Saturday, February 6

Fog Lines and Gutter Bunnies

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

Gutter Bunny: 
A mildly perjorative term for a person on a bicyle riding as close as possible to the right hand edge of the road. This is the lane position that the vast majority of people on bicycles ride. I'm sure that, if this is not true, that commenters will set me straight. In truth, gutter bunnies are not at a whole bunch more risk than anyone else IMHO. Again, commenters will note if they disagree. Myself, I ride in "the line of sweetness." Your own line of sweetness may vary.

Fog line:
The solid white line that marks the right hand edge of the right hand traffic lane.  It is somewhat of a misnomer, since sometimes that white line is pretty far left on service road exits

There are other jargon terms that bear discussing while we're at it, including "salmon" and "ninja."

A person on a bike riding on the left-hand side of the road. This is dangerous because any oncoming traffic has less time to react, and because the "salmon" is also coming from an unexpected direction. Proceeding on the left is not a bad idea, however, for pedestrians who are going a lot slower than people on bikes and aren't connected to wheels that'd keep them from sidestepping. Going toward traffic is sensible if you are going slow and prepared to jump out of the way of mechanical monsters determined to go forth regardless of your own life and limbs.

A person on a bike without the legally required lighting equipment of a headlight and either a rear light or reflector. The headlight is the key element, since without one, pedestrians and people without active headlights can't see the bicycle coming at them. Without the rear reflector, overtaking traffic with lights will be unaware of the person.

I ride with lights at front AND rear. I suggest you do the same. If you are in doubt, a "blinky" front light is cheap, and the rear reflector included on every new bike are the minimum that will comply with the law in pretty much every locale. IMHO, those are enough for basic safety, but I also think you ought to do more. Myself, I use a "be seen" headlight, a "see" headlight that I use when needed, a "blinky" be seen tail light, and a steady "know where the cyclist is" tail light. The combo has always seemed to work, regardless of what clothing I've been wearing. The reason for the combo of the rear blinky and steady light may be seen here. In any event, I try to invariably ride so that motorists can identify me and what my intentions are ASAP. Any motorist that really WANTS to kill me will have an easy target. Luckily, I've not encountered same as of yet.

Anyone that just wants to get from point to point will have an easy time to avoid me. The "see" headlight is underrated by many, but without it, you may be blinded to the details of the road by oncoming motorists. Those center lines are hard to see in the dark, and especially if the road is wet, if you don't have a powerful headlight and there is a car coming in your direction.

Wheel Reflectors:
Personally, I spit on wheel reflectors, but you may be of another opinion. Read the CPSC data and tell me why I'm wrong. Basically, the problem is that a wheel reflector is only effective in the last tenth of a second before you get squished into goo. Myself, I do NOT want to get squished so they're not something I worry about.

I hope this clarification helps. Y'all ride safe. I don't want to lose what few readers I have...


Keri said...

Insofar as cycling is pretty darn safe, gutterbunnies are not in huge danger. They do face increased risk of the following:

•right hook strikes by vehicles whose drivers are pinheads
•drive-out strikes by vehicles whose drivers don't see them blending in the shadows on the edge of the road
•left-cross strikes by vehicles whose drivers don't see them because they are blending into the trees, or because they have been screened by overtaking vehicles
•mirror strikes from large vehicles driven by people who don't know where the right side of their vehicle is (ie rented Uhaul)
•trailer strikes from utility trailers that are several feet wider than the vehicle that's pulling them
•being run off the road by vehicles whose drivers are tempted the squeeze past them
•being run off the road by vehicles whose drivers are sociopaths (you can't protect yourself if there's no pavement to your right)

Gutterbunnies are typically not seen or considered by other drivers. So, their fear and belief that all drivers are dangerous becomes a feedback loop.

Steve A said...

All of those dangers are real, but they mostly make news because they are unusual. Most common cycling collisions are due to far more elementary errors by the person on the bike or driving the car. Stuff like shooting down a sidewalk across driveways and intersections at high speed while ignoring traffic signals, ninja & salmon, drunk cycling, turning left from the right lane, and other clearly dumb stuff.

Certainly I believe in controlling my narrow lane, as Keri knows, but getting people off the sidewalks and riding on the proper side of the road (with lights when it's dark) would do more to reduce fatalities. Still, if you're riding, why not improve your odds further and make it easy for motorists to see you and understand your intent?

Keri said...

Most of those crashes actually don't make the news. A lot of them don't even make crash reports because they don't result in injuries or property damage. A friend of mine watched a cyclist in a bike lane outside her condo get hit by a drive-out. The cyclist, got up, cursed at the driver and rode away.

When I rode on the edge of the road I didn't get hit, but I had a lot of scary moments. The conflicts probably out-pace crashes thousands to one. They don't cause physical harm, but they decrease the quality of the experience of cycling.

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