Wednesday, March 14

Hold a Line - Or NOT?

Should the Cyclist Following the Blue Arrows "Hold His Line"or Instead Occupy the Middle Lane Until the Impatient Pickup Driver Passes on the Right?
OR - Hold His Line? Photo from Google Maps
This morning, I encountered an interesting situation prompted by some motorist misjudgement. At no time did it rise to the level of being actually risky or a "close call," but I'm interested in hearing what my loyal reader might have done.

Since we're now in the "George W Bush ridiculously early Daylight let's pretend we're savings time," I was riding in to work in the predawn darkness. I had my usual lighting and reflector, and the "flame thrower"headlight all lit as I waited in the "left turn only" lane on Bellaire at the red light. My intention was to turn left on to E Hurst Blvd and then to upset Rantwick's mom by taking a shortcut into the parking lot where I work. Simply put, I was planning to take the line of the blue arrows.

While I waited, up behind me came a pickup truck, whose driver stopped behind me in the left turn lane. This is a situation that happens pretty much every day, except when I take Arwine (the street of the dangerous grate) instead. I'm not really sure which route is quicker, so I more or less alternate.

The usual scenario is when motorists stop behind me, they may be irritated by a cyclist in front of them, but aren't really too perturbed since it isn't a cyclist they've already passed who sneaks in front of them. The more thoughtful might be amazed that the cyclist is actually WAITING for the light to change. Either way, they see where I'm going and then they pick a different lane. Since I'm going right, they adjust course a quarter inch turn of their steering wheel and probably don't even realize it.

This morning, however, it was different. For reasons completely unknown, the driver of the pickup, decided to take the course of the red arrows and pass the cyclist ON THE RIGHT. Well, while it was a little peculiar to know a motorist was going to attempt an "on the right" pass IN A TURN, in a situation where I was almost certainly going to go into the right lane, it mainly presented me with a momentary dilemma. Namely, do I simply hold my line and see what the guy does or do I adjust my line slightly to ride into the middle lane until the pickup driver passes on the right? As I turned, the truck got closer, bit by bit, off to my right. Unlike you might imagine, I really had a fair amount of time to contemplate the courses of action I had. The pickup really couldn't turn much sharper at the speed the driver was attempting to develop and I am old and feeble enough that accelerating ahead of him wasn't really an option even IF I'd been so inclined.

My choice: I held my line. The motorist, realizing he'd done a boo boo, slowed, and then moved to pass me via the middle lane. He felt it necessary to hit the accelerator and burn an extra gallon or so of gas, but otherwise didn't honk or do anything else inappropriate.

What would YOU have done?
Now, supposing I'd been dumb and we'd collided, would this have been a "left cross" or a "hit from behind?" And would the British government have blamed me for wearing "dark clothes" even though my bike was well lit and the motorist clearly had no reason to not see me, having previously stopped behind me? And, finally, does the chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight? Problems such as this are MUCH nicer than the motorist in the teal Escort.

Cycling MAY be fun and safe, but sometimes it is "interesting" as well...

10 comments:

Steve A said...

Actually, for the benefit of any Canadian or British reader, please translate "flavor" to "flavour."

RANTWICK said...

Seems to me you did everything I would have, because you couldn't know what the pickup was planning to do. You were very much in his vision, he had lots of room to do whatever he wanted, you remained predictable... no harm, no foul. The colours you used were great, and I really appreciated the flavour comment.

Yokota Fritz said...

I've had this happen at time or two. I hold my line.

Ed W said...

I think that in Oklahoma we're supposed to turn left into the nearest lane - that would be the left lane on a 4 lane street - then yield as appropriate when moving into the right lane. You done right, Steve.

I once has a motorist try to pass me in a similar situation, but it involved turning left into a single lane. He nearly collided with the curb before braking very hard.

cafiend said...

As a vehicle a bicycle is supposed to turn from left lane to left lane and then change lanes. However, Truck Boy would not have tried to pull that pass on the right if you had been in a car or truck. That was done strictly because you "didn't belong there," so anything he did was fair. He further illustrated the fact that he was doing you a favor by not killing you when he made a big deal out of accelerating past you.

Any ride you can walk away from is a good ride. I was driving last Sunday when a woman in a Subaru wagon blasted through a stop sign without the slightest hesitation as I approached with the right of way. Someone like that would mow down a cyclist without ever realizing it. A lot of survival comes down to luck. Right place, right time, this time. Next time? Who knows.

People pull crap on bicyclists because they don't see us or they don't think we matter. We have to work constantly to change both perceptions.

Steve A said...

Cafiend, I think we differ in the fraction that luck plays, compared to the taboos against cold blooded killing of someone simply because they choose a different transportation device. Personally, I think that Truck Boy learned a little. A principle that has stuck with me for many years is that even flat worms are trainable. We cyclists just have to be careful not to become collateral damage in that process. I DO try to be careful, as I know you are also...

Steve A said...

Yokota and Ed,
It DOES help to have y'all's comments, particularly since I know you are not simply ignorant dweebs. Clearly, I felt I did the best thing, but your support carries more weight than you can know. One DOES wonder in light of the "car vs bike" propaganda, when a 4000 vehicle shows off to the right, where no such vehicle SHOULD be going. After all, it isn't like the laws, or the LEO, give cyclists an even break...

Steve A said...

For all, I went down this route again today. Again a big SUV stopped behind me at the light. Today's driver caused no conflict potential at all by simply hanging back a tenth of a second, and then picking somewhere to go that was not already spoken for. Now THAT is one of MY motorists. He/she didn't do anything other than what common sense would dictate, but I'll wager few would be demanding special bike stuff if all drivers acted likewise. Luckily for me, most people DO have some common sense and most of the rest slink away...

Steve A said...

I was trained this way: when making a right, you turn into the right lane. When making a left, you turn into any available lane that is available, and you are not allowed to move futher left in the process. That means if there are TWO left turn lanes, that the guy in the left one might have to keep an eye out to see which lane the guy on his right is turning into. In a car, I have often forced that LH guy to go into that far left lane, partly out of cussedness at times. In truth different places have different left turn rules, but I know of no place that allows following traffic to go around to the right and then cut back in. And THAT is why truck boy backed off - traffic DOES has rules and the "bike vs car" propaganda violates those rules.

Chandra said...

In this situation, I would have turned into the left lane and then signaled, checked and then gotten into the right lane. But, given how quickly you would have had to change lanes to the right lane to get into the parking lot, what you did was alright.

The truck, passing you on the right, in a turn, I am not sure was right.

Paz :)

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