Archive for category driving
The bike lane is not a phone booth.
Ok, yeah, thanks for taking a moment to pull over before chatting on the phone. It’s great that you’re obeying that law. But, and I hate to nitpick, but you see that sign, the one that says “No Parking Anytime”? It’s not a suggestion.
Let’s talk about what happens when you completely block the bike lane like that.
I, and I’m a nice guy (most of the time), ride up and see your car stopped, blocking the entire lane. I also see your brake lights on and so I’m not really sure if you’re about to pull away from curb or if you’ve just started recapping an entire season of Dancing with the Stars. Trying to watch you and look over my shoulder to see if it’s safe for me to move into the lane of traffic, I approach your car. When it’s safe, I pull into traffic to pass and a guy in a F250 3 miles bikes curses cyclists because he thinks there’s a chance he might have to slow down. I watch you closely as I pass, fighting the urge to spit on your windshield, making sure you don’t decide to start moving. I pull back into the bike lane. The F250 realizes he doesn’t have to brake but yells obscenities at me as he passes, just because.
Two pieces popped through my Google Reader Feed yesterday. Both of them got me thinking along the same lines.
So here’s my important memo to bike advocates, lobbyists, and politcial types, you did a great job getting us to this point. Now you’ve got an PR problem that you’re ill-equipped to handle. You figured out how to get sharrows and lanes painted on roads, but traffic engineers, are not media specialists. The bike backlash, a general dislike of cyclists, is real and manifests in $42.00 tickets for a traffic-related death. Cyclists are cute on the fashion runway and they make a good joke when buying shitty fixes from Urban Outfitters. It gets real quick when they’re negotiating traffic with cars.
The SUV of the bicycle world is the cargo bike and I have no complaints that cargo bikes exist. I have many friends who own and sell cargo bikes, who live happy, car-free lives thanks to cargo bikes and that’s all well and good. But when those same well-meaning friends insist that my life would be so much better if I had a cargo bike and that then I could do those Costo runs and haul 150 pounds of dog food home, I think that maybe one size doesn’t fit all. I’m still pretty happy not going to Costco and sticking with bikes that I can haul up the stairs to my second floor walk-up apartment.
I often find myself thinking that the biggest obstacles for cyclists (apart from distracted SUV drivers) is “bike culture.” It might sound odd coming from a guy who spends a few hours every day reading about bike culture and sharing the things I find interesting here, but the reality is that “bike culture” often alienates.
We’re all guilty of it. I’ve noticed the blank looks as I talk to an acquaintance about gear ratios and cassette size…it’s the same look I used to get when I toyed with the idea of learning to play bass guitar and my friend talked about pickups and strings and gain before I’d even learned to play a note. It wasn’t his fault. He was an enthusiast. He loved music and wanted to share he love. But it was a turn off. He made the world of music feel overwhelming and impossible to learn so late in life.
It wasn’t all bad. I sold that bass guitar and used the cash to buy my first road bike.
I’m sure plenty of would-be-cyclists are turned off by the fact that I roll into work Lycra clad – “I’d ride my bike more, but I don’t want to dress like that.” And I know, as Byron points out, almost everyone is turned off by critical mass. Tweed rides, fixed gear freestyle, cycle chic, fixies, foldies, roadies, CX, MTB, BMX…all of these things appeal to a specific demographic and do very little to advocate for cycling in general.
I don’t know the answer. We’re all here because we’re enthusiasts. Because we are a part of the bike culture we’d love to share with the word, if only they’d stop trying to kill us with their cars.
Which is the other thing. In America you don’t hear people talking about “car culture” (with the exception of people who attend auto-shows or think that driving around in a circle is a sport). Very few people I talk to find out I cycle and say anything negative about it – they don’t ask me to get off the road or stop running lights or stay out of the way. Instead they ask how far I ride, how long does it take, do I shower when I get to work. Most people don’t know there’s a “culture war” between cyclists and motorists. That’s because there isn’t a car culture.
People don’t drive to work in rush hour traffic because they love it. They don’t wake up in the morning looking forward to another 40 minute commute. No, people drive to work because, while there isn’t really a car culture, there’s a culture of driving. Americans drive because it is the way.
So, I guess, my suggestion is that instead of working to create a bike culture in America, bicycle advocates work to create a culture of biking.
When there are two (2) left turn lanes1 do not line up behind the cyclist and get mad because the cyclist let the BMW in the other lane beat him off the line.
Cyclists are fit and many are fast but most have nothing on precision German2 engineering. It is, however, ok to line up behind the cyclist and wait patiently for them to get through the intersection in front of you.
1This applies to anytime there are two lanes to choose from but seems to be a problem mostly when turning left.
2Not just applicable German cars. In fact, this applies to just about all motor vehicles.
I’ve not been following the story very closesly, but on Sunday a cyclist was killed in Dixon when he was rear-ended by an Hyundai Tiburon. According to the Solano Times-Harold:
Hekker said Boe told investigating officers that a southbound vehicle prohibited him from moving to the left to pass White, who authorities said was riding on the fog line at the right of the lane. However, authorities initially said witnesses saw nothing preventing Boe from driving around the bicyclist or anything that would have caused White to swerve in front of Boe.
Now, I’m not a professional driver or anything, but usually when I’m driving and there’s an obstruction in the road in front of me and something preventing me from moving left to move around it safely, I use the brake pedal. Let’s say, instead of a cyclist, a slow moving Prius was in the road in front of Taylor Boe, whould he have rear-ended that too?
No word on if the driver will face criminal charges but this is one circumstance where I think they should be seriously considered.
That bike is probably moving faster than you think it’s moving.
It seems to me that most motorists think bikes don’t, under any circumstance, move any faster than a speed walking pedestrian. It’s not true. Sometimes it’s best to wait behind the cyclist for a bit – he may be going 3 mph slower than you but, and trust me on this, it’s not that big of deal to wait a few minutes for an opportunity to pass safely. You guys will probably end up at the same red light anyway.
I’ll spare you the long explanation. Instead I’ll let you think about as you watch me pedal past you at the intersection and try to move your foot from the brake to the gas.
The first one to the red light has to wait longest.
The bike lane, anywhere on the road, really, is not a garbage can.
It seems that there’s a trend out there to discard trash in the bike lane. This is annoying and gross and makes your neighborhood look, well, trashy. My real problem though, isn’t the litter – that’s just annoying and thoughtless – it’s with the glass. It is true a beer bottle will break when tossed from a moving vehicle onto the road and very few things are as joyful as the experience of hurling a glass bottle and watching it explode, I know. But all that green and brown glass eventually ends up in my tire and, while my Gatorskins are durable, inevitably one shard will make it through to the sensitive inner tube and I’ll end up on the side of the road trying to look like I know what I’m doing as I change tubes.
You’ll probably get a good view of my Lycra clad butt, which, for all I know, is what you were after when you threw the bottle there in the first place.
Riding home from work on Wednesday, coming down International Blvd, a woman in a white Lexus was coming out of the driveway of her office complex. Now, any cyclist knows that driveways, especially office driveways at quitting time, are some of the most dangerous bits of road. Knowing this, I make it a point to lock eyes with a motorist as I approach, looking deep into his or her soul to determine if it is safe for me to proceed. When I saw this woman, I hesitated for a half second because she was looking away from me, to her right, and I wasn’t sure she’d seen me in her brief glance my way. But, when she turned her head back and our eyes met, she smiled. It was a warm and welcoming smile that said, “take your time, I’ll wait,” and perhaps, “I wish I was out riding my bike,” or, less likely, “you sure look good in that Lycra.”
The point is, the smile went a long way to making me feel safe even after I crossed the driveway in front of her and she turned right and passed me. I knew she understood what often goes unsaid, that, while we had chosen different vehicles, our goal was the same; we both wanted to get home and that stretch of road was no more hers than it was mine.
SB 910 made it through the California State Assembly yesterday. The bill would require motorists to give cyclists 3 feet when passing from behind. While the bill will need to go back to the State Senate tomorrow to approve some technical changes it is fully expected that it will end up on the Governor’s desk for signature.
While passage of the law should give cyclists in California reason to celebrate it doesn’t mean we should all abandon caution, or our helmets, and ride as if we have safety bubble around us. The fact is that we still live in a car centric nation and a culture that puts a greater value on quick and effortless travel than it does on the safety of those few of us who would, for whatever reason, pedal our commute.
Take, for example, this Letter to the Editor that I ran across in The Bakersfield Californian:
Robert Price’s Aug. 28 column, “Tweaking our too-snug car-bike interface,” was written, I believe, from the view of a cyclist. I believe Price is a frequent cyclist on the streets of Bakersfield. The 3-foot buffer for a cyclist is a great idea. However, there are dangers for all involved.
…To give the bikers an extra 3 feet means the automobile driver will need to move over to the left a few feet. Problem there is drivers in the next lane frequently cannot see the biker and wonder why in the world that “idiot” is moving over into his or her lane or driving so blasted slow. It’s a problem. I don’t know if SB 910 will solve the problem. I know if I were a cyclist, I’d rather ride on the sidewalk and dodge 170-pound pedestrians than on the street and dodge 2-ton automobiles.
Common sense is not all that common. Why not the sidewalk?
The author of this letter makes a careful effort not to be overtly anti-cyclist, but her suggestion that we cyclists be relegated to the sidewalk simply moves the safety problem out of her way. Her logic is that a 3-foot passing law is ok, but that it creates a “danger” for drivers because they might have to slow down when “that ‘idiot'” moves into his or her lane to pass a cyclist. To avoid the danger of having to use the brake pedal, the suggestion is that bikes, mine is usually moving at around 20 mph, negotiate the sidewalks they’d be expected to share with “170-pound pedestrians.” I’m not sure what she thinks is going to happen when a cyclist moving at 20 mph hits one of those pedestrians but, you know, “common sense is not all that common.”
I’ll take the 3-feet, thank you.