couple of inches to spare, honking their horns all the time (as if startling me and maybe inducing me to swerve and get sideswiped would make their day). I've had a woman who didn't want to wait for the line of cars at a long red/short green light try to cut ahead of the cars (and me), who were waiting to go straight across, by speeding into the left-turn lane, and then cutting into the empty space near the front of the line. (Of course, the "empty space" was me.) The problem with vehicular cycling is that it assumes that the other people on the road are sane, are cognizant of the laws, and won't willingly break them. That's just not the case around here.

So - I take the chicken's way out whenever possible. I try to avoid the problem streets, I use the sidewalk - as a pedestrian, walking the bike, when that's prudent, use crosswalks - as a pedestrian, walking the bike, when prudent. But most of it comes down to not being on the problem streets at the problem times.
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