Author Topic: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)  (Read 2942 times)

kaeldra

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The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« on: February 23, 2013, 01:46:59 AM »
I'm a fair-weather bike commuter (I know, shunnnn) - most of my route has a bike lane, but there are a couple sections where I have to merge into traffic. Lots of drivers either inadvertently almost hit me (despite my mega reflective gear and plethora of flashing lights), or refuse to let me merge in front of them and blatantly floor it past me with barely any clearance. I've also been cussed out for taking the lane (legally), and even when I was in the bike lane not impeding traffic at all. People just seem to hate bikers.

I try not to take it personally, but I can't seem to find the zen of biking. It should be de-stressing and fun - and it is when people are attentive/in a good mood - but whenever I have a scary merging or passing incident I find myself composing angry letters to the editor in my head about how they'd be mad if someone did that to their wife/daughter/sister.

I feel like these kind of things are why many people refuse to ride. One of my coworkers lives half a mile further down my street (an arterial past the end of the bike lane, although it is marked as a bike route on local maps) and won't bike because she's afraid of riding in traffic. And I can't blame her. Most days, my ride home is unpleasant. I think people are grumpier and less patient in the afternoon because they've worked all day and traffic's bad.

A new bike trail is going in next to my house next summer (2014) - I can't wait to get away from the cars. Guess I just need to work on bike diplomacy and work to get more bike lanes and trails built.

Have you found the zen of cycling in traffic? Care to share the secret?

(Just to put it out there, I don't claim to be the best rider, but I'm definitely decent after several years of bike commuting. I am also one of those cyclists that obeys all road rules and uses arm signals/lots of eye contact, so I don't think the near-misses are my fault, unless I'm just not being assertive enough - but I don't really want to assert myself against a Hummer when the stake is my life.

On a side note, most of the other bike commuters I see are men - think there's any relation between men being generally more assertive and also feeling more comfortable riding with cars? Or just that more men ride, period? Or my sample is misrepresentative?)

gooki

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2013, 03:24:04 AM »
I'd really love to see a video of how you ride, as you mention not being the most assertive.

I know being an aggressive rider helps me personally, and find it easy to get into that zen mode. Also being able to accelerate fast helps joining the flow of traffic.

There's still the odd dick out there (but its a once a month thing), and maybe once or twice a year it is genuinely my fault.

PS I ride on low speed roads only (50km/h).

scarecrow

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2013, 05:41:02 AM »
Hi Kaeldra,

Every year round bike commuter starts out as a fair weather rider, and since you have not given up in the face of some tough conditions, I tip my helmet to you. It seems that everywhere there is a small percentage of jerk-face drivers who are irritated by the sight of a bicycle. It is best to avoid their path of anger.

My avoidance technique is to print out a map showing house to work, then trace your route with highlighters. Use green for the great sections, yellow for the OK sections and pink for the bad sections. Then find alternate routes (blue) on the map around the bad sections, and try them out tomorrow to find a pleasant route around the bad section.

My commute is a big zigzag, takes me 15 minutes longer that the angry path would, and there are only two stress areas where I have to cross a busy street with no traffic light. I sometimes have to wait several minutes to cross those streets and it used to frustrate me waiting for a good brake in the traffic. Leaving the house several minutes earlier has helped me deal with my impatience there.

I'm a big fan of getting away from the cars, so bike trails, sidewalks, alleyways and anything that is not car friendly is my route.
Also, check out  <http://bikeyface.com>

I think you'll like her style.

kendallf

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2013, 08:53:51 AM »
I try to find routes with some sort of shoulder if they're high traffic.  When this is the case, even here in FL in a city named one of the worst for cycling in the country, I have almost no problems.  If I do ride a two lane road with no shoulder, I ride into the lane enough to discourage cars from doing the "squeeze pass" and it's usually OK.

If I know I'm going to have to merge from a shoulder into the traffic lane ahead, I try to time it into a traffic gap and/or I move very gradually into the traffic lane well before the merge point (curb, car, whatever).

My experience is that I get less shit from motorists on busy roads when I'm riding my commuter, with lights, racks, panniers, etc., than when I'm riding the race bike with full spandex kit.

Despite occasional yelling incidents (witness the thread I started a couple of weeks ago that is still ongoing) I mostly find my interactions with motorists funny and I've never been hit by a car in 10 years or so of doing 8-10k miles per year.

Nancy

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2013, 09:59:24 AM »
I'm a female fair weather bike commuter who follows the rules of the road as well. I live in an area with a lot of cyclists but also a lot of terrible and aggressive drivers. I ride assertively but cautiously. Meaning I ride with my head on a swivel and constantly am aware of the cars and pedestrians and always think that every driver is distracted and doesn't see me. Thus I make myself seen and I act predictably. If there is merging to be done I do it like a car and take my rightful turn. If you hesitate or slow down or waffle about merging, a car will try and drive around you. Like someone else said, I insinuate myself into traffic well before the merge is neccessary. There are certain intersections like a giant rotary off a highway that I walk my bike through the crosswalks. People fly through at highway speed and it is not worth the risk.

As for worrying about getting cussed out, you already realize that people are grumpy and want to kick the dog (or yell at strangers). You wont be able to change them so you can only modify how you react to them. IMO,  you can let their grumpitude infect you and think up your letters to the editor or you can take a deep breath smile and realize how awesome your life is and how miserable the driver's must be to behave like that.

jawisco

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2013, 11:19:22 AM »
You are on the right track - over 30,000 miles of commuting and bike touring have taught me that following the rules, riding in a predictable manner, and being seen are the things that will keep you out of harms way.

If you want to be a the safest rider you can be, I encourage you to read Effective Cycling by John Forester. 

The more you ride, the more comfortable you will feel.  Just remember that cyclists who follow the rules and ride in a predictable way have very very very few accidents.

Something I have done from time to time is adopt a technique I used while bike touring Baja California (lots of traffic in places, basically one road, no shoulder, and crazy drivers).  Get a couple of those flags that you often see on tricyles or bike trailers.  You can buy a mount for your rear tire stay that will have the flag be vertical - this will allow you to be seen in traffic from way back.  Then get another flag and mount to the rear of the bike rack so that the flag is horizontal and out into traffic a couple of feet farther than your shoulder.  You look kind of goofy, but this really makes you visible and cars give you a wide berth - a really wide berth.  I guarantee if you do this, you will be amazed at how far cars will stay away from you...

Good luck!

jesse.anne.o

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2013, 12:17:17 PM »
I have the same issue.  I will bike locally for errands if there are enough bike paths and it's not a congested route but I just don't feel comfortable with the Crown Hts to Midtown West commute.  I did it once with my bf leading the way on Bike to Work Day and not only was it too hard for me to navigate solo (directionally challenged - I often consult Googlemaps via iphone when walking), but even when I was following someone, there were just too many cars to watch out for.  I almost got sideswiped by an oblivious SUV in downtown Bklyn (to the point where my bf voiced he was worried for me).  Plus all the double-parking and the other bikers salmoning head-on.

Even though I've had delivery trucks pull INTO the bike line on PPW to try to pull into the Litchfield Vila driveway on me (streetcleaner day - no cars buffering the bike lane), I still feel safer when it's a more protected route or a shorter route where I am not going to be reacting to cars for 50 mins straight.  I can handle about 15-20 mins and that's it.

If there was a protected bike line the 8 miles to work - no problem. 

I do wonder if that will change with Bike Share this summer.  I'm hoping it's just not more people who have no idea not to ride into you against traffic, etc.  At the very least more bikes on the road might help driver awareness but it seems like a pipe dream.  And I'm with you - if I'm not sure what a car is doing I err on the side of being cautious and letting them do thing their thing.

All that said, I'm happy to take any of the suggestions listed here re safer biking. 

kaeldra

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2013, 01:19:19 PM »
Thanks for the thoughts, all!

Scarecrow, I like your thought of finding an alternative route - unfortunately the only alternative route for the worst section involves ascending a massively steep hill and turning left (uphill) against oncoming traffic without a stop :( For a while I was riding on the sidewalk since it's legal in my city, but I've read that that's even more dangerous for bikers since cars don't expect them to be there. So now I just take the lane and ride as fast as I can to attempt to not piss the cars off.

Also, thanks for the tip for bikeyface - I love it!

Jawisco, I like the tall flag idea :)

Kendallf, good thought about merging early.

clutchy

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2013, 01:33:52 PM »
do you take the whole lane?

I always try to ride as far to the right as I can.  It generally garners good will b/c it doesn't take much to get around me.


I have taken the whole lane only a couple of times and only in specific circumstances.
1.  b/c taking the whole lane is effing dangerous.
2.  b/c it pisses off drivers/ they start plotting your demise.
3.  when there is no safe alternative.  Meaning cars CANNOT pass me safely due to no shoulder and concrete barriers.  It's very rare that I run into that situation but I weave around and stand up so I'm more visible.

pmallory

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2013, 06:17:03 PM »
1.  b/c taking the whole lane is effing dangerous.
Trusting people to know whether or not they can safely pass without leaving the lane is effing dangerous. By default people won't edge over the center of the line unless they absolutely have to. If you make so that they have to, you get passed safely.
2.  b/c it pisses off drivers/ they start plotting your demise.
People generally aren't psychopaths. Even people in cars. It's better to minimize the dangers of inattention, not malice.
I'm a rambling wreck from Georgia Tech and a helluva engineer computer scientist!

clutchy

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2013, 06:37:11 PM »
1.  b/c taking the whole lane is effing dangerous.
Trusting people to know whether or not they can safely pass without leaving the lane is effing dangerous. By default people won't edge over the center of the line unless they absolutely have to. If you make so that they have to, you get passed safely.
2.  b/c it pisses off drivers/ they start plotting your demise.
People generally aren't psychopaths. Even people in cars. It's better to minimize the dangers of inattention, not malice.

If you say so...

GuitarStv

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2013, 11:47:13 AM »
Driving in traffic:
- Whenever possible, map out your route and take places that are more conductive to safe biking (bike lanes, wide paved shoulders, 4 lanes are better than two (because traffic can get around you), lower posted speed limit is better.
- Reflective stuff on me, reflective stuff on bike, lights (two rear, one front - ALL VERY BRIGHT).
- Whenever possible, allow people behind you to pass.
- Claim the whole lane if you have reason to.  Don't sit far to the right so that cars start squeezing by very closely, always look ahead and take the whole lane if the edge of the road is blocked/damaged (potholes can be a bitch if you're forced into them).
- Don't let the occasional dickhead put you off your game.  You have to be thick skinned about stuff like honking, yelling, and the like.  Remember that for every person who yells/honks at you, probably 100 have passed you by without being jerks.   Stay calm, relaxed, and give the angriest a great big smile (this tends to either make them realize that they're being dicks, or send them off into apoplectic rage . . . either way I find it funny).



Bonus info - I think that to a car the rear of a bike looks very slim and some people have trouble judging how wide your bike actually is from that angle (leading to close buzz-bys).  I noticed that when I'm carrying a wide box or something similar on the rear rack I get WAY more room from traffic.  (It's probably partly a self-preservation / I don't want to scratch my car thing.)

jawisco

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2013, 07:30:28 PM »
1.  b/c taking the whole lane is effing dangerous.
Trusting people to know whether or not they can safely pass without leaving the lane is effing dangerous. By default people won't edge over the center of the line unless they absolutely have to. If you make so that they have to, you get passed safely.
2.  b/c it pisses off drivers/ they start plotting your demise.
People generally aren't psychopaths. Even people in cars. It's better to minimize the dangers of inattention, not malice.

I agree with these thoughts.  If for whatever reason, you think it would be unsafe for someone to pass you without crossing the center line, you need to take the lane and have the driver realize they can't pass without a break in oncoming traffic.  People don't drive into objects in front of them.  It doesn't happen that often that you need to use this strategy, but there are definately situations where it is the safest option.  You don't need to take the whole lane, but you need to take enough that the driver doesn't even consider sneaking past you.

Undecided

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2013, 12:34:37 PM »
1.  b/c taking the whole lane is effing dangerous.
Trusting people to know whether or not they can safely pass without leaving the lane is effing dangerous. By default people won't edge over the center of the line unless they absolutely have to. If you make so that they have to, you get passed safely.
2.  b/c it pisses off drivers/ they start plotting your demise.
People generally aren't psychopaths. Even people in cars. It's better to minimize the dangers of inattention, not malice.

If you say so...

After many years of riding 25,000-30,000 kilometers a year or more, including long stretches in places I don't know well, under a variety of traffic laws, I think I've developed very good and very fast judgment of when to take the lane and when not to. Compared to most others (and, no offense, but especially compared to most people that I would guess ride less than a few thousand kilometers a year), I think I take the lane less often in suburban and rural areas and much more often in urban areas (I also try not to take a position that can't be taken consistently for a meaningful distance---e.g., I don't move farther right just because there's a stretch of street with no or few cars parked to my right (assuming riding on the right), which is different from what I see many riders do). As to whether people are psychopaths, I think many are all too willing to talk like they are, but fortunately very few are willing to ACT like they are. There are more drivers who are dangerous because they are distracted than because they are TRYING to be dangerous. So in balancing the likely harm to me that may arise from offending someone by taking the lane vs. the likely harm that may arise to me from not being seen, I lean more toward preferring being seen. Generally, I think the margins that American drivers give bicyclists are fairly generous by (developed) world standards, but may be proportionate to how erratic the drivers are (or at least how much I fear how erratic they are). In Italy, I wouldn't be concerned about being passed at half a meter, but in the U.S. that definitely seems wrong.

« Last Edit: February 26, 2013, 12:37:06 PM by Undecided »

jnik

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2013, 01:12:34 PM »
Drop a line to the Cascade Bicycle Club and ask for some help with route planning. See if a volunteer is willing to ride your route with you and talk about traffic management strategies or alternate routes. Contact a local League Cycling Instructor directly and ask for a hand.

If you can flex your time, even a little bit, that can make a big difference.

I always use a mirror--it doesn't remove the need for a shoulder check before merging, but it does help me plan ahead and match speed to hit a gap.

ehgee

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2013, 07:45:03 PM »
I have the same issue.  I will bike locally for errands if there are enough bike paths and it's not a congested route but I just don't feel comfortable with the Crown Hts to Midtown West commute.  I did it once with my bf leading the way on Bike to Work Day and not only was it too hard for me to navigate solo (directionally challenged - I often consult Googlemaps via iphone when walking), but even when I was following someone, there were just too many cars to watch out for.  I almost got sideswiped by an oblivious SUV in downtown Bklyn (to the point where my bf voiced he was worried for me).  Plus all the double-parking and the other bikers salmoning head-on.

Even though I've had delivery trucks pull INTO the bike line on PPW to try to pull into the Litchfield Vila driveway on me (streetcleaner day - no cars buffering the bike lane), I still feel safer when it's a more protected route or a shorter route where I am not going to be reacting to cars for 50 mins straight.  I can handle about 15-20 mins and that's it.

If there was a protected bike line the 8 miles to work - no problem. 

I do wonder if that will change with Bike Share this summer.  I'm hoping it's just not more people who have no idea not to ride into you against traffic, etc.  At the very least more bikes on the road might help driver awareness but it seems like a pipe dream.  And I'm with you - if I'm not sure what a car is doing I err on the side of being cautious and letting them do thing their thing.

All that said, I'm happy to take any of the suggestions listed here re safer biking.
If you're in Crown Heights (where I also live), you can get a protected route a good chunk of the way to Midtown. Eastern Parkway is a separated lane all the way to Grand Army Plaza, and Bergen Street is a nice wide lane for a bunch of the way too. Depending on your taste, you can ride north through the downtown Brooklyn shitshow (where the cops compete with everyone else to see who can best block the bike lanes) or ride a couple blocks further over to Clinton Street, which is a lot calmer. If you take the Brooklyn Bridge over, you have to deal with torrents of tourists (have a LOUD bell), but you only have to ride a couple more blocks to get to the West Side Bike Path, which takes you all the way to Midtown with no stoplights and no cars.

Here's a map of that route:
https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Franklin+Avenue,+crown+heights&daddr=40.692846,-73.993103+to:Hudson+River+Greenway&hl=en&ll=40.714737,-73.960819&spn=0.075856,0.144882&sll=40.69001,-73.969488&sspn=0.037942,0.072441&geocode=FeGXbAIdaH6X-ymzIxxAmFvCiTE8jwleZa1XmQ%3BFW7sbAIdcfSW-ylFGHfKSFrCiTHeTbEcyywTmQ%3BFe8MbgIdjuSW-w&gl=us&dirflg=b&mra=dpe&mrsp=1&sz=14&via=1&t=m&z=13&lci=bike

jesse.anne.o

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2013, 10:57:53 PM »
Thanks @ehgee!  I plan to try that in the spring on off-peak hours. I am in CH near Eastern so thank you!

ehgee

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2013, 12:08:10 PM »
There's also apparently a "bike train" to help new bike commuters get accustomed to city riding, from Fort Greene to Midtown East on Thursdays:
https://twitter.com/NYCBiketrain
http://www.bikeapolis.us/2012/10/31/brooklyn-biketrain-fort-green-to-manhattan/

Going crosstown in midtown can be a hot mess, however, at least when I've done so without a plan up near Grand Central. I'd probably go crosstown on the 29th/30th St. lane pair and pick up the protected lanes on 8th and 9th Avenues, if you're riding city streets as opposed to the bike path. There are more crosstown lanes coming, though:
http://www.streetsblog.org/2012/06/14/community-board-6-gives-thumbs-up-to-midtown-bike-lanes/

amustache

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #18 on: March 07, 2013, 06:46:41 PM »
Being visible, safety, etc is all very important, but if you look like a spandex-astronaut, people will not take you seriously. I ride without a helmet, just two basic visibility aids (cherry UFO light in the back and white light in front), and in casual clothing. It sounds counter-intuitive at first, but it really is safer in my opinion.

Why? Because I don't look like a one percent spandex-astronaut who wants to get his quads pumped on his $4000 bike. I look like an ordinary human being just getting to work. Being very vulnerable also definitely discourages 99% of the Tahoe-driving moms and small-you know what pickup drivers from driving too close.

I think it's worth a shot and see how you feel. It may be a very male-oriented view of things, but maybe it's not.

CanuckExpat

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #19 on: March 07, 2013, 07:41:50 PM »
Hey, I was just wondering if anything had changed two weeks after your original post. I can offer more solicited/unsolicited advice, but I think you had a handful already, I'm just hoping you've had better experiences and have been out there riding. Any updates?

madgeylou

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #20 on: March 08, 2013, 05:19:23 AM »
Being visible, safety, etc is all very important, but if you look like a spandex-astronaut, people will not take you seriously. I ride without a helmet, just two basic visibility aids (cherry UFO light in the back and white light in front), and in casual clothing. It sounds counter-intuitive at first, but it really is safer in my opinion.

Why? Because I don't look like a one percent spandex-astronaut who wants to get his quads pumped on his $4000 bike. I look like an ordinary human being just getting to work. Being very vulnerable also definitely discourages 99% of the Tahoe-driving moms and small-you know what pickup drivers from driving too close.

I think it's worth a shot and see how you feel. It may be a very male-oriented view of things, but maybe it's not.

Classic Mary Poppins effect. When I ride, it's the same, though with a bright red helmet that makes my colleagues call me Pee-Wee Herman. But, yeah, folks seem pretty respectful of me on the road with my upright hybrid, big basket, and regular clothes. And Pittsburgh has notoriously bike-averse drivers.

Petty soon I'm thinking I will also add some foldable back baskets on my bike, because not only will they be great for hauling stuff, they will also make my bike look a little wider and more likely to ding someone's car if they should get too close.
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onemorebike

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #21 on: March 08, 2013, 05:54:00 AM »
Everyone who rides regularly should consider a Traffic Skills 101 course - put on all over the U.S. by League of American Bicyclist certified instructors. Reading John Forrester could take you twice as long presuming you don't fall asleep reading him. :) I have ridden everywhere for a very long time and when I took the TS101 course I learned quite a few things that I wasn't expecting to learn.

As for your observation on gender, far more men commute via bicycle than women - in the U.S. :) As we begin to see safer places to ride, bike lanes, cycle tracks, multi-use paths - we see more balanced number of riders. There is no concrete explanation but I'd be that the majority of bicycle commuters are very much like MMM readers - bold, trail blazing, engineer types that are relatively fearless when it comes to riding.

This article, and chart explains that phenomenon well:

http://bikeportland.org/2012/07/18/psu-research-delves-deeper-into-four-types-of-cyclists-74938

Good luck,

onemorebike

melalvai

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #22 on: November 21, 2013, 07:09:00 AM »
I second the recommendation for Traffic Skills 101. Find a course near you: http://bikeleague.org/bfa/search/map?bfaq= This is a fantastic value. A $30-$40 helmet lasts a couple years (when worn daily as I do). The 9-hr course might be ~$100 but you can keep that knowledge forever if you practice it regularly.

In addition, sign up for the action alerts. This allows you to maintain a low-information diet because they do the work of sifting through the irrelevant info and only alert you when there is something you can do something about (in your circle of control). Just yesterday I responded to an action alert and asked my senators & rep to co-sponsor a bill that would require fair spending of transportation SAFETY dollars on bike/ped, which comprise 16% of traffic fatalities but nowhere near that level of mode share! Bike/ped receives far less % of safety dollars than either its % of fatalities or its % of mode share. Anyway you look at it, it's unfair. (And if you think that bike/ped doesn't deserve this money because it's funded by fuel tax, think again. The fuel tax hasn't kept up with inflation and transportation is heavily subsidized-- by sources that people who bike & walk DO pay into. Not to mention that most of us who bike, also drive!)

Finally, think about volunteering with your local or state bike/ped advocacy group or with the League, and, if your debts are paid off, donating to these groups. If you have maintained a low-information diet you might not be aware of the constant attacks on bike/ped. Every year, here in Missouri we have to fend off one or two attempts to ban bicycles from one road or another! Without these groups, your freedom to ride a bike instead of drive a car can and will be curtailed. Sadly, this is not hyperbole.

I'm a member of PedNet (the Columbia, MO bike/ped advocacy group), a Board member of the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation, and a member and League Certified Instructor with the League of American Bicyclists. Although we have some students loans yet, I admit to some small donations to these groups, which will continue until the debts are paid off and then they'll become bigger donations. My rationale is that I don't see how we could ever be debt free if I couldn't bike.

Cinder

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #23 on: November 21, 2013, 08:50:35 AM »
Bonus info - I think that to a car the rear of a bike looks very slim and some people have trouble judging how wide your bike actually is from that angle (leading to close buzz-bys).  I noticed that when I'm carrying a wide box or something similar on the rear rack I get WAY more room from traffic.  (It's probably partly a self-preservation / I don't want to scratch my car thing.)

I saw something online where someone suggested cutting out a section of an orange pool noodle and attaching it horizontally to the back of your bike.  Cut the section as wide as your handlebars are... it lets cars know how wide you are!

Also, The 'laser bike lane' thing looks neat.

hybrid

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #24 on: November 21, 2013, 09:07:00 AM »
Like other posters I have lots of lights and such to make me visible.  Most of my route home is either multi-lane roads or off the beaten path.  On the multi-lane roads I claim the middle of my lane.  Drivers can use the other lanes to get around me, I don't want one squeezing by.  The vast majority of the time I have no issues there.

The one exception is a nasty little two lane stretch with no viable alternate.  There I tend to claim enough of the road so that a driver cannot pass if there is traffic coming from the other direction, but can get around easily when the other lane is clear.  On this stretch, which is about a half mile long and has no streetlights in its worst part, I will often pull into a driveway, side road, etc. to let cars pass.  It's a very bike-unfriendly bit of road and the less folks behind me there the better.
Is it October 1, 2016 yet?

TickInTime

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #25 on: November 21, 2013, 10:54:40 AM »
Besides map optimization and comfort on your own bike. There are a few things I learned after 11 months of full time bike commuting.

  • Wear colors that HURT. I mean hurt the retina. Target recently had on clearance on Champion C9 eye searing like green workout shirts. There get noticed much more than normal colors (blue, black, etc).
  • Use lights and use them in unexpected ways/places. I found riding with a light strapped INSIDE my spokes around the hub, placed so it spins with the wheel grabs a drivers attention like nothing else. They will move over 3+ feet or into another lane!!  The key: they don't know what I am, they run away. Bike, UFO, cop...
  • Ride inside the shoulder, if not available ride the white line.
  • At intersections, I watch both my traffic light and the light for cross traffic.  I will ride immidiately when the cross traffic light turns red (provided all cars are stopping and it is safe). This will generally get you in front of the cars and past the point of curbs starting, etc and allows you to get back in the shoulder or on the line. 
  • Finally, I believe in filtering up to the front of the line of traffic.  Cars almost never look to their right if they are proceeding straight at the light, but if I can be in their field of view I am not going to get hit because they didn't see me.

Finally, there is a huge grain of salt we swallow every time we get in the saddle.  You are counter-culture.  The car drivers DO NOT want anyone else on "their" road. No trucks, school buses, especially no bikes. Ignore them.

If you want to see something scary, pay attention to driver attitude on Monday vs Wednesday vs Friday...sleepy vs pissed off vs 'normal' (payday effect?).

Happy biking!!
« Last Edit: November 21, 2013, 11:08:11 AM by TickInTime »

onemorebike

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #26 on: November 21, 2013, 11:01:06 AM »
TickInTime,

Please don't take this personally, but some of the riding advice you give in your post (filtering up the right hand side) are some of the main reasons people are killed/hurt while bicycling.

There will be lots of advice administered in forums (including mine), but it does emphasize how important a Traffic Skills 101 course can be!

-onemorebike

niknak

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #27 on: November 21, 2013, 04:05:34 PM »
The great thing about drivers who honk or yell at you is that they're acknowledging that they see you. It's far better to be seen!

Although I used to react to annoying honks and yells I now try my best to remember that at least they saw me.

Cujo

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #28 on: November 22, 2013, 05:51:00 AM »
People have covered most of what I would've said pretty well, but I just wanted to add that riding in traffic is never going to be a zen-calm sort of thing. I spend most of my time in traffic in full "fight or flight" mode. I've actually grown to enjoy it. (My commute takes me through the heart of Tysons Corner, for those familiar with the DC area.)

As others said: Be assertive, take your lane, wear bright clothing and as much light as possible, and ride as if every driver is trying to kill you. Honking, yelling, etc.: Ignore it completely. And enjoy the rush.

FrY10cK

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #29 on: November 22, 2013, 02:09:49 PM »
I'm a big fan of getting away from the cars, so bike trails, sidewalks, alleyways and anything that is not car friendly is my route
This is the only sane choice for me as well.

I avoid cars whenever possible. I take a car lane only when it is the safest possible choice. Otherwise, I use trails, shortcuts, backroads, and sidewalks (slowing or stopping for pedestrians of course).

Maybe someday I can safely share the road with cars. That day has not yet come in the U.S.

Cujo

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #30 on: November 22, 2013, 02:19:48 PM »
> sidewalks

Please, no. Bikes do not belong on sidewalks.

FrY10cK

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #31 on: November 22, 2013, 02:28:12 PM »
Maybe someday we'll have a bike friendly culture in my city. As it stands now, cycling in 7:30am rush hour traffic is very unsafe. Back roads, shortcuts, trails, and yes sidewalks are the sane alternative. If I see a pedestrian on a sidewalk, I slow to a walking pace or stop and wait for them to pass.

I'd rather break a city ordinance than the windsheld of an SUV when they hit me from behind. One acquaintance is lucky to be walking again and one is dead after such encounters. Cyclists who wish to mix it up with cars during rush hour are technically in compliance with city ordinances but they're not winning any friends for the cycling community while they hold up 30-45 mph traffic on the main artery through our small city.

Why test the already proven laws of physics? We know who's gonna win the battle between a 200 lb. cyclist and a 6000 lb. dually diesel pickup whose driver is late for work, late on his truck payment, and just plain angry about his employee's pension fund being looted, oops I mean "reformed."

I'll take the sidewalk, and the ticket if it ever comes to that. Polite interactions with the few pedestrians I encounter are a lot more relaxing than the screaming from red-faced road ragers.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2013, 03:48:26 PM by FrY10cK »

GuitarStv

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #32 on: November 25, 2013, 09:49:13 AM »
It's possible that vehicles will see you on the road and decide to try to kill you.  It's unlikely though.  On the other hand, a bike ninja zipping along the sidewalk?  Much higher probability of being hurt by being in the wrong place and surprising the driver.  I've been hit by cars three times while cycling.  All from cruising along on the sidewalk.  The sense of safety that you get from being on the sidewalk is false.  Cars don't expect you there, and don't see you.

hybrid

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Re: The Zen of Biking (with Cars)
« Reply #33 on: November 25, 2013, 11:46:57 AM »
It's possible that vehicles will see you on the road and decide to try to kill you.  It's unlikely though.  On the other hand, a bike ninja zipping along the sidewalk?  Much higher probability of being hurt by being in the wrong place and surprising the driver.  I've been hit by cars three times while cycling.  All from cruising along on the sidewalk.  The sense of safety that you get from being on the sidewalk is false.  Cars don't expect you there, and don't see you.

When I first started biking I used sidewalks.  It took a while to get comfortable in traffic.  And I'll admit there is one very busy bridge where I'll still take the sidewalk on occasion if rush hour is too thick there (I exit the walk when there is no traffic).  It also took a while to realize that traffic often comes in spurts dictated by stoplight patterns, and a lot of the time I have the road to myself.

For the most part though I don't worry about traffic behind me, most of the time they have adequate time and space to switch lanes.

But yeah, like another poster said I'm not at all relaxed on my commute home.  I'm way too preoccupied staying as safe as I can while making good time.  My ride does not afford me many off-the-beaten-paths. 
Is it October 1, 2016 yet?