Life in the Bike Lane
By Tom Frady
Share the Road.
I remember seeing that sign for the first time. Actually, my wife had seen it on a winding section of Highway One above Fort Bragg somewhere, and pointed it out to me. Because it had a picture of bike on it, I assumed it was a warning to drivers to watch out for riders, be nice and don’t run over them.
But, as a wise man (me) once said, “sharing the road is a two way street”. We cyclists should do all we can to make it easier for drivers to share the road with us (and we are nearly all drivers, too).
The number of bike riders on our streets and roads has increased over the past few years. The pandemic has also produced a large number of “Covid-Riders” – bike riders who dusted off the ol’ Huffy as a way to get some exercise and kill some time while waiting for their test to come back.
Over that last few years, I have put forth the following suggestions several times, but they all bear repeating. It may be hard to believe, but not everyone has read every “Life in the Bike Lane” since 2013.
(Update: I think I now have six readers, unless my wife has stopped reading this column, again. In that case, I still have only five.)
Although there is nothing that angers motorists more than bike riders running stop signs, there is more to bikes and stop signs than that. Not stopping completely at stop signs when cars are present makes a cyclist’s intentions unclear to the motorist. If the rider continues to roll, even at one mph, a driver can be confused about whether or not the rider plans to cross, especially as the bike inches into the intersection. What ensues is that “you go, no you go, OK I’ll go, OK I’ll go”, followed by a series of waves and hand gestures. Just stop. Put your foot down.
Cyclists should observe standard right of way conventions, and proceed in turn. The first bike or car to the intersection goes first. Tie goes to the one on the right.
Many drivers, in an attempt to be helpful and friendly, will wave bike riders through a stop sign, even when the riders do not have the right of way. Bike riders don’t like to lose momentum at intersections, so this is usually appreciated. It is likely to speed up the entire stop/start process for everyone, too. Imagine a bunch of riders stopping, then, one-by-one, getting going again.
But be very careful. There is no way to be sure other drivers at the intersection feel the same, or saw the signal from the first driver. If it is safe to proceed, be sure to thank the driver with a wave. If you are a driver, please don’t stop in the middle of the intersection, then wave the riders through.
Making sure a cyclist can be seen goes beyond bright jerseys and blinkie lights. We have all seen large trucks with a sign saying “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you”. If you are behind a car at a stop sign or stop light, make sure you can be seen in the car’s mirrors. If you are stopped to the right of a car at a stop light, be sure the driver knows you are there by moving forward. Watch for blinkers and look at the front wheel to see if it is positioned for a right turn. A bike rider really doesn’t want to be on the right side of a car turning right.
As bike riders, we are vulnerable on the road, and rely on drivers to act responsibly. Let’s be sure to return the favor.