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Wincing every time a car passes...

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Wincing every time a car passes...

Old 10-24-12, 08:02 AM
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chgurlsng
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Wincing every time a car passes...

How do you deal with the constant fear of being hit by a car? My commute to school is only 3 miles. Part of it has a bike lane and a separate MUP if I so choose to use it. I then have to turn onto a busy two lane road that has no shoulder whatsoever. I have to cross a main four lane intersection and go over railroad tracks which gets a little awkward when I'm behind a school bus. At least 3 times per morning, I can just barely reach out and touch a car trying to pass me.

If I use the sidewalk, it takes me 45 minutes to get to school because I have to keep crossing the street using crosswalks since the sidewalk doesn't go the whole way down on both sides. The right side of the road has an OK sidewalk that gets me almost the whole way to school, but the left side is abysmal (pot holes, no ramps, etc). At the main four lane intersection, I have to switch over to the left side of the road because that is where the only crosswalk is, and then the sidewalk ends shortly after the intersection so I have to switch back over to the right side without the use of a crosswalk and the cars are not very friendly when trying to cross here because they're thinking about the green light at the major intersection coming up.

I don't like using the sidewalk because it takes forever, but I also don't like using the road because I don't feel safe. I sat down and played with Google Maps, but the only alternative route that I could figure out still crosses over that busy four lane road, and it would take me into a very shady part of town. I wouldn't be stuck on the busy two lane road for two miles, though.
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Old 10-24-12, 08:24 AM
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The best thing you can do is take your lane. Bike at least 2-3 feet into it, that way cars can't pass you with out going fully into the other lane, and it gives you dodge room if you need it. Remember you have just as much right to the road as they do.

And, as terrible as this sounds, when I first started I used headphones, if you can't hear revving it's engine behind you, you can't get scared. I'd of course never suggest it, because at least in NY, you can only legally have headphones in 1 ear while on a motorway. But it helped me a lot.
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Old 10-24-12, 08:27 AM
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It would scare me more if I couldn't hear the cars. I think you'll overcome the fear in time.
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Old 10-24-12, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by chgurlsng View Post
How do you deal with the constant fear of being hit by a car? My commute to school is only 3 miles. Part of it has a bike lane and a separate MUP if I so choose to use it. I then have to turn onto a busy two lane road that has no shoulder whatsoever. I have to cross a main four lane intersection and go over railroad tracks which gets a little awkward when I'm behind a school bus. At least 3 times per morning, I can just barely reach out and touch a car trying to pass me.

If I use the sidewalk, it takes me 45 minutes to get to school because I have to keep crossing the street using crosswalks since the sidewalk doesn't go the whole way down on both sides. The right side of the road has an OK sidewalk that gets me almost the whole way to school, but the left side is abysmal (pot holes, no ramps, etc). At the main four lane intersection, I have to switch over to the left side of the road because that is where the only crosswalk is, and then the sidewalk ends shortly after the intersection so I have to switch back over to the right side without the use of a crosswalk and the cars are not very friendly when trying to cross here because they're thinking about the green light at the major intersection coming up.

I don't like using the sidewalk because it takes forever, but I also don't like using the road because I don't feel safe. I sat down and played with Google Maps, but the only alternative route that I could figure out still crosses over that busy four lane road, and it would take me into a very shady part of town. I wouldn't be stuck on the busy two lane road for two miles, though.
I would stick with riding in the road versus the sidewalks. For me, I feel better on the road anyway. Dealing with cars and such takes some time but there is a real good quote I used to tell my culinary students:

"To learn and gain stride, you must first put yourself in an uncomfortable position. By doing this, you will spur growth".

This is very true. Its all about confidence.
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Old 10-24-12, 09:03 AM
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Take a branch of wood. A flexible one. Willow tree is perfect.

Tie it to the bike so that it goes parralel to the ground and sticks some 30 cm to the left (if you ride on the right side of the road). Tie a piece of red cloth to the end of the branch. Cars will give you room.


Other, less orthodox solutions are taking the lane, or using this before every ride:



Rinse, repeat...
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Old 10-24-12, 09:04 AM
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Hopefully the OP is using a mirror. This reduces the amount of panic with cars in the rear. You can see them approaching and react accordingly.
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Old 10-24-12, 09:06 AM
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It sounds like you are commuting to school so I presume you have a time schedule. I am a working schmoe but flexible in hours so I typically arrive at work by bike by 7am and leave at 4pm, thereby avoiding a lot of rush hour. If you can work that in your schedule, you could alleviate the high traffic areas being high in traffic (which I presume a 4 lane road would be (2 lanes each way)).

Also, you might start checking out google maps with the satellite view. I obviously don't know the area you commute in but you'd be surprised at the amount of informal bike paths that you might be able to use to avoid some of the road walks. In both my jobs, I have been able to find shortcuts through the woods or places where cars can't go that would go around the high traffic areas. Sometimes you can spot them using the satellite view...

barring that, the other folks in this thread have good ideas... More time will give you more confidence/comfort..

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Old 10-24-12, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by squegeeboo View Post
The best thing you can do is take your lane. Bike at least 2-3 feet into it, that way cars can't pass you with out going fully into the other lane, and it gives you dodge room if you need it. Remember you have just as much right to the road as they do.
I agree. Most people are not psychopaths and they will not run over you if they see you. I think I remember reading that, statistically, more people are hit by cars as they are pulling into the lane unexpectedly from the sidewalk.
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Old 10-24-12, 09:31 AM
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Take the Lane

Use a Mirror

Use a BRIGHT tail light.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

Last edited by Doohickie; 10-24-12 at 09:45 AM.
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Old 10-24-12, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
Take the Lane

Use a Mirror
I gave up on mirrors. More than half the people here drive as if they will run you over and then turn in the last second. Mirror made me feel scared all the time about something I couldn't change, influence. So I do my best to remain visible, leave room when it is wise, or take the lane when that is wise but no mirrors.
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Old 10-24-12, 09:57 AM
  #11  
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First off, as I'm sure it has already been mentioned, you're riding a bicycle. Therefore you are operating a vehicle, and should not be on the sidewalk.

Does anyone in your area offer any cycling safety classes? If so, I would suggest that you take it.

Originally Posted by chgurlsng View Post
How do you deal with the constant fear of being hit by a car? My commute to school is only 3 miles. Part of it has a bike lane and a separate MUP if I so choose to use it. I then have to turn onto a busy two lane road that has no shoulder whatsoever. I have to cross a main four lane intersection and go over railroad tracks which gets a little awkward when I'm behind a school bus. At least 3 times per morning, I can just barely reach out and touch a car trying to pass me.

If I use the sidewalk, it takes me 45 minutes to get to school because I have to keep crossing the street using crosswalks since the sidewalk doesn't go the whole way down on both sides. The right side of the road has an OK sidewalk that gets me almost the whole way to school, but the left side is abysmal (pot holes, no ramps, etc). At the main four lane intersection, I have to switch over to the left side of the road because that is where the only crosswalk is, and then the sidewalk ends shortly after the intersection so I have to switch back over to the right side without the use of a crosswalk and the cars are not very friendly when trying to cross here because they're thinking about the green light at the major intersection coming up.

I don't like using the sidewalk because it takes forever, but I also don't like using the road because I don't feel safe. I sat down and played with Google Maps, but the only alternative route that I could figure out still crosses over that busy four lane road, and it would take me into a very shady part of town. I wouldn't be stuck on the busy two lane road for two miles, though.
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Old 10-24-12, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Slaninar View Post
Take a branch of wood. A flexible one. Willow tree is perfect.

Tie it to the bike so that it goes parralel to the ground and sticks some 30 cm to the left (if you ride on the right side of the road). Tie a piece of red cloth to the end of the branch. Cars will give you room.


Other, less orthodox solutions are taking the lane, or using this before every ride:



Rinse, repeat...
How is taking the lane a "less orthodox" solution? We are operating a vehicle, therefore we have a legal right to be on the road.

Although, I do like your suggestion of tying a branch, etc. with a red flag to the back of ones bike.
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Old 10-24-12, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Bike Hermit View Post
...statistically, more people are hit by cars as they are pulling into the lane unexpectedly from the sidewalk.
Yes, getting rear-ended is statistically rare, but more often fatal when it does happen.

Taking the lane is the usually the safest way to go. Still, I avoid streets with fast, dense traffic and limited visibility. If a car comes up over a hill going 60 and you are there with oncoming traffic in the other lane, they may not have many options. Choose your route carefully. If cars have an alternative lane available and traffic is not fast, just get far enough into the lane that they have to change lanes. Cars tend to resist changing lanes for some reason, but if you make them, everyone is safer.
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Old 10-24-12, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Slaninar View Post
Take a branch of wood. A flexible one. Willow tree is perfect.

Tie it to the bike so that it goes parralel to the ground and sticks some 30 cm to the left (if you ride on the right side of the road). Tie a piece of red cloth to the end of the branch. Cars will give you room.
I've been contemplating some sort of similar device utilizing a coat hanger wire, and something to reinforce the rigidity out to 36" beyond my mirror.
I was talking with another rider yesterday and she was working on a similar device with a diamond point on the end.
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Old 10-24-12, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by chgurlsng View Post
I don't like using the sidewalk because it takes forever, but I also don't like using the road because I don't feel safe. I sat down and played with Google Maps, but the only alternative route that I could figure out still crosses over that busy four lane road, and it would take me into a very shady part of town. I wouldn't be stuck on the busy two lane road for two miles, though.
Lots of good discussion about coping mechanisms for the busy road, but my suggestion is to not be as afraid of the "shady part of town." I routinely ride through the worst part of town to get to school (evening classes, so often after dark), past several homeless shelters, and it's made me a much less fearful person. Turns out that those "other" people who aren't upper middle class folk like me are really not that scary. They're doing their own thing and have no motivation to interfere with me doing my own thing. And I can outpace them on my bike anyway.

Sometimes I stop at the chinese bakery that's smack dab in the middle of this area. And despite stopping, fiddling with a lock on a moderately expensive bike, and then leaving said bike unattended for 15 minutes at a time...still no problems. Plus I get the best coconut buns in town.
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Old 10-24-12, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by neil View Post
Lots of good discussion about coping mechanisms for the busy road, but my suggestion is to not be as afraid of the "shady part of town." I routinely ride through the worst part of town to get to school (evening classes, so often after dark), past several homeless shelters, and it's made me a much less fearful person. Turns out that those "other" people who aren't upper middle class folk like me are really not that scary. They're doing their own thing and have no motivation to interfere with me doing my own thing. And I can outpace them on my bike anyway.

Sometimes I stop at the chinese bakery that's smack dab in the middle of this area. And despite stopping, fiddling with a lock on a moderately expensive bike, and then leaving said bike unattended for 15 minutes at a time...still no problems. Plus I get the best coconut buns in town.
+1. Never "fear". Be confident... but NOT cocky!
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Old 10-24-12, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by FenderTL5 View Post
I've been contemplating some sort of similar device utilizing a coat hanger wire, and something to reinforce the rigidity out to 36" beyond my mirror.
I was talking with another rider yesterday and she was working on a similar device with a diamond point on the end.
Ha. I love the diamond point!
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Old 10-24-12, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by FenderTL5 View Post
I've been contemplating some sort of similar device utilizing a coat hanger wire, and something to reinforce the rigidity out to 36" beyond my mirror.
I was talking with another rider yesterday and she was working on a similar device with a diamond point on the end.
If it's rigid, wouldn't that make you crash when a driver clips the stick or whatever?
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Old 10-24-12, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by chgurlsng View Post
How do you deal with the constant fear of being hit by a car? My commute to school is only 3 miles. Part of it has a bike lane and a separate MUP if I so choose to use it. I then have to turn onto a busy two lane road that has no shoulder whatsoever. I have to cross a main four lane intersection and go over railroad tracks which gets a little awkward when I'm behind a school bus. At least 3 times per morning, I can just barely reach out and touch a car trying to pass me.

If I use the sidewalk, it takes me 45 minutes to get to school because I have to keep crossing the street using crosswalks since the sidewalk doesn't go the whole way down on both sides. The right side of the road has an OK sidewalk that gets me almost the whole way to school, but the left side is abysmal (pot holes, no ramps, etc). At the main four lane intersection, I have to switch over to the left side of the road because that is where the only crosswalk is, and then the sidewalk ends shortly after the intersection so I have to switch back over to the right side without the use of a crosswalk and the cars are not very friendly when trying to cross here because they're thinking about the green light at the major intersection coming up.

I don't like using the sidewalk because it takes forever, but I also don't like using the road because I don't feel safe. I sat down and played with Google Maps, but the only alternative route that I could figure out still crosses over that busy four lane road, and it would take me into a very shady part of town. I wouldn't be stuck on the busy two lane road for two miles, though.
First, kudos to you for riding your bike to work. Now, let's help you find the safest and most efficient way of getting there. You've already discovered that it isn't very efficient to ride on the sidewalk. It's bumpy, there are cutouts, and it doesn't go all the way At 4 mph (3 miles/.75 hour), you may as well walk.

Also, it isn't very safe. You're far more likely to be hit by a car coming out of a driveway or parking lot if you ride on the sidewalk, especially if it's on the counter-flow side of the road. Why? Because cars aren't looking for you because they aren't expecting riders to be there.

So, where could you ride where it is efficient and safe? The road.

Now that we've decided where to ride, let me give you some tips on how to ride:

1. Be visible. That means wearing reflective gear and blinkies.
2. Be predictable. Ride a straight line as much as you can. Don't weave around parked cars. Look up the road and pick a line that gets you there, keeping in mind that you need to ride as far right as practicable. Practicable does not mean possible. It means as far right as is reasonably safe, taking into account the width of the road, the condition of the road, and any potential hazards. That means glass and other crap that collects in the gutter. It also means car doors. I can't stress this enough. Think of the widest door you can (I use a Ford F-150 in my mind) fully extended into the lane. Now give yourself 6 more inches to clear it. That's your line and if that puts you in the motor traffic lane, that's your lane. (Where there's no shoulder, a lot of riders pick the right wheel track.)
3. Be assertive. You don't have to be a dick, but you have to be confident. You have a right to that part of the road, so act like it. I have found over many years of commuting and training on the road that motorists do not want to hit you. And if you ride like you know what you're doing, they'll act accordingly. Hold your line, make eye contact, maybe smile and wave, but don't let them bully you.
4. Be alert. Keep in mind that even though motorists don't want to hit you, they do stupid things and don't pay attention. You need to pay attention for them and assume that someone will do something stupid. After awhile, you'll find that you have a good sense of vehicular body language and you'll be able to predict whether a car will turn before it puts on a blinker (or doesn't bother). You'll listen better and start seeing around corners using reflections in store windows and shadows on the ground.

Have a good ride!
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Old 10-24-12, 10:42 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by squegeeboo View Post
If it's rigid, wouldn't that make you crash when a driver clips the stick or whatever?
Make it flexible, like a small piece of fishing pole or flag pole. I am thinking about making one, with a bright sticker that has a "Three feet is the law" (with the cite of the actual WA state law), and possibly the diamond point thing too. I would probably make it 2 feet long, so the drivers can get close, and it would have to have a ~5 lb breakaway.
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Old 10-24-12, 10:49 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by Digital_Cowboy View Post
How is taking the lane a "less orthodox" solution? We are operating a vehicle, therefore we have a legal right to be on the road.

Although, I do like your suggestion of tying a branch, etc. with a red flag to the back of ones bike.
In my country, the law says "bicycle uses 1 meter of road to the right", so it is practically an offense to take the lane. And it is not always safe.

Through experience, I've come to decide with confidence when it is wise to take the lane and when it is not. In spite of that, a few days ago, I was run off the road buy a truck hauling a trailer. I was taking the lane, he sounded his horn and I saw there was NO way he was going to stop (in time at least). I moved all the way to the right, he passed me and swerved to the right. I had to run off the road, to avoid gettin hit by the trailer.

So vehicle it is, but a lot different one and law is nice, but physics beats it in the street.
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Old 10-24-12, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by squegeeboo View Post
If it's rigid, wouldn't that make you crash when a driver clips the stick or whatever?
i was thinking just rigid enough to hold it close to parallel with the handlebars, yet flexible enough to bend or possibly break away with enough force. The previously referenced fishing pole sounds like a good possibility.
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Old 10-24-12, 11:11 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by neil View Post
Lots of good discussion about coping mechanisms for the busy road, but my suggestion is to not be as afraid of the "shady part of town." I routinely ride through the worst part of town to get to school (evening classes, so often after dark), past several homeless shelters, and it's made me a much less fearful person. Turns out that those "other" people who aren't upper middle class folk like me are really not that scary. They're doing their own thing and have no motivation to interfere with me doing my own thing. And I can outpace them on my bike anyway.

Sometimes I stop at the chinese bakery that's smack dab in the middle of this area. And despite stopping, fiddling with a lock on a moderately expensive bike, and then leaving said bike unattended for 15 minutes at a time...still no problems. Plus I get the best coconut buns in town.
If you are a guy, ugly, and dressed pretty badly I think you're relatively safe,...but the OP is a fairly short build young woman who has other worries a male usually does not have to worry about.
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Old 10-24-12, 11:27 AM
  #24  
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If the cars are passing you too closely, you are too far to the right. It feels counterintuitive, but riding farther in the lane will cause (most) drivers to move into the other lane to pass. On roads with no shoulder, I ride in the right tire track (about 2-3 feet from the curb). Drivers might get a bit annoyed, but they never buzz me.

And I assume you have a mirror. IF not, definitely get one. That helped increase my on-road confidence a hundred-fold.
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Old 10-24-12, 11:34 AM
  #25  
Leisesturm
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Originally Posted by FenderTL5 View Post
i was thinking just rigid enough to hold it close to parallel with the handlebars, yet flexible enough to bend or possibly break away with enough force. The previously referenced fishing pole sounds like a good possibility.
Oh dear God! Can we lock this thread or at least move it to A&S. Honestly... the fear mongering. It does the vehicular cycling cause no good. I think I saw ONE rational post in this whole thread. Yikes. That is a lot of ignorance in a small amount of posters. 24" stick with a diamond point on the end of it? I hope when the redneck whose 350 you've scratched finishes beating you, you have the good sense not to report him to the authorities. You know... in the nearly four years I have been here... if all that time had been spent accentuating the positive things we can do as commuters/vehicular cyclists instead of all the bad things drivers do... when a newbie comes in asking for advice we wouldn't all (nearly all) be offering USELESS advice that they could never legally use (am I redundant here) anyway.

I've been cycling for 40 years and the widest thing I've seen on the back of a bike is a milk crate. Do ANY of you have Willow Branches with diamond points (or red flags for that matter) on them? No, you don't, because it simply isn't necessary. If its that bad where you live you don't ride. Period. End of story. If there isn't a bike lane or striped off area of shoulder on a road then you are taking the lane just by being in it. How I wonder is moving further into the traffic stream going to make a person feel SAFER when the cars that pass them will now be displaying all manner of hostility to express their outrage at the road being blocked unecessarily? How? Do you people read what you write. Really read it. Parse it for coherence and credulity?

Sounds like the O.P. isn't the only one in a state of fear. Why ride? Really. It can't be healthy. If I were the o.p. I would ignore every post in this thread, including mine. Go to a local bike store. Chat up the staff. Find one that commutes in the same general area. Ride with him or her a few times. If after a few rides and you are both still alive and that doesn't convince you that riding IN the street isn't the instant invitation to the other side that you want to think it is. Don't ride anymore. Plenty of people don't. I know I sound like a hard*** but that comes from frustration. I meet people with the EXACT same question all the time. When you live in Portland a lot of people want to ride because they see so many other people doing it. Most of them (amazingly) don't actually know anyone personally who rides so when they meet me, I get their questions. I've taken a couple out and seen how they ride in the gutter. I don't ride in the gutter, and I don't hog the road either. What many of you are calling taking the lane is flagrant road hogging and it is actually illegal.

H
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