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  1. #1
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    Is it normal to get yelled at for taking the lane in San Jose, CA?

    I'm new to bicycling. I seem to love it, and I'm starting to make short trips with my bike rather than my car.

    Initially, I rode as far to the right as I could. And it was harrowing on roads without bike lanes that had parked cars. Motorists would split the lane with just a few inches clearance to me and high closure speed.

    I started reading about the "Take the lane" concept, and I tried it. It does seem to be safer, and for the most part works well. But in 3 days, I've been yelled at 3 times by motorists.

    #1 Going south on Coleman Road coming up on Almaden Lake Park. I'm riding with my girl, and we need to leave the bike lane to move across to the left turn lane to get to the park. Traffic is coming. I signal and move first into the right hand lane. A lady is coming up in her car behind me. She had lots of space behind me when I changed lanes, but waits until the last moment to slam her brakes and hold down her horn. Me and my girl proceed to the left turn lane, and this lady proceeds to yell something at me about getting out of the street as we all wait at the light.

    #2 Riding with my girl down Lincoln Ave. It's a very boutique downtown'ish area with a lot of traffic and pedestrians. Cars usually have to move pretty slowly through it, so I figure taking the lane shouldn't be a problem here at all. And there's no other choice. It's narrow, packed with parallel parked cars, no bike lanes, and sidewalks stuffed full of pedestrians. A car splits my lane anyway even though I'm in the center of it and makes a close pass around me nearly taking me out with his rear bumper. I don't actually know if this was intentional or just clueless, but there appeared to be no reason for the driver to have done this. The left lane was clear, and he had plenty of space and opportunity to pass me safely and easily.

    #3 A couple of minutes later, a guy in an SUV yells "Get in the bike lane!" as he passes in the left lane. I say back, "What bike lane?" but he's already gone up ahead.

    Is this normal? Or have I just been unlucky so far?

    I did feel safe taking the lane. Even the car that made the close pass didn't actually make me feel I was in danger. It was more like "Wtf is this guy doing?" The speeds were low, and it wasn't _that_ close. So other than motorists having a rude reaction to it, taking the lane seems to work well. So far.

    I don't actually feel like yelling back at these motorists. I'm not angry with them. They're just ignorant, and it's not really their fault. The state doesn't do enough to educate them, so they believe I'm breaking the law, and they're reacting to that. I didn't even know about taking the lane myself until a few days ago!

    My girl is another matter though. She was upset by it and told me she didn't feel it was worth it if this is the way we're going to be treated. She said maybe it's just not actually practical. I can see how bicyclists get discouraged and give up and go back to cars.

    She had a really interesting point about it. She said she can't remember ever driving a car herself and seeing a bicycle taking the lane. Neither have I.

    Is taking the lane something that bicyclists really do in the Bay Area?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Duane Behrens's Avatar
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    Here in southern California, and on local streets with 2 lanes in each direction, some cities have painted little pictures of a bicycle in the right-hand lane, supplemented by signs that read, "Bicycles may occupy entire lane."
    The biggest fools are those who cannot suffer fools gladly. -Perzuki

  3. #3
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    The people in san jose and in norcal in general have just about the trashiest attitudes I've ever encountered.

  4. #4
    Lost in Nostalgia
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    As cyclists, we know about taking the lane but unfortunately 90% of drivers or more? don't know a thing about it. As far as their concerned your just another red light running, arrogant cyclist.

  5. #5
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    i "take the lane" here in Walnut Creek, and Alamo, and Danville, Orinda, Martinez, etc. all the time. never had a problem. of course, you have to keep up.

  6. #6
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    as crowded as SJ is... I'm not surprised you get flack

  7. #7
    Senior Member leicanthrope's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duane Behrens View Post
    Here in southern California, and on local streets with 2 lanes in each direction, some cities have painted little pictures of a bicycle in the right-hand lane, supplemented by signs that read, "Bicycles may occupy entire lane."
    We have those in northern California too, but sadly very few people know what they actually mean, as they're not often accompanied by the signs. Some of my non-cyclist friends have admitted that they thought the public works people painted in the insignia for a bike lane, but never put in the stripes.

    Winchester Boulevard on Friday evenings at rush hour is ass. The obliviousness and hostility both ratchet up a few notches. Campbell as a whole is a bit worse than San Jose in my experience.

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    I've not had a problem in the part of San Jose I commute in. But it's not the area you mentioned. Maybe higher stress down in that area. Most drivers are patient enough to wait until you get out of the way in my experience. Now if you are really holding up traffic and not getting over when you could I can see that there might be words. My problem with cars have been more related to them not noticing me or not noticiing that I am actually moving at a speed not that far off what they can do in traffic and cutting me off.

  9. #9
    Super Newbie Shawn Gossman's Avatar
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    You know the sound a goat makes? The naaaaaaa sound? Practice it! Perfect it! Then the next time someone yells at you, loudly make that sound while giving the motion that you are trying to head butt the air.... Those folks should instantly leave you alone after that! And remember you in the process! :|
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  10. #10
    Senior Member cthenn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shawn gossman View Post
    you know the sound a goat makes? The naaaaaaa sound? Practice it! Perfect it! Then the next time someone yells at you, loudly make that sound while giving the motion that you are trying to head butt the air.... Those folks should instantly leave you alone after that! And remember you in the process! :|
    lol!

  11. #11
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    Put in a child seat on the rear. Cars will drive very carefully and not realize it is empty until after passing you. Plenty of cheap child seats in craigslist and trash cans. Combine with a reflective safety triangle from REI.

    I currently tie an orange ChuckIt dog ball thrower horizontally onto the back of my rear rack, sticking out to the left. Drivers are afraid of scratching their paint and pass with plenty of room (even though the tennis ball cup is soft-ish and non-scratching). I mount it sticking out an extra 1 inch past my left hand. A tree branch would work too, especially if you tie the safety triangle to the (left) end.

    Lastly, pulling an empty Burley child trailer would force cars to pass with room because the Burley sticks out more than one inch past your left hand. Be sure to put a safety triangle on the back of the Burley. This works better if you have a huge load to haul around. I normally carry only 10 lbs on my commute and like to hop onto the sidewalk once in a while so I stopped using my Burely, but it sure was funny to see cars move so far to the left they were forcing oncoming traffic into the opposite ditch!

    If you tire of the Burely, keep the fiberglass pole with the safety flag at the top and mount it horizontally like the tree branch above. The pointy tip looks like a nasty paint scratcher (it looks more paint-scratch scary than it actually is) and will cause cars to keep their distance when passing. The fiberglass pole will bounce around like crazy as you pedal. Since the orange flag is at the end of the pole and moving up and down, it will really catch driver's attention and look like a paint-scratching monster. The idea is *not* to scratch paint, but to make drivers fear having their paint scratched and gently encourage them to pass with care and respect. Fear is one (unfortunate) method to encourage people to obey laws.

    California law states that cars should give 3 feet when passing, but I suggest having the object only 1 or 2 inches past your left hand. If you combine with a mirror and you see a possible "grazer" coming up behind you, then act unsteady by driving with a small wiggle. The driver hopefully thinks you are incompetent or drunk and an accident about to happen. Nothing causes greater fear and concentration in a driver than the fear of traffic collision, especially with a precious baby in a child seat. An alternative is to pedal out of the saddle and have the ChuckIt/flag/branch act like a dagger as you rock your bike left and right. Think about how close a soccer-mom driving her brand new minivan would want to get to you. I admit this is ungentlemanly as it would effectively extend more than one inch past your left hand on the left-rock-tilt.
    Last edited by genesplitter; 05-25-14 at 12:51 PM.

  12. #12
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    I live right near Lake Almaden and commute through Willow Glen 2-3 times a week. I can't remember anyone yelling at me in this area and I regularly take the lane. Particularly coming up Santa Teresa blvd from the end of of the hwy 87 bike path past Oakridge mall. The are so many cars trying to turn onto either onto Thornwood, into the mall, or onto Blossom Hill that I often find myself in the center lane. Never had any one get upset, at least as far as I kmow.

  13. #13
    The Left Coast, USA FrenchFit's Avatar
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    I think it's normal to get yelled at if you use poor judgment on when and where to take the lane. If seen some bizarre rider decisions locally, and you don't need to psychic to know what the drivers are thinking. I'll just suggest, ... if you are getting yelled at you probably are creating a dangerous situation just to make your point. Just because you can take the lane at any given moment doesn't mean you should.

  14. #14
    Lost in Nostalgia
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    Quote Originally Posted by FrenchFit View Post
    I think it's normal to get yelled at if you use poor judgment on when and where to take the lane. If seen some bizarre rider decisions locally, and you don't need to psychic to know what the drivers are thinking. I'll just suggest, ... if you are getting yelled at you probably are creating a dangerous situation just to make your point. Just because you can take the lane at any given moment doesn't mean you should.
    Agreed. You don't suddenly jump in front of faster moving traffic just because it's legal to "take the lane". And, do you look back and signal first when you intend to take the lane where appropriate?

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    The majority of motorists fail the written (knowledge) test even though the standard for passing is what would earn a C- grade. A near majority fail it the second time they take it after failing the first time. From that, and observing our motorists, it is not much of a leap to conclude that most motorists are woefully ignorant of the laws governing the operation of cars and bikes on our roadways.

    Unfortunately, the most ignorant folks are generally the most likely to make a show of demonstrating their ignorance by yelling stupid things and honking. Be glad you don't have to live with them more than a few moments from time to time and pity their families.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by FrenchFit View Post
    I think it's normal to get yelled at if you use poor judgment on when and where to take the lane. If seen some bizarre rider decisions locally, and you don't need to psychic to know what the drivers are thinking. I'll just suggest, ... if you are getting yelled at you probably are creating a dangerous situation just to make your point. Just because you can take the lane at any given moment doesn't mean you should.
    I think you under estimate SJ drivers.
    Thereis one very narrow lane in my commute home every day, Going under some traintracks.
    Ialways try to let as many cars pass, i signal and move over into the lane.inevitably, a few times a week someone in a car flies up after ive moved over,bears down right behind me and then passes in the oncoming traffic lane andyells some insult at me before they cut me off right before a red light at theother side of the tracks.

    I’vehad many embarrassed drivers get stuck at that light and refuse to acknowledgeme, knowing they were in the wrong and endangering not on myself and them butanyone coming the opposite direction too..

    Notsaying this guy wasn't doing something to get yelled at, but assuming he MUSTbe doing something dangerous is definitely going too far..

  17. #17
    Senior Member Hapsmo911's Avatar
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    Ive had things thrown at me riding the bike lane on Almaden Exp. I think idiots are everywhere though its not limited to any region or city.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hapsmo911 View Post
    Ive had things thrown at me riding the bike lane on Almaden Exp. I think idiots are everywhere though its not limited to any region or city.
    Your probably right. and its random. A few days after saying that I've never had a problem, some guy buzzes me on Narvaez Ave then tries to run me down because I gave him the one finger salute. I normally have much better control of my reactions but he got really close and there was no reason for it. The road is very wide, there was no traffic and I was riding 2 feet from the curb, not taking the lane.

  19. #19
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    I know all these areas very well, grew up in the Willow Glen area. So I can address the specific areas you are talking about.

    As far as the examples given, only thing you can controll in any situation is your own behavior. I like to look for ways my actions could have changed the situation for the better. So I will approach it in such a way.

    #1 > Coleman is a fast moving road, typically +10mph over the posted limit. If the car coming behind might have to use its brakes to slow for you as you take the lane, you might want to consider waiting for them to pass before moving over. Someone can easily look down, not see you move and then have to slam on their brakes. You have the right to the road, but if you had slowed and waited for the car behind you to pass, you would have avoided having any issues.

    #2 > Downtown Willowglen is usually fine for cyclists taking the lane. You just happened to be in front of a jerk. If I am aware a car is behind me then I do move over to the right and give them room to pass. I typically avoid downtown WG though, and use the side streets. Lots of nice houses in that area to look at. While the streets are narrow and bumpy, you at least avoid all the traffic of DT.

    "Is this normal? Or have I just been unlucky so far?" In my experience, no its not. However I do not subscribe to the taking the lane philosophy. In talking to some friends who do keep to that philosophy, it seems to be very normal. I have been yelled at 3 times in 3 years after moving back to San Jose, while my budies who take the lane more frequently have weekly stories to tell.

    My personal opinion is that taking a lane is done when you are as fast or faster then automotive traffic, when merging to the left lane to turn, or when the right side of the street is obstructed or hazardous. I believe the most dangerous place to be is in the center of the road, when does a driver who hits a cyclist say, "I saw them, but decided just to run them over anyways." Its always, "I didn't even see them." They say that regardless of where you are. I have been rear ended in my car while at a stop light that was red, and seen people drive straight into cars stopped, "Oops didn't see ya there 3000lb SUV." I just don't trust that being in direct line of sight is any better than being slightly off to the side as far as visability, and it sure isn't better if they fail to see you at all.

    Best course of action is to pick routes that have minimal traffic, and maxiumum bike lanes. There are lots of great routes in the area, and more so if you decide to head out to Los Gatos or Saratoga.

    I did think of a time I do take the lane, when climbing tight mountain roads. In that case I do use the entire lane, but move to the right as I hear a vehicle.

  20. #20
    I STILL miss East Hill :) Rollfast's Avatar
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    Yes it is, EVERYWHERE...please look this up in Advocacy and Safety (A&S) and see why it and helmet threads are some of the most contentious and closed threads there. You do not control a lane nor do they, you SHARE the road and remember always that you don't have a personal force field and smoosh like a bug vs a car.

    Please take care of yourself at all times and pay attention to everything. You are your best and ONLY defense, not other drivers or devices or laws.
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  21. #21
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    Rollfast is right.
    Lane controlling-no such thing.
    And there is NO EVIDENCE that LC is safer than FRAP- zero zero.It MIGHT slightly decrease close passes by drivers alert enough to pass closely
    but it certainly puts you in the WORST POSSIBLE place for TEXTING DISTRACTED DRIVERS.
    So it MIGHT work on drivers who aren't going to hit you anyway-but drivers who hit bikes usually say "I never saw him/her"-they aren't lying(usually)
    Now you aren't 'taking a lane" when you are avoiding door zones(I try to have a 4 foot cushion when I pass parked cars)

    The middle of the lane is the worst place to be if you want to avoid getting hit by a TEXTING/DISTRACTED DRIVER.
    They-distracted drivers-spend most of their time-in the middle of the lane-they-and all other drivers-cut a swath that meanders in the lane-but they are "filling the middle" much more than they are covering the 2 feet from the right edge.

    LCing might protect you from drivers you DON'T NEED protecting from.
    Might spare you a close pass or two
    BUT ABSOLUTELY no evidence it is safer than FRAPPING
    Plenty of evidence it annoys drivers
    An annoyed driver-LCers say "so what my safety....." but it isn't safer.

    This is a never ending argument.LCers have no facts to back up safety claims.Just anecdotes "I get fewer close passes"
    So what-no one dies from a "close pass"
    Charlie

  22. #22
    I STILL miss East Hill :) Rollfast's Avatar
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    The point is that YOU have to watch, listen, pay close attention and coordinate your travel with all traffic.

    If you startle others, they are not only going to be upset, it's probably the only way they can warn you and express their concern for your safety.

    This is probably most of what cyclists perceive as a 'hostile envirronment' from drivers and why motorists perceive us as somewhat dangerous on the road.

    It is something that CAN be solved with some work between the two sides...both sides are stubborn and feel independent of the other in some ways and this creates tension.

    But don't 'play with traffic'-the traffic wins.
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  23. #23
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    it's not uncommon for drivers to be aggressive in san jose but it's usually not too bad. if you are taking the lane you need to do it with confidence and not appear to be dawdling otherwise car drivers may get annoyed. what time were these incidents?
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