My travels on Friday included a number of interesting encounters that I wouldn’t have had while stuck in a car, including the WashU research scientist I met while waiting for MetroLink, who bemoaned the fact that my bike’s rear cargo rack was full of my stuff and thus couldn’t accommodate him as a passenger (we continued to have a nice chat until I reached my stop).
Then, while biking the small stretch of Kingshighway that we regularly use to connect lower traffic streets on our route, a driver (in her hurry to pass me so she could spend more time sitting at the red light 25 feet away), passed too close [for my safety and comfort], despite my best lane position and communication efforts to dissuade just such a pass.
Seeing that her window was partially rolled down, I pulled up next to her (at that red light), and, ignoring the fact that she was talking on her cell phone while driving (AHEM), inquired where she was going in such a hurry that she needed to risk my safety by passing so closely to get to the red light sooner. She seemed quite taken aback, and muttered that she didn’t know she had passed too closely. I politely and calmly informed her that the distance (maybe a foot?) that she left between her car and my bike (and my body), did, in fact, feel quite unsafe from my perspective on the bicycle.
At that point, the light turned, but she did manage a rather sincere sounding, “I’m sorry,” before we both departed. While trying to confront/correct motorists is quite often a losing proposition, and thus something I generally try to avoid, my polite approach, and her apparent open-mindedness to the information, made this a pleasant encounter.
On the home stretch of my ride, I came up behind two middle-aged men out riding together recreationally. Their riding — weaving in and out of parked cars, riding in the door zone, running stop signs — really tempted me to say something. However, I wasn’t sure how they, surely “seasoned, experienced cyclists,” would take something from a random lady on a bike.
Instead of risking an unpleasant verbal exchange, I decided to let my biking do the talking. I caught up to them at a red light (was having trouble catching them previously due to their disregard for stop signs), and, once in front, had no trouble staying in front of them for the eight or so blocks that we shared the road, despite my [balanced] stops at the stop signs on our route. Whether or not they were paying attention, I enjoyed thinking that I may have planted a seed about a “revolutionary new way” to experience the roads.
Just for my education, what were your “communication efforts to dissuade just such a pass.” ? I nearly got hit crossing the street yesterday and would like to know if there is something I could have done ? I was on foot and some people just think streets are for cars only.
On foot is a bit different than on bike, but I do a good bit of walking, too. Either way, making eye contact is helpful. I’ve also literally put out my arm, palm facing forward toward the driver in question, in what I think would be a fairly universal “stop” gesture. A lot depends on the approach speed and whether or not it’s safe to actually step out in front of the person.
On a bike, part of the way you communicate is through your position in the road/lane. Ride far enough to the left to make it clear that you are a road user, just the same as any other driver, and that drivers approaching from the rear need to make a complete lane change to pass (or wait for an appropriate space/time if you’re on a smaller road without multiple lanes). You can also communicate with other drivers using an arm to either say, “Stay back, it’s not safe to pass here,” or “Okay, this is a good time to go around me.”
Some of this communication can be fairly nuanced, so I really do recommend the CyclingSavvy class. The May class isn’t posted yet, but it’s the first weekend in May (Friday night and Saturday 9am-4pm) if you want to save the date. There’s also the April class in Ferguson.
Where will your May class be held? Seems a little too much of an irony to drive to Ferguson for a cycling class!
The exact location for the May classroom session is TBD, but it will either be in StL City or one of the inner-ring suburbs. The on-bike portions (Saturday) will start in Clayton.
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