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Are you OK with slowing down motorists?

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Are you OK with slowing down motorists?

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Old 12-15-04, 04:52 PM
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Are you OK with slowing down motorists?

Several discussions I've been involved with here have ended up at the same point: a cyclist expressing a reluctance to slow down motorists. Some feel it is unsafe to do so. Others recognize it is not unsafe, but are reluctant because they feel it's rude.

Vehicular cyclists, those who believe that "cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles" have gotten over this reluctance. We recognize that we have the same rights and responsibilities on the road as do motor vehicle drivers, and ride accordingly. In particular, we will not compromise our safety (by, say, riding on the wrong side of the road, in a crosswalk, or on a sidewalk) in order to avoid inconveniencing motorists. We also have learned how to safely negotiate our way across multiple lanes of high-speed traffic in order to get to a left turn lane, and don't worry about how that slows down some motorists. Once establishing ourselves in a lane, we're comfortable riding there as long as necessary, even if we are being passed on both sides by high speed traffic, even if we are slowing down motorists behind us.

As pedestrians, we cause motorists to come to a complete stop in order to let us cross at uncontrolled (no signals) intersections, and yet we sleep well at night. In grocery lines we don't feel guilty about having a grocery cart full of groceries and folks behind us in line with fewer items. Why worry about slowing down motorists when we're on our bikes?

Are YOU OK with slowing down motorists, say when the lane is too narrow to safely share side-by-side with a car? Or when you're going fast downhill and riding near the right side or even in the bike lane is not enough safety margin for the speed at which you are travelling? Or merging across multiple lanes to get into a left turn lane? Why or why not?

Did you have a reluctance in the past that you've now gotten over? How did you do that?

Serge
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Old 12-15-04, 05:06 PM
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I ride in a manner consistant with my comfort and abilities, as well as my trust of the motorists on the road at that particular time.

I take the lane when it's too narrow to share, or when I'm smokin down a hill and need the extra room. I don't feel bad about it.

But there are times when I do not take the lane even though it is my right. This is usually for safety reasons.


Originally Posted by Serge *******
Vehicular cyclists, those who believe that "cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles"
I'm not always treated like a driver of a vehicle. In those instances I will make my decision based on safety. Sometimes using a crosswalk instead of left turn lane or riding slowly within door range whilst intensly examining the interiors of the parked cars that I'm approaching.

My priorities are:
1) Be safe. No accidents or injuries
2) Get where I'm going
3) Have fun
4) Get there quickly

I use the my rights to the roadway in persuit of those goals.
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Old 12-15-04, 05:17 PM
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Where I live, perhaps 1 in 10 "motorists" treat me like I have the same rights as a car on the road, and Id hasten to guess that 1 in 100 actually know that I do. Therefore, I don't feel compelled to do much on their behalf. I ride where it's safe for me to ride. Sometimes that means taking the lane, sometimes that means taking the sidewalk; and yes, sometimes that means breaking the law.

As the saying goes, Id rather be tried by 12, than carried by 6!
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Old 12-15-04, 05:27 PM
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I'm basically the same way... I'll ride the sidewalk when absolutely necessary, like if I feel like cruising along at 7mph and there are cars parked along the streets. For the most part, I take the shoulder whenever possible and if I take a lane and slow down motorists, I'll often find a place to pull off and let them pass safely. I'm more concerned with getting where I'm going safely than exercising my right as a "motorist". Two tons of steel and rubber vs. 160 lbs of aluminum and flesh, it's not difficult to figure out who would win that contest and I act accordingly.
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Old 12-15-04, 05:37 PM
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This is an extremely important part of cycling, and I try to explain this to my friends who do not ride as much as I do, and they do not get it. At one time I was a little uncomfortable with this, but not terribly afraid, as I had motorcycles all the time.
Finally I was convinced to use, and get used to a good helmet mirror. That was all I needed to become totally comfortable with passing traffic of all kinds. Still I did not really ride in traffic as a vehicle as I should. And me of all people, having had motorcycles for 30 years! I finally found a book called "Urban Bikers Tricks and Tips". It is written in a very easy to understand clear simple manner. Just about anyone would understand this. After reading about all the traffic cycling It confirmed what I had in the back of my head, but really did not apply. Now It's easy for me. I might add that I am totally comfortable with the mirror.

I think this is what they call "counter intuitive" your survival instinct tells you not to get in front of a dangerous thing coming at you when you can not see it. I think this is something you need to LEARN. Similar to pushing a tiller on a boat against the way you want to go, at first.

I spent a year telling a friend how to merge, deal with lanes, exit and entering ramps etc. to no avail. aarrgghhh!! One day I lied, I said " I have to give this book to someone tomorrow, do you want to read it tonight before it's gone, before tomorrows heavy traffic ride?" Then I left the room.
The next day he was gliding along with traffic perfectly and smoothly, no close calls for the first time ever. I decided it was best to never ask him if he read the book.

On a narrow bridge I acknowledge the best driver behind me the other day. The driver of a huge truck. I go into the lane in front of him and give the stopping signal with my hand for slowing down. He understands the lane is too narrow for both of us. He is following me down a hill on a huge bridge slowing down in a semi. I'm in the middle of the lane. The bridge workers see what is going on. They go CRAZY .....
The lane opens up, I move over, I wave him to pass. He passes and beeps a little beep AFTER passing me, for letting him pass.

I know...he knows....it's a beautifull day.
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Old 12-15-04, 05:57 PM
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I use the roads without hesitation if I can...i.e. double lanes, etc. I have no problem using a turn lane and actually think it's safer than some cross walks, i've almost been hit twice going across a crosswalk by right turning cars. If I am going down a hill I will also use a lane, and rarely will I move over if there is plenty of room for them to pass. This is a big problem of one main stretch of road, cars don't realize I have a right to be there and blair their horn at me while I'm in the right hand lane...they eventually figure out to go around me.
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Old 12-15-04, 06:07 PM
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It's interesting that you are recommending "Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips". It has been panned by a number of folks on Amazon, including me. I must say that it does have quite a bit of spot-on great advice, and I could see how it would help improve the skills of most cyclists. However, he has some advice in there that is, in a word, deadly.

Some of the review titles are pretty clear on this:

"Spoiled by irresponsible advice"
"Great for thugs"
"Outrageous suicidal advice" (that's mine!)
"Dangerous advice that will get you killed"

It's the "sly cyclist" tips he has in there that cause most if not all of the problems. Here's what I said in my review:

----------
I admit I've done most if not all of the dangerous "sly cyclist" "tips & tricks" recommended by this book - but I did them when I didn't know better. You'd think a book on biking would help one know better...
----------

If you ignore the "sly cyclist" crap it is an excellent book, but most reviews recommend "Effective Cycling" or "Cyclecraft" (or both) instead.

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Old 12-15-04, 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Serge *******
Are YOU OK with slowing down motorists, say when the lane is too narrow to safely share side-by-side with a car?

Did you have a reluctance in the past that you've now gotten over? How did you do that?
This is a great thread, Serge.

I realized that I'm a cyclist, not a driver of a 100 or 200 horsepower Lay-Z-Boy. If a driver can't get home on time with that kind of power and comfort, and negotiate all traffic situations safely and patiently, including occasional cyclists and pedestrians who might slow him down, he's not worthy.
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Old 12-15-04, 07:47 PM
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I do my best not to slow down traffic. Not because I feel bad for the drivers, but because it's safer for me. I don't ride sidewalks, etc... I take the less heavily driven roads. There is a section of about a mile that I take the lane on my way to work. It is three lanes of traffic with a 45 MPH speed limit. Traffic in rush hour runs between 40 and 60 MPH. It was scary at first, but I'm now much more compfortable when I ride farther out in the lane. If you don't give them room to squeeze by you they have to wait for the next lane over to open up. They may honk more and be upset, but in the end I'm safer for it. It's worth it to me.

I do try to hit the big intersection at the end of the light's cycle. That way I'm most of the way to the turn-off to a much smaller parallel street before the next wave of traffic catches up to me. If the timing doesn't work out I still take the lane.

In response to those that ride the sidewalk: I did that when I first started this commute. I had more close calls doing it by far than I've had since. People in cars aren't looking for you there. Not that they're looking for you in the lane, but with a bright well aimed blinkie they are more likely to see you in the lane than elsewhere. Also the road is a much better surface to ride on than the sidewalk, which is interupted constantly with driveways, entranceways, and sometimes curbs. At least that's how it is where I ride.
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Old 12-15-04, 08:36 PM
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I like to consider myself a courteous cyclist, but I NEVER sacrifice my right to the road or my safety for the convenience of a few seconds of a motorist's time. I will ride to the right in lanes wide enough to share, and I do not force motorists to pass me twice by riding to the front of a que of cars at the light. However, I also will not inconvenience myself by pulling over and allowing them to pass, nor will I take to the sidewalk (a potentially more dangerous practice than riding visibly in the lane). I am a firm believer in cyclists' rights and responsibilities on the road and will not allow myself to behave in a fashion that insinuates the bicycle is a second class vehicle or cyclists second class citizens.

Okay, now the short answer. I am quite OK with slowing down motorists. In fact, most of them SHOULD slow down for EVERYONE'S safety....theirs included.
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Old 12-15-04, 10:08 PM
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Put it this way, I like slowing down cars almost as much as I like grandma in front of me biking at 10mph when I'm trying to get to work. However, I will always take the lane when necessary, cars have almost never honked at me when I did, even in busy traffic, I guess there are enough bikes around here that they understand, plus I can usually go fast enough to keep up with the car in front of me should I have to sprint to the speed limit.
I second the fact that it seems counter intuitive but sometimes it's safer to get in front of a car coming down on you from behind and take the lane rather than allow them to squeeze by.
Another thing I've tried is counter-eye-contact. The theory is, if you look at a driver and make eye contact, the driver will think that you, as a slower vehicle, will slow down and they'll cross the intersection. I noticed that if I keep my head straight but turn my eyes to look at cars while I'm nearing an intersection, the driver thinks I'm looking straight and don't see them and a lot of times will not pass until I pass. I tried this with a coworker as the 2 of us biked home and it worked pretty well.
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Old 12-15-04, 11:20 PM
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Am I "reluctant" to slow down cars behind me when taking a lane? Yes, always. If I'm holding up a car I am essentially entrusting my life to a stranger. There are too many inattentive and/or incompetent drivers out there who aren't worthy of my trust. I take a lane every day but try to time it so I'm not holding up cars.

Reluctance plus action = vigilence = safety.
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Old 12-15-04, 11:23 PM
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Originally Posted by slvoid
I like slowing down cars almost as much as I like grandma in front of me biking at 10mph when I'm trying to get to work. However, I will always take the lane when necessary
My sentiments exactly.

I think it's possible to be assertive, aggressive and courteous almost simultaneously. I see no need to hold up traffic just because I have the right to ... not if there's room for all of us. If I was driving a big ass van that couldn't hit 55 mph, you wouldn't see me in the left lane of the freeway, even though I would definitely have the right to be there.

In fact, I would argue that riding in this manner is better for all cyclists, if it causes even one cager to say "Hey, they're not all that bad."
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Old 12-15-04, 11:58 PM
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I have to cross under a busy freeway twice on my commute; one at the beginning and one at the end. I am always reluctant to make cars slow down because I know what my reaction would be! But I do it anyway, reluctant or not.

On the first one, there are two lanes that turn right onto the freeway, and I go straight through. Sometimes I wait at the last light until it turns yellow, then go. Other times I just look, signal, and take the lane.

The second place has lanes too narrow for me to share with a car, so I look, signal and take the lane. There is a light right before the underpass, and most of the time I let the first car go ahead while I am clipping in.

Now that I've written it out, I realize I always look behind me before taking the lane. I think this sort of signals your intention in advance. When you take the lane, take the whole lane! If you don't, some people will try to drive around you.
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Old 12-16-04, 01:11 AM
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Originally Posted by drroebuck
I think it's possible to be assertive, aggressive and courteous almost simultaneously. I see no need to hold up traffic just because I have the right to ... not if there's room for all of us. If I was driving a big ass van that couldn't hit 55 mph, you wouldn't see me in the left lane of the freeway, even though I would definitely have the right to be there.

In fact, I would argue that riding in this manner is better for all cyclists, if it causes even one cager to say "Hey, they're not all that bad."
FWIW, I agree 100%.

In particular, I never "hold up traffic just because I have the right to". However, I don't hestitate to do it if it's necessary for my safety. The problem is that you don't have time to do a detailed analysis of a given traffic situation to determine if taking a lane is necessary for safety. In other words, there's quite a gray area on this issue. And what I'm trying to emphasize is the benefit of erring on the side of safety. This is what I was trying to point out in all of those examples in your excellent presentation in your interchange thread. The language chosen there often indicated erring on the side of avoiding holding up motorists, not safety.

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Old 12-16-04, 04:25 AM
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I'm another vehicular cyclist. I see it like this: roads are shared spaces. We all have to play together and play nice. Cars slow each other down every day, on every journey. Worrying about slowing cars down is an inferiority complex.

Sure, if there's space and it is safe, I keep to the side so they can pass. That's just politeness. But where it is safest for me to take the lane, I always take the lane, as is my right.

I just wish the drivers who rev impatiently behind me then scorch past on their way to the queue at the stoplight twenty yards ahead would think a little!
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Old 12-16-04, 07:42 AM
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Once, after just a couple months of biking, I moved out of the lane and onto the shoulder to let a bus by. Then just as the bus was passing me, I hit a pile of pebbles and almost fell. That would have been it for me.

So now I take the lane often, for my safety and for the safety of the drivers. There are too many times when the driver behind me doesn't seem able to pick a safe time to pass me (on a road with one lane each direction), so I help them out by blocking my lane completely and making it obvious that there's not enough room on the road for two cars and a bike all lined up next to each other.
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Old 12-16-04, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Serge *******
If you ignore the "sly cyclist" crap it is an excellent book, but most reviews recommend "Effective Cycling" or "Cyclecraft" (or both) instead.
Like 2manybikes, I liked this book, and I didn't have a problem with the "sly cyclist" tips. I thought he made it pretty clear that they were risky, and that you shouldn't try them unless you really knew what you were doing.

Plus, it had instructions on riding up and down stairs, which I just thought was cool
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Old 12-16-04, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Diggy18
There are too many times when the driver behind me doesn't seem able to pick a safe time to pass me (on a road with one lane each direction), so I help them out by blocking my lane completely and making it obvious that there's not enough room on the road for two cars and a bike all lined up next to each other.
I think you have a point here- it is not just cyclists that feel the pressure of holding other motorist up. Motorists feel under pressure too and if you leave them a possible gap they may feel that they have to try for it in order to not hold anyone up behind. If you make it clear that there is no gap then the responsibility for the hold up is taken away from the driver of the car behind.
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Old 12-16-04, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Serge *******
Are YOU OK with slowing down motorists, say when the lane is too narrow to safely share side-by-side with a car? Or when you're going fast downhill and riding near the right side or even in the bike lane is not enough safety margin for the speed at which you are travelling? Or merging across multiple lanes to get into a left turn lane? Why or why not?

Did you have a reluctance in the past that you've now gotten over? How did you do that?

Serge
I'm not quite OK with it, but I'm getting their and think it is the ideal to shoot for. One situation in which I have no qualms about taking the lane is when a huge truck or bus is coming up behind me. I usually hear the diesel engine gunning. I check back and then take the lane to make sure the driver must entirely switch lanes to pass. Why? I've had one too many occasions where I try to ride to the right and they take that as a signal to pass in the same lane. No fun being buzzed by a vehicle with tires up to my kneck.
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Old 12-16-04, 09:55 AM
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I just get off briefly and let them around.
They appreciate it, and I don't like having cars that close.
It's good to be able to ride the shoulder.
I've rode with people who think they'll fall off the edge of the earth if they right to the right of the white line.
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Old 12-16-04, 10:22 AM
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[QUOTE=elbows]Like 2manybikes, I liked this book, and I didn't have a problem with the "sly cyclist" tips. I thought he made it pretty clear that they were risky, and that you shouldn't try them unless you really knew what you were doing.

Having had dirt bike motorcycles with suspension on both ends, riding down stairs on a MTB is easy for me, however did you ever try the part about riding up stairs? I never did.

I though it would have been better to leave some of the more risky "sly biker" ideas out of the book because it may encourage someone to try something above their ability. Like skitching for example. I'm not going to try that. It's dangerous.
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Old 12-16-04, 10:32 AM
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i ride a portion of my daily ride along a major artery with two lanes of traffic both directions and a multi-use path right alongside.

all summer (not so much when the temps drop) there are roadies who "take the lane" on this road which is twisty and people routinely drive at 50+ mph.

while i agree these people have the right to do this and i sympathize with their rights and all, i would be scared for my life and never be able to enjoy riding with the constant threat of getting rammed up the @ss by some inconsiderate schmuck... so i take the multi-use path and swerve around the rollerbladers and the couples jogging who need to have the whole width of the path for themselves...

btw, i am speaking of kelly drive in philly if any of you know it. would you take the lane out there? i fear my life too much!

the rest of my commute has bike lanes, WOOO BIKE LANES! i don't trust people around here enough to risk my life hoping they do the right thing...
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Old 12-16-04, 11:42 AM
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My signature says it all.

I have no qualms slowing a car down for fifteen seconds so I can get to where I'm going. So what I made him fifteen seconds later than he/she already was, do you have any idea how much time is taken from me due to motorists?
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Old 12-16-04, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Serge *******
Are YOU OK with slowing down motorists ... Did you have a reluctance in the past that you've now gotten over? How did you do that?
I pretty much adhere to the Arizona statutes on biking, which basically state: When you are riding slower than the normal speed of traffic, "ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway" except when making a left hand turn, passing something slower than you, or avoid a hazard. Pretty vague. How close is "practicable to ... the curb"? For me, that's normally about two feet from my tires, unless I need more (rain, steep drop off curb), and I maintain this pretty aggressively, so that drivers can figure out that I'm not weaving and can judge if they can get by or not. For a local bike activist, it was three-and-a-half feet, and that got the attention of the police, for whom a "practicable" distance was 18 inches. Read his letter for the story, his rationale and grahpics).

I am reasonably reluctant to hold up traffic. I am also reasonably reluctant to endanger myself by not giving myself enough room for safety. The key word is reasonable. I don't care if I hold up traffic if it is reasonable, and reasonable depends on a lot of things, including subjective perception. For me, it is reasonable to take about a third of the lane, for others it is reasonable to take more or less.

I was reluctant to ride with cars until I tried it and got some experience with it. Now, it's second nature.
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