Good Cyclists - Bad Choices
by Susie Jones
Serving the Pacific Northwest for over 12 years.
It is not uncommon to see experienced cyclists make the following well-intentioned
- Call "clear" to the riding companions behind you as you pass through an intersection?
- Wave cars by when they have been delayed behind you and you spot an opening for them to pass?
- Pull in front of cars when they are stopped at an intersection?
- Ride in a pack with friends?
- Pull into openings between parked cars so motorists can pass you?
Why these seemingly innocent actions are a problem:
- Even though you may think it is polite to let others know that an intersection
is free of traffic, calling "clear" invites them to roll through without stopping
to check for themselves. Although this follow-the-leader syndrome is very common
on group rides, it is also illegal and extremely dangerous. Each cyclist is required
by law to stop at stop signs and check for traffic before proceeding. In effect,
calling "clear" just means that "the intersection was clear for me and it may be for you."
- When you wave a motorist by, you can be held liable if that motorist is involved
in a crash. Although it may be clear when you signal, there is a the possibility that
the motorist will wait a few seconds before proceeding. Those few seconds can make the
difference between an opening in traffic and an impending collision. If you are occupying
the correct lane position, and are riding predictably, the motorist will pass you when
the space and traffic permit.
- Never make a motorist pass you twice. When you are traveling on roads too narrow
for a car and bike to share easily, motorists may have to wait for some time before
passing you. Once they do though, and you encounter them stopped at a red light, don't
pull to the head of the line to get to the front of the intersection. Take your place
in the line of stopped traffic just as you would in a motor vehicle.
- When bicyclists take off together on group rides, they often forget that they are
sharing the road with other vehicles. It is important to leave a gap for cars between
every three or four bicycles so motorists can "leapfrog" around your group, especially
on narrow roads and up on hills.
- Pulling into an opening between parked cars so motorists can pass you may seem
like a good idea, but it creates a dangerous situation when you have to merge back
in with moving traffic. Instead, ride predictably three feet to the left of parked cars,
and motorists will pass you when space and traffic permit.
This article is provided as part of the benefit package as an affiliated club
of the League of American Wheelmen (LAW), and will focuses on various aspects
of Effective CyclingTM.
For more information about the League of American Bicyclists, visit
their web site, www.bikeleague.org,
or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.