Strategies in Happy Urban Cycling

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Super low profile, my Korean folding bike

Yesterday’s post explored some of the ways that motorists can be really annoying.  Sometimes they can be pretty dangerous.  Well, just remember, right or wrong, there are a fair amount of motorists that think all cyclists are wrong.  Doesn’t matter why or how.  After thousands of conversations with irate motorists I’ve come to understand that there are actually a fairly sizable proportion who believe the following:

Bikes belong on the sidewalk

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Parking here is ok, riding, no

Bikes are for kids

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Bikes aren’t just for kids anymore

Cyclists don’t pay their fair share to use the road.

Someone cut me off 15 years ago, so I hate every cyclist.

I’m in a car, you should yield to me, PERIOD.

Now cyclists, put your righteous indignation aside for a sec.  It’s likely that if you are a serious cyclist, it’s possible you believe motorists are bad because they drive and destroy the environment and take up tons of space.  You also possibly believe that all motorists should yield to cyclists no matter what.

These mindsets are a recipe for road rage.  If it doesn’t manifest in someone punching someone else, there is still rage.  I understand.  Both sides.  I’m a firm adherent that bikes should be the center of the economy instead of cars.  That being said, I also recognize that right now, cars dominate streets.  When cars hit people walking or riding bikes, they maim and kill them.  So my strategy starts with perspective.  It is not safe on the road to assume that everyone will yield to you no matter what.  Doing things to antagonize drivers in the name of moral righteousness must be recognized as a provocative action that could lead to something unintended.  So unless you are prepared to defend yourself physically, I strongly advocate against narrowing your personal proximity to cars and make yourself less vulnerable.

Here are a few things that give bikers bad names and are really unnecessary:

  1.  Riding Abreast:  If you are on a city street, I don’t care what your justification is, riding two or more abreast is just asking everyone around you to get mad at you.  Trust me, motorists hold grudges about this.  I never ride two abreast unless I’m on a completely deserted country road.  I don’t like to do it because it’s really hard to correct, as a driver, for two bikes.
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    Ok in the country, in the city not so much

    The physics and inertia make the probability of getting hit and killed that much more likely.  Why do it?  Yes, I know cyclists are entitled to take a lane, but why do it?  Just to be a jerk?

  2. Riding on the wrong side of the street:  Contrary to popular belief, bikes don’t ride against traffic.  You are a vehicle when you put your fanny on something so act accordingly.  Not only are you a danger to yourself and confused motorists when you ride against traffic, you are also putting your fellow cyclists in a really bad spot.  Don’t push my proximity closer to a driver.  If you absolutely have to ride against traffic, be polite and yield to oncoming traffic.

    Wrong way Juan
    An obvious example
  3. Swoop in swoop out:  Keep a line.  Be steady, don’t weave around like you’re drunk.  There are a lot of ‘fraidy cat drivers out there.  I don’t trust drivers with my life, so I try to maintain as steady and calm a presence on the street as possible.  When you duck into parking spaces and come back out when you have to pass a parked car – motorists can’t necessarily anticipate.  Especially if you jump out in front of a van.  Want to give a motorist a stroke, jump out in traffic without looking.  Jumping out into traffic is likely to make you a hood ornament.
  4. Arm’s length from parked cars:  I’ve been doored about six times.  It hurts REALLY BAD and if your friends see you did it and they are couriers, you’re going to get an earful about what a dumbass you are.  One guy in San Francisco – Eugene Chan was actually decapitated.
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    Also look in their rear view, if you see a face, move further out

    Getting doored is when some knucklehead opens their car door without looking and you run right into it.  What I like to do is scan all standing and parked cars through the window.  That way if there are any heads, if they turn suddenly toward the door, that is usually a indicator that they will be getting out.  There will also be a “click” before the door swings open.  Moving cars are not as dangerous so if you’re deciding what to look at, always look at the car with the still wheels.

I want you to ride your bike, I don’t want you to have close calls or get hurt to the point that you won’t come out and join me.  We need company if we’re going to take over the world with bicycles!  Generally, I don’t like to tell people how to ride.  But the above mentioned incidents I’ve actually seen people mangled on the street.

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