Monday, April 10, 2006

Sharing Sharing Sharing

- Etiquette with sharing the road

I missed out on Beavers when I was a kid (as in: the youngest version of boy scouts), but I remember hearing that this lesson of sharing was prominent on their syllabus. It's a lesson that may have it's limits when it comes time to launch a corporate takeover but helps keep everyone happy in so many other situations.

I had a brief discussion with a man driving a car this morning. I wasn't rude but I wasn't polite either. I really wasn't sure how "wrong" his actions were, but he was driving differently from everyone else, which was downright annoying.

Imagine a luxuriously wide lane, on a two lane road: one lane in each direction with a yellow line separating them. Where exactly should a car be positioned in this situation? 99% of the cars I see on such a road are driving almost smack in the middle. Even when they pass me, many drivers do not move their cars to the left at all since this lane is so wide.

This morning, a line of cars was moving slowly, about 20 km/h. This is just about the speed where people in cars start to get angry and want to start voting-in conservative governments. It also happens to be a speed where a guy on his light road bike who has been riding a heavy mountain bike for months can pull past and enjoy that glorious feeling of going faster than all the bored people beside him.

After passing one or two of these cars on its right, I was faced with the tail end of a car that looked like it was trying to steal my move. Hey! You can't copy me! You can't even fit! I coasted behind him for a few seconds, then I waved in his mirror, suggesting that he move to the left. He wasn't getting past the car in front of him, so he was dangerously tail-gating.

Now, I know that passing on the right in a single lane isn't quite the strict vehicular cycling that has worked so well for me. However, when the opportunity comes up to pass a bunch of slow moving cars, it's so hard to miss out on it. I never pass them quickly, relatively, and watch for road position, turn signals, and any other evidence of a right turn coming up (like a hand holding a small electronic device against an ear). Actually, if I was going through an intersection, I wouldn't even try passing on the right, since it's far too likely a car will turn right. We're talking about the odd driveway here.

Obviously I feel a tiny bit guilty about the whole thing.

So the guy doesn't move to the left at all. He keeps riding the curb like he thinks he's in Rome and he'll get the chance to pop his right wheel up on the sidewalk in a second. I assume he didn't see me so I wave again. Nothing. Eventually, he stops at a red light behind a line of about 6 cars, none turning right, so I weave around him on the left. He rolls down his window and asks what my problem is. I told him that if he had moved over, I could have passed all those cars. He told me to go ahead and do it then. Like I needed his encouragement.

He was probably left thinking I was 'another crazed cyclist' who is angry at all the drivers. I'm only angry at some drivers, and really he wasn't one of them. I assumed he didn't see me, so I kept waving at him. It turns out he did see me, and he just couldn't deal with someone else getting somewhere ahead of him.

I often think that the "Share the road" thing is pretty misleading, since it could lead to people in cars thinking cyclists should be pulling over for every car that wants to pass them. This leads to a cyclist going nowhere. In this case, on such a wide road, sharing the road is exactly what happens. I adjust my road position left and right depending on what the cars around me are doing, allowing them to pass me when it's safe to do so. There is no bike lane, but there is an effective bike lane of which both cars and cyclists take advantage. This is an almost ideal suburban road that can work so well for everyone as long as everyone is just a little bit courteous.

I may have written a lot here, but it didn't spoil my ride at all. It's such perfect weather, and I'm happy to see others outside enjoying it with me.

Darren J 4/10/2006 05:48:00 PM

3 Comments:

I like to think of a lane as a line of traffic, so if there's clear room for two lanes in a wide lane I think of it as two lanes even if it isn't striped that way. (I'm not sure how the law works this way) Anyway in a nice wide lane passing on the right provided most of the cars are near the left line is usually quite safe although you have to watch for cars suddenly jerking right (usually from the ME FIRST phenomenon of thinking hmm there must be some way to get ahead)

So much of all traffic problems I think could be solved if everyone could just be a bit more courteous of others instead of thinking the traffic-universe revolves around them.
I'm not sure how it works here but the law typically mandates that a driver should keep as far to the right as is reasonably safe. I would like to see this altered to include a caveat that dictates that the smaller the vehicle the greater the right of way, similar to marine rules.

I am usually pretty quick to give up on a curbside pass for the tire-shredders. If the traffic is moving slowly I can often nip out and round on the left. It's not elegant but is seems to work.
I tried that pass on the right thing the other day. As I was passing a van, I was suddenly faced with an oncoming car turning right into a driveway that the kindly van driver had apparently motioned in. We both stopped pretty quickly.

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