Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Trail Note: Random Road Rant

As summer slowly rolls in and the weather gets nicer (two steps forward, one step back, is how our summer weather travels), tensions between cars and bicycles seem to grow. At least my tension when I'm on a bike rises as I get more and more annoyed at cars whose drivers seem to feel like they own the road. A week or so ago I was biking home, just north of the Fremont Bridge, about to cross Nickerson and in the left lane (because the right lane was right turn only and I was going straight). I was in the middle of the lane because there's no real room to pass at this point, only about a hundred feet. A car, however, anxious to turn right onto Nickerson, passed me in the half a block he had before the light, and yelled at me through the passenger window. Something about how I should get out of the way. He then swerved back into the lane, cutting me off, and proceeded to turn right in front of me as I went straight. I suppose if this guy had his way, I'd wait at the sidewalk with the pedestrians, waiting until every car at the busy intersection had gone where they wanted to go before biking home.

Since Cascade Bicycle Club has adopted "Give Cyclists 3 Feet of Space" as their motto for Bike to Work month last month, I've been watching to see how much room drivers allow when they pass me. Several times I've been passed with less than 1 foot, and that is very scary. One little wobble, and I'm under a tire. I like to allow 3 feet from the side of the road while riding (in case I need to avoid something or a parked car door opens), so when you add another 3 feet between me and a car, a car really needs to pass a bike just as it would pass another car; no sharing of lanes.

There are times when I wish I had a flashing sign above my head to send messages to oblivious cars. One would read "if you're passing me, you're probably driving too fast" for when I'm passed on a narrow road or in a residential neighborhood and traveling pretty fast (20+ mph) myself. Another one is "I'm not blocking traffic: I am traffic," which is a sticker I saw on another bike. The final one might not be appropriate for children to read, so I should probably think twice about this sign idea. Plus, the drag would really slow me down.

Have I mentioned how amazing my new bike is? I feel so fast and so light and it's so responsive. It's really a joy to ride, it makes me feel bad when I gripe about minor annoyances on the road. Most drivers are considerate and some are downright friendly. The community of other cyclists is fun, too. Since one of these minor annoyances could be deadly, however, I'll keep griping in the hopes that more people will key into the 3 Feet message.


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