"Road Rules"

A few lessons
in "road-iquette"

O.K. people. I'm writing this in response to the less than enviable example some of you are setting for all bicyclists. Since I (and they) have to put up with the effect of how drivers may treat us as a result, here are the rules of the road.

"Thou shalt ride as far to the right as practical"

Please note that two of the words in that sentence are emphasized. The first, "right", I'm sure most of you know. (NOTE; If you live in a country where traffic drives on the left side, then it's "to the left".) However, there are a few who think that, like a pedestrian, they should ride facing traffic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only is it illegal, it's dangerous.

Let's assume you are riding at a speed of 10 MPH. Traffic is moving at 30 MPH. If you are moving in the same direction, your speed is subtracted from the car's. That means they are approaching you at a relative speed of only 20 MPH.

On the other hand, if you're moving in opposite directions, your speeds are added! Now the cars are approaching at a relative speed of 40 MPH. That gives a lot less time for them to see and react in order to avoid a collision. And if they should hit you, well, would you rather be bumped from behind at 20? Or have a head-on collision at 40?

the second emphasized word is "practical". This should be noted by drivers (and some cops!) as well. A driver is paying attention to the traffic. That means 90% of his/her attention is concentrated to the left of a parked car, where he expects the traffic to be. If you're hugging the curb, you are outside this "zone".

So when you move out to go around a parked car or avoid a hazard, you appear suddenly, "out of nowhere". And what's the most common reason drivers give in car/bike accidents? "I never saw him..." "He came out of nowhere..."

When you ride further out from the curb, you place yourself into the zone where the driver is going to see you. I found the best place is where the outer fender of a parked car would be. That way, you are in the zone where drivers are looking.

You will notice the difference immediately. As they pass, moany drivers will actually move over to give you room. When I was in Dallas, they began to move over into the next lane as far as half a block behind. During rush hour! Same here in the Carolinas. There will be a few that don't, of course. which is why I ride with a small rear-view mirror clipped onto my helmet. If I see that someone may pass a little too close, I can move over to let him by.

That's another reason it's better to ride further out from the curb. It gives you some room to bail out!

This is perfectly legal. in fact, in many areas, the law gives you a full lane to avoid obstacles. AND (again, check local laws) if the lane is not wide enough for a car to pass you safely, you are supposed to "take" the right lane, just as if you were a car. Moving over to let traffic pass when it's safe to do so. Just as if you were a car.

However, this does not mean hog the road. On club rides, it's easy to tell the good riders from the "weekend warriors". The latter will be spread across the entire road. I've even seen them extend into opposing lanes, expecting the rest of the world to "just go around"!

"Thou shalt obey all traffic laws"

This does not mean just the ones that are convenient. Remember, by law you are a vehicle. subject to all the rights and responsibilities of any other vehicle. Which means you can be ticketed, just like in a car, for the same violations. And in mant states/countries it will go on your driving record, even if you hand the officer a simple I.D. instead of a driver's licence.

And yes, that does include stop signs! And The so-named "California Stop", Slowing down and rolling through, does not count as a legal stop. Some counties even require you to place a foot on the ground. However, in most, "track stands" are allowed. As long as you're not causing a hazard to other users of the road.

Neither is it legal to make a right, a quick "U", then another right and continue on your merry way.

And while I'm at it (Car drivers pay particular attention to this as well!)...

YELLOW MEANS STOP! It does not mean "Do your best to beat the light." I'm just waiting for someone to plow into a semi crossing the other way...

"Thou shalt signal thy intentions"

Signalling is also required. I know most car drivers don't, but two wrongs don't make a right. Besides, there are subtle advantages to signalling.

When they see you're going to turn into or across "their" lane, drivers will usually do one of two things. they will speed up, to prevent your "intrusion" (usually in cities). this will usually open a space behind them which you can slip into. The other choice (mostly out in the country), is they will slow down to let you over. Some, of course will just drive on, neither speeding up or slowing. Just let them pass and go when it's clear (another reason I use a mirror).

Intentions which involve Auto traffic, like left turns, slowing and stopping, I signal with my left (traffic side) arm. Those which would be of greater concern to other cyclists or traffic to my right, I use my right arm. These signals would be right turns, car doors, and other road hazards.

The signal for stop, I usualy hold my left arm extended downward, fingers spread. I try to point out hazards with my index finger pointed. I also call out the hazard, like "Glass! Hole!" Or just "Hazard!", to prevent other riders from confusing the hazard signal with a stop. I usually call out other intentions as well. For those who cannot see my signal well.

"Thou shalt treat others as you would have them treat you"

Remember, people tend to stereotype. So in a way, you are representing all bicyclists. And it's an unfortunate human characteristic that a bad example is going to be remembered a lot better that a good one. So make as many good and as few bad ones as you can.

This includes gestures. I like to "reward" acts of courtesy by drivers with a nice wave (ALL fingers spread...) or salute. They may not remember it, but they will certainly remember any act of rudeness, mark my words. And they may decide to take out there on the next cyclist. Since that cyclist may be you (or me), it pays to be nice.

Speaking of salutes, avoid that single finger one, no matter how tempting. More than once I've seen drivers slam on the brakes and return to accept your challenge. Regardless of how big and strong you may think you are, I guarantee you will not stand up too well against a 2,000 pound pick-up! Or a shotgun wielding driver!

As for yelling epathets, they won't be able to hear or understand you any better than you can understand what gets yelled from car windows. Save your breath for your muscles.

O.K. I know all this makes me sound like some kind of "nerd" or "Fred". But I've been riding since 1972. And back then, bicycles were considered by auto drivers as "intruders" on "Their roads". When noticed at all. Especially in El Lay rush hour traffic. And after 30+ years I'm still here, and I'm still riding. And I know that if I keep riding like a Fred, I'll be many years longer. And if I do happen to get into an "entanglemnt", I'll stand a much better chance in the courtroom!

Do you have something to say concerning the rules of the road?
Write me and I'll add it!

Ride to my HOMEPAGE!

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