Advice and Information for Drivers in interacting with Bicyclists:
In commuting every day on my bike, I've been by approximately 8.2 gajillion cars. 8.19 gajillion of these have been perfectly nice and respectful, I might add, though it only takes one car to make my day end very, very badly.
I find myself giving cyclists advice about commuting often enough, so I decide to publish this list to give drivers a bit of advice on how to share the road safely and conveniently for everyone. Before the advice, here's two Golden Rules for commuting.
GOLDEN RULE NUMBER ONE : Bicyclists are human beings. Car drivers are human beings. The only difference is how we're getting to work. That's it.
GOLDEN RULE NUMBER TWO: Car drivers are individual human beings. Bicyclists are individual human beings. This means that some of us will make good decisions, and others of us will make bad ones. If another driver makes a bad decision, I promise not to take it out on you, if you won't take out your frustrations at another cyclist's choices on me.
TRAFFIC CONTROL DEVICES:
* Thanks, but you don't need wave us through at stop signs. The gesture is appreciated, but, practically, it just slows everyone down. Mostly I treat cars like the ones in FROGGER -- you know, fairly predictable objects that spell certain death if they touch you. If you wave me through out of turn, it's just confusing, and stands a good chance of pissing off the drivers behind you. Of course, they won't be mad at you, they'll be mad at me. This is a recent situation that illustrates this:
You, 1, get to the intersection first, then 2, on the right, then Yours Truly is 3. Behind you is 4. It's your turn, but you wave me through, and I have no choice but to go, which gets in 2's way. This causes 4 to honk, yell, and shout obscenities at me. You can just go ahead on your turn, and I'll go on mine.
* Yes, I did just run that red light. You see, many red lights are not sensitive enough to change for a 20-pound bike and a 150-pound rider, and so we'd NEVER get a green. Other lights turn from green to red once the "line" of traffic clears. This usually doesn't include me, and so I have to enter the intersection on yellow, and run the red light. For these reasons, some jurisdictions allow cyclists to proceed through red lights as though they were stop signs. Yes, I know this is not technically legal in all areas.
* I really appreciate you giving me three feet of space. However, it's not necessary to divert entirely across the road into the oncoming traffic lane. Mostly, that scares drivers around you, and you're more likely to cross back over the fog line as you head back into your lane, which could endanger a pedestrian or cyclist on the shoulder in front of me.
WORDS AND SOUNDS:
* If you want to say something at me, I suggest you learn what the Doppler effect is. I get yelled at daily -- most of the time it just sounds like someone's best Fred Flinstone impression. EeshayyYAAAAABADabadooooo!!!!! You need to be travelling at roughly the same speed as I am to be understood.
* I probably don't need to say that shouting obscenities is undesirable. If we're going up a steep hill, and you'd like to offer a little encouragement, it is acceptable to say "go, go!" If you are feeling euro, "Allez!" is also acceptable. However, "Go Lance," is not really very creative, whether you mean it as a compliment or insult.
* If you're going to pass me, it's acceptable but not really necessary to give a quick double-beep on your horn. However, if you know me and are trying to say hello, please don't just honk. I will probably think you are the 8th jerk today just sitting on your horn because you're mad at the world.
WHY DID I:
* Yes, I do know it is raining / cold / windy -- I'm still riding my bike. Thanks, but I don't really need a ride in your car. If I am pushing my bike instead of riding it, then maybe I do.
* I'm riding a road bike. Especially if this is a downhill, we're going pretty fast -- probably almost as fast as a car. Human eyes don't do very well at estimating the speed of rapidly approaching, head-on objects.
* Yes, I am riding on the road. I am not riding on the sidewalk, because I am not walking. Additionally, sidewalks are unsafe because they are home to sudden emergence of cars from driveways, bumpy and broken pavement, pedestrians for me to run down, and off-camber curbs to crash me INTO the road.
* I dodged into the traffic lane from the shoulder or bike lane not just to make you mad, but because there was a big pile of glass, or maybe an oil slick, in my way. You didn't see it? That's okay, you're going forty miles an hour with a dash and firewall and hood between you and the pavement. Also, little things like a storm drain won't cause you to crash.
Finally, I'd just like to point out that riding bicycles is, well, just like riding a bike. You can do it, and so can I. You're more than welcome to join me out here, even some of the time. If you think it's not fair that I ride up the shoulder while you're stuck in traffic, well, you can ride up the shoulder, too, on your own bicycle.