Monday, September 28

Passing on Your RIGHT

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A bicycle commuter advantage is route familiarity far beyond what automobile drivers learn. For example, cycle commuters learn how to trigger balky traffic signal cameras, while most motorists simply drive up and get irritated if the light doesn’t change quickly. In bicycle school, I was weak on my "passing on your left." Some out there are weak on the "passing on your RIGHT."

Route knowledge can lead the bike commuter into danger. Some traffic cameras along my route require me to be in very specific locations in order to trigger them. The light in Colleyville at the intersection of Church Street, where it crosses Highway 26, will only trigger if I am positioned towards the right side of the #2 Lane. It will not trigger if I’m on the left side of the #3 Lane, which would normally be the proper place for a cyclist intending to cross the intersection. Under Texas FTR law, there’s no excuse for me being in that #2 Lane for any reason whatsoever, since I can’t turn left from that lane and there’s a through lane to its right. I have complained about this light, but even if the city fixed it, would I really be able to tell? It’s not like they put up a sign saying they fixed the insensitive signal camera. Instead, they posted the name of the traffic engineer.

On Thursday afternoon, I made a stop at Starbucks (coincidentally at this very intersection). Coming up to the light, there were no cars to trigger the light for me, so I used my knowledge and stopped in the #2 Lane “Sweet Spot.” When the light turned green, I proceeded. As I start across this intersection, if I’ve started from the #2 Lane, I do a lateral drift to the right of about four feet, which places me in the left tire track of the #3 Lane. I do this because most drivers prefer the #2 Lane, which leads them to the shopping locales on the north side of Church Street, and it allows them to not get stuck behind those turning right onto 26. The drift avoids encouraging an overtaking motorist into swerving around to the right lane and then back left. It also discourages motorists on Highway 26 from taking a free right turn until after I’ve cleared the intersection. This time, an Escalade, making a dash for the green light I’d triggered, suddenly appeared off my Starboard Beam, passing on the right at a goodly clip, about where I’d normally drift right. I expect they saw me up ahead and went right, not thinking about why the cyclist was in the wrong lane and what he’d probably do next. It’s a short light. Supposing I’d not seen the Escalade and executed the “drift right,” my commute might have made the Star Telegram, which is not my goal since I'd not be around to read the ugly comments. As it was, I got treated to a “fast pass on your RIGHT,” which certainly grabs MY attention.

Who do you think would have been blamed had a collision occurred? I don’t imagine they’d interview the traffic department about their cameras. I think a lane change in an intersection, directly in front of a moving vehicle, from an illegal lane position would have provided easy closure. Be careful out there.

PS: I’m programming the traffic departments for all the jurisdictions along my route into my cell phone. While police will usually take a complaint, it’s not really their job to get traffic light signals adjusted. Calling the traffic people while at a nonfunctioning light seems somehow extra satisfying. As for the “drift,” probably the best corrective action is to add another head check as the light changes to green, before moving forward. It's actually easiest to see the right lane with a head check to the left due to the street curve. Either way, I’d have seen that Escalade a half block back. While I wouldn’t have known the driver’s intent, it would have registered as a potential hazard and a possible “pass on the right.” My extra head check would add about a half second delay to anyone coming up behind me in the #2 Lane. It's a good use of a half second...


Rat Trap Press said...

I'm wondering how long it took you to figure out where the sweet spots are for each intersection on your route. Good info.

Steve A said...

For cameras, it's really pretty simple. Locate the camera and see where it's pointing. The direct sightline will be the sweetest spot. If you're lucky, the camera will be sensitive enough to pick you up with no added actions. I wave my arms and turn the bike sideways in the sweet spot on occasion to help with cameras that are "almost OK." I don't know how they set the things other than some seem a lot more sensitive than others.

I've seen cameras that the wind has blown 80 degrees off of their intended direction. You'll never trigger those. Keep an eye out and you'll soon pick up a feel for triggering the little buggers. It's a useful skill.

I think motorcycles often have the same problem. At least on a bike, one can move around at the light a lot easier. Imagine trying to turn an HD sidewise? That's not as silly as it sounds. At work, the induction sensor that triggers the exit gate requires me to cross the driveway just right to trigger it. I've not seen anyone able to to it on a motorcycle so sometimes I have to help out my big buddies trapped in the parking lot.

ChipSeal said...

I think that is only the traffic engineer's first name.

Steve A said...

Nasty! But I like it. You knew him from Ennis?

ChipSeal said...

It makes me think of a happier time when I lived in Boise Idaho. My kids were four and six, and we would play this game while driving down a street near our home. Dad would start it off with a question...

Dad; "What's that in the road up ahead?"

Mom and the kids in unison and with enthusiasm; "A dip!"

"A dip?" said Dad with indignation, "Are you calling me a dip?"

Children dissolve into a fit of laughter while Mom rolls her eyes.

It took them more than a year before they got tired of that game.

Those "DIP" signs always make me wonder if it is someone's commentary about the road user.

Steve A said...

Boise! If you're back there, be sure to lob your most insulting spit in the direction of WSU. I have nothing against Moo U people, you understand!

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