I guess there are those who can’t Dance …

Commuting into work today, I had my first official “honk” (of this year) to get off the road — at least I suspect that is what she wanted. I think the driver didn’t know “the dance” …

Part of my commute takes me West down Livingston St. (from the airport) to South Orange Ave. The entire stretch of road has a bike lane. The bike lane is nice, in that good portions of Livingston are bricked, so taking the road for the whole way would be a bumpy and rough ride. It always amuses me to watch the autos try to line up their two right-side tires on the bike lane for the same reason … but I digress …

As you approach Magnolia, the bricks stop, the asphalt is again in place, and the bike lane proceeds up to and through Magnolia, past the Courthouse, and then up to South Orange Ave and beyond. This is where the honks happened …

Keri had recently written articles about Leading the Dance and Getting the Road to Yourself . On my commute, I try to use the techniques she recommends. First, since this area can get busy, I look to leave the bike lane well before coming up to the light at Magnolia. From a timing perspective, I know that I almost always will be stopped at this light. Understanding the timing of lights can help you make good decisions on how to position your bike for where you need to go.

But why move over so early? The bike lane continues to S. Orange Ave. and beyond. Why not stay in the bike lane? Again, as Keri has pointed out, the cyclist needs to make sure they stay safe by putting themselves in a position to not get “squeezed” or “trapped” in the bike lane. In my case, I need to make a left onto South Orange. I take the lane well before the intersection, when there’s a break in traffic, in order to get into the proper (and safe!) place to make the turn. In the process, I note that there was no way I could get to the light on S. Orange while it was green, so there is no need to rush right after the light changes at the Magnolia intersection. (You’d think most auto drivers would understand this, but based on hearing them accelerate quickly to try and make the light — they never do — I’d say most aren’t aware.)

So, today I’m out of the bike lane, on the road at the light at Magnolia, with 2 cars in front of me and a green SUV behind (another note from Keri’s article — always be aware of your surroundings). The light changes, and I proceed across the Magnolia intersection toward S. Orange Ave. A moment later BEEEEEP!!! Hmmmm, I thought, I wonder what the problem is? A couple of seconds later BEEEEP!!! and I notice in my mirror the car is a bit close to me now. What’s the problem!?!? Is my rear red LED-light too bright? Is something falling out of my bike bag? Nope, the driver just wanted me to get out of the way.

Of course, I didn’t get out of the way. I continued to the light, where the two cars in front of me were already stopped. When the light turned green, I started pedaling and signaling my left turn onto Orange Ave. The SUV went straight.

As I continued on, I thought to myself, “Did she see what I was doing? Did she figure out why I wasn’t in the bike lane? Not that I had to be but, did she get it? Or was she in too big a hurry to understand?”

I think I’m an OK “Dancer,” but this particular driver needs to brush up on her “dance etiquette.”

4 replies
  1. Keri
    Keri says:

    The majority of motorists are so insular, they don’t make observations about their environment… like traffic light timing, or why a cyclist might need to be in the lane (especially when a bike lane is present).

    I have a similar story about a “bike lane enforcer” on Horatio in Maitland. That bike lane ends at Swoop, a block before 17-92. A lot of traffic turns right at Swoop, so I move into the right lane a block or so before it. Sometimes it involves negotiating into the line of traffic, which has never been a problem. But on this particular morning, there was no traffic approaching from behind. I moved over behind the last car in line and coasted along at the speed of traffic. Shortly, I heard honking behind me. Like Andrew, I wondered what was up. I was right behind the car in front of me, going the same speed.

    Then traffic stopped, the honking continued. I turned around and yelled “what are you honking at?”

    The guy pointed to the right and yelled at me, “Get in the bike lane!
    You belong in the bike lane!”

    I said, “What is your problem? I’m going the same speed as traffic.”

    Traffic rolled forward a little and stopped again. The guy continued yelling at me that I belong in the bike lane.

    I stopped and motioned for him to pull up closer. I told him the bike lane ends there (and pointed toward the sign that says “bike lane ends”) and explained why I was safer in the lane.

    His response was a grudging “alright.” Like he was giving me permission.

    If the bike lane line was removed from Horatio and that right lane was left as a wide curb lane, cyclists would get WAY better passing clearance and not have to avoid hazards or deal with enforcer jerks. We would also be able to adjust our lateral position to use more lane in light traffic without being harassed.

  2. Keri
    Keri says:

    Must be something in the air this week.

    I had one on Corrine this AM who started on the horn so far back I could barely detect what it was. He never let off it, just kept that fist on the horn through his entire approach, until he got behind me, then merged, then passed. Traffic was light, he could easily have used that energy to change lanes back where he started on the horn. Not sure what response he expected from me, but he didn’t get any response at all… I didn’t waiver in my lane, I didn’t look at him or acknowledge his existence in any way. Then he was gone, with his little bundle of negative energy still self-contained.

    Fortunately, that kind of behavior is rare enough to be amusing. It’s important for cyclists not to let the ugly ones get under our skin or influence our behavior… choosing to ride where it serves our safety best.

  3. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    Can’t remember a bike lane on Corrine … so where did this guy want you to go — the sidewalk?

    Yes, I know the real answer — anywhere else that was out of his way.

    Glad there was no escalation … but at the same time how will this person ever learn? Oh well …….

  4. Keri
    Keri says:

    There is a parking lane on Corrine… it looks like a big bike lane when it is empty. It ends 2 blocks past Bumby. The guy caught up to me just past Bumby. (I don’t ride in the parking lane anyway — poor sight-triangles.)

    Sometimes not acknowledging these people makes a greater impact than trying to educate them. I rendered him powerless… impotent… by ignoring him. More importantly, I didn’t let any of his vibe get under my skin.

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