Sunday, January 3

Where I Ride and Why

A long time ago, in a blog far away, in a post about riding in a Texas traffic lane less than 14 feet wide, I noted that as long as I rode AT LEAST as far left as the right-hand tire track, motorists ALWAYS altered course and gave me good clearance. ChipSeal, in his blog, suggests the superior place to ride is in the LEFT tire track, though he never actually addresses my own favored lane position. He noted it was a bit rougher in many places in the exact center of the lane.

Absent particular situations such as Boulevards, covered here, I rarely ride in the above lane positions. Instead, I ride in "the line of sweetness." In the "honk project," I refer to it as the "LC" position. Specifically, it's at the far right side of the Left-hand tire track. More or less. This is not rocket science.

Why do I prefer riding LC? Besides smooth pavement, it's very simple. It derives from "The Land Rover Rule." When I drive the Land Rover, my eyes align directly with the LC position. Seeing and reacting to a cyclist IN that position requires me to have no peripheral vision whatsoever. Should I (IN the Land Rover, of course), be texting, or putting on makeup, or simply daydreaming, LC is the position I am MOST likely to notice. At night, I'd see the annoying cyclist a full mile back. By the time I'm a half mile back, there will be no doubt I need to make a full lane change to pass the guy. UNLIKE the full left tire track, there will be no temptation to pass on the right, and it'll be easy to give him lots of clearance without running off the road on the LH side. I don't know about YOU, but I see a LOT of motorists chatting on their cell phones. I don't know about YOU, but I think the safe place to ride is where such people are likely to see and react to me early, not where the guy in the video below rides. It calls into question my previous assertion about the safety of that RH tire track. While all motorists may alter course, some alter course less that they should.

LC also accrues benefits when it comes to the more serious hazard of crossing traffic. In a more visibile position, a motorist crossing my path is much more likely to notice me when I'm where I'd be if I were driving the Land Rover. This pays dividends repeatedly, most recently on one of my last commutes of 2009, when a motorist, ahead and to my right, began to pull from a side street to make a left turn. Had I been further right, it could have turned into a close call - or worse. As it was, a simple yell from me alerted the motorist and, with extra space and time, we all avoided any unpleasantness or need for evasive maneuvers. I don't want close calls on my bike. Not ever. An occasional fall due to loss of traction might be tolerable, but nothing more serious than that.

There is also advantage with oncoming traffic. When I ride down the narrow two-lane roads around here, I occasionally encounter spandex mafia types riding the other way down the fog line. Often, they're trailed by a line of cars. I find these encounters stressful. The first thing in my mind is that if a motorist decides to pass that spandex guy, I'm at risk of death via a head-on because of the durn gutter bunny. In this situation, the advantage of LC is subtle, but very real. If I were riding at the right fog line, or even in the RH tire track, the oncoming motorists are MUCH more likely to pass, despite my oncoming presence. If I ride FURTHER LEFT, the motorists would not see me as easily as in the LC position, and I'd still be in trouble if they tried a straddle pass around the gutter bunny. Uncertainty is not something you should inflict upon the motorists YOU share the road with.

Anyway, that's where I ride, and why. So there. It seems to work, so I wonder why I have never seen anyone else (as in NEVER) along my commute route riding the same way. Mostly, I see people riding in the "cyclist pit of doom" position. My kids, here, claim I'm not completely alone, but there are a lot of people that believe in the Yeti. Few have seen one. Really, however, mostly this is a finer point (it really ISN'T rocket science!), because, unless you fall into the "Cyclist Pit of Doom," cycling really IS pretty fun and safe, despite what some might try to make us believe.


Velouria said...

What kind of LR do you drive? My car is a 2004 Freelander, and the Co-Habitant used to have a Discovery. This is from when we lived way up North in the mountains. Upon moving South and to the Big City, we sold the Discovery and now the Freelander is our common car which only the Co-H drives. I know people think SUVs are big and bad, but the little Freelander is shorter than many sedans and gets more gas milage - while being able to drive on snow and ice like a badass. When we move back to a Northern rural environment, I want a vintage Defender.

"The Land Rover rule tells me NEVER to make a turn on my bike based on someone waving."

Yes yes and yes. This is how a cyclist recently died in Boston. A motorist stopped waved her on to turn right, upon doing which she was promptly hit by a tram.

Steve A said...

We Disco. We bought it for skiing, and kept it when we moved to Texas, because they're not worth a lot as used vehicles. The only time we EVER had to put chains on the Discovery was to get up my baby sister's driveway. On the second switchback. It made me feel better when I found out she'd lost a pickup on the slope.

Doohickie said...

Yep, the line of sweetness rules. Besides being rough between the tire tracks, that's also where there is slippery stuff- oil from oil pans, wster from air conditioners, etc., that doesn't get cleared by the wheels.

Doohickie said...

water, too...

Keri said...

+1 for the line of sweetness!

Filigree, that's very sad. An important reminder that good Samaritan motorists know not what they do.

I had one a couple months ago at a 4-way stop. She was so insistent, despite that she was clearly there first, another motorist had gone in turn since I arrived, my foot was down and I was shaking my head and waving for her to take her turn. Just as I almost gave up and went ahead in frustration, the motorist to my left (whose turn it was NOT) floored it. That sent a cold chill up my spine.

Steve A said...

Or ice.

Mike H said...

I don't know all your jargon: gutter bunny, fog line. Therefore, this did not help me much.

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