velodrome track race - kissena queens new york

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Car Courtesy

There are reasons why we bikers often feel like we're not getting the respect we deserve on the road. First, bikes are small and weak. We don't pose much of a threat to vehicles. Second, bikes can be unpredictable in relation to cars.

I do a few things to get more r-e-s-p-e-c-t on the road. These are just my personal opinions.

1. Use hand signals and take the lane. If I don't feel like there's enough room (for a cellphone talking coffee drinking fastfood munching driver with screaming kids in the back seat) to pass me without having to think twice, I'll take the lane. The whole lane. If I get honked at, it just means that I've been noticed instead of run off the road or worse. I try and use hand signals to indicate which direction I'm going, especially at intersections, and I will point even when I'm going straight. If I'm about to merge onto a bridge path from a roadway, I'll signal to drivers that I'm slowing down. There are some good tips for urban cyclists in the book urban biker's tips and tricks.

2. Bike Lights. This may sound silly but I often use my bike lights during the daytime, always when it's overcast, raining, or very early in the morning. It's as a simple courtesy to drivers, reminds them that I am not the same type of vehicle as them even though I am on the road. It is a subtle way of asking motorists take notice. I believe it also helps pedestrians realize that a vehicle is coming at them at a high rate of speed when I'm riding in New York City. Rechargeable batteries keep costs low and prevent dead nicads from reaching the landfills.

3. Never ride on the right hand side of a truck near an intersections. Trucks make wide right hand turns and it's easy too easy to get swept under a wheel.

4. This is a bit more subtle and takes a while to get a feel for it but I try and ride in between waves of traffic. If I'm stuck in a motorcade of vehicles racing to make timed lights I try and adjust my speed so I'm either off the front or off the back of the bloat.

5. Bike lanes can be just as dangerous as roadways. If riding in a bike lane I try to either ride far enough from parked cars to avoid being doored, or ride slow enough to be able to stop abruptly if necessary. Because I sometimes ride faster than traffic, I avoid some bike lanes.

6. MUPs (multiple use path) can also be dangerous places when pedestrians, skaters, joggers, kids, and sometimes pets all mix together. I keep my speed under control in these places depending on how busy it is. If they're too crowded to ride safely I let everyone else enjoy them while I take the road. I'd rather not be the jerk on the bike yelling at people to move out of my way.

7. If you ever get in a verbal confrontation with a driver it rarely matters who was right or wrong since it's all adrenaline. This tip may help tone things down a little. Maybe... Ask them if they know anybody else who rides a bike - their kids, significant other, friends, whatever. Ask them if they would consider this person the next time they do whatever offensive thing it was that they did to you.

Know your rights. These two organizations are both local to New York and have done a lot of work on behalf of cyclists., and

Have fun, be safe!


Anonymous said...

I'd add that "wrong way means wrong way"
You screw your fellow cyclist when you ride against traffic.

40x14 said...

Sounds like something Sasha would say. True of false?