My Dad, the Gutter Bunny

My Dad is over 80-years old and he is a gutter bunny. This would not be so bad, except that he drives his truck that way, almost in the gutter and if you are in the gutter and he is in the gutter he will not move over much.

He drives with his right wheels on the white fog line, which makes me wonder what he did before there were fog lines and I am old enough to remember those times.

Because he is not on the passenger side to witness this type of driving, he doesn’t realize what he is doing. If you say something, he will move over, but not for long. After a while, you just have to accept that “that’s the way things are.”

Last week he came to visit me and we drove around WP a little. I wondered exactly what he would do when he came upon a cyclist riding in a Lakemont bicycle lane. I nervously sat back and watched to see what he would do, resolving not to say anything.

And I cringed when I saw him not move to the left a a single inch. I’ll bet he missed that cyclist by less than 6 inches. Wow!

So watch out. He’s out there. If you ride the shoulder in Lake County and a pickup truck gives no room at all, you will know it is him — or somebody like him.

28 replies
  1. ToddBS
    ToddBS says:

    I was watching a US Post Office Jeep ride halfway in a bike lane for several miles the other day. Since then, I’ve started observing how anyone in front of me drives on that particular road – and in fact most people seem to ride the line if not cross it at least once per mile.

    I think the presence of a bike lane actually fools them into thinking the road is wider than it is, and they go drifting into it. I see the same thing happen on roads with wide shoulders, but on roads with no shoulder or a curb, you don’t see people drifting right too often.

  2. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    I can somewhat relate — my grandfather was a lane-splitter. On a two lane road, he’d split it right down the middle. Take his half-lane right in the middle. Two wheels on each lane. People swerving to the gutter and blowing the horn. He’d be yelling back at them.

    Used to terrify me as a kid to ride with him …..

  3. Brian
    Brian says:

    Here’s something I’ve been wondering for a while: when I took Driver’s Ed, at Seabreeze High in Daytona Beach, circa 1990, I was told — by the macho, mustachioed football coach who taught the class — that in order to pass a person on a bike, I should move my car over a full lane to the left. I didn’t really start biking much for many years after that, but I always did it anyway. Not that people really drive much like they were told to drive in high school, but still: was no one else taught to give a full lane’s clearance?

    • MikeOnBike
      MikeOnBike says:

      I don’t recall being told to give a full lane clearance when passing cyclists. But “change lanes to pass” is good advice for motorists when they encounter cyclists.

      That might be the one fundamental thing motorists need to know about cyclists. Most everything else can be derived from those four words.

      For example: Corollary: Don’t pass until you can safely change lanes.

  4. Fred
    Fred says:

    Maybe you should talk to him about giving up driving? A difficult conversation to say the least but might save a life, his or others. Speaking as someone rear ended at a stop light by an 80+ gentleman who didn’t even realize he had just driven up over the back of my car. Now if I had been on my bike on the ‘Wait on Green’ spot that day it would have been me totaled not my car. Six inches from a cyclist with out realizing it, wow is right not many survive being hit by a mirror at 40 mph.
    I would rather have a pissed off Dad with a clear conscience than live out his golden years with that kind of weight on his mind.

    • Diana
      Diana says:

      AARP offers a driver safety program, aimed at older drivers, that is available in numerous locations in the Orlando area, and it only costs $12 for members and $14 for non-members.

      My parents took the course some years back and spoke highly of it. I believe AARP also offers some advice for family members about dealing with an elderly relative who may may need to consider giving up driving.

  5. Columbusite
    Columbusite says:

    Sounds like that cyclist could have used a mirror; I can just imagine the reaction of being caught by surprise. by being passed so closely. I also agree that a safety program would be a great idea.

  6. Eric
    Eric says:

    Fred and Dianna,

    Talking to him about giving up driving I think is a little extreme. He literally lives “out in the woods” and he would have to sell the place and move to make that happen. Not to say we haven’t had that discussion because we have, but the practicality part seems to be the stumbling block.

    Most traffic instructors I have seen give cyclists about 10 seconds of their time in a two hour class.

    I was thinking about something “more demonstrative.”

    He really likes my new three-speed, “Made in Nottingham,” Raleigh. Suppose we went out for a spin?

    And when he got buzzed in the bike lane and grumbled about it, a “teachable moment” might occur. And even if he didn’t get buzzed, I could show him how other, more considerate, drivers passed us.

    I know he is old, but even old people can learn once they have had the crap scared out of them.

  7. BB
    BB says:

    “Talking to him about giving up driving I think is a little extreme. He literally lives “out in the woods” and he would have to sell the place and move to make that happen.” ### So basically he will drive till he dies or he becomes a killer. All to ensure he can live out in the woods. Rather than do what is right and give up his privilege.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      Hasn’t killed anybody yet, nor is he likely to. It isn’t against the law to use the whole lane and that means right over to the right side of the lane.

      If he is violating any laws, it is only the 3-foot law and I haven’t heard of anyone getting a ticket for that.

      My suggestion to people that don’t like drivers utilizing their whole lane is to move left out of the bicycle lane and force people like my Dad to pass them properly.

      This infuriates my Dad since the cyclist is “being selfish,” but it does force my Dad to give them room.

  8. BB
    BB says:

    Took a few minutes to look up your laws. He is violation of three laws. You already cited the 3 foot buffer law. Driving on the white line is not driving in your lane. Its not even close to following the law. ######## ######
    316.089 Driving on roadways laned for traffic.–Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic, the following rules, in addition to all others consistent herewith, shall apply:

    (1) A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.
    316.1925 Careless driving.–

    (1) Any person operating a vehicle upon the streets or highways within the state shall drive the same in a careful and prudent manner, having regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and all other attendant circumstances, so as not to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person. Failure to drive in such manner shall constitute careless driving and a violation of this section. ##############################
    Its a privilege not a right.

  9. rodney
    rodney says:

    Eric – BB is correct. Based on your description and above references, your dad is a menace to ALL operators on the public roads.

    F.S. 316.130 (15) Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian or any person propelling a human-powered vehicle and give warning when necessary ……….

    Six inches is not due care!

    Your statements have already incriminated your Dad. You accounted for and personally witnessed his violations of traffic code. Failure to act with timely, responsible, and dire attention to this matter, would be an abomination and dereliction of your civic duty to your community and your Dad.

  10. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    I have a friend who is a medical doctor. He is very diligent about notifying the Ministry of Transportation to suspend the driver’s license of everyone who is medically unfit to safely operate such heavy machinery. And not just because he could be sued if he fails to do so and they subsequently cause a crash.

    “As a medical doctor, my job is to save lives. Getting unfit drivers off the roads does just that.”

    It is absolutely amazing the insane selfishness he frequently encounters when doing this. People whose attitude is “Just because I am unfit to drive and can kill someone is no reason to stop driving a car.” Crazy!

    Several times he has had to call the police because his patients continue to drive after their license has been suspended. “I ask the receptionist to watch through the window as they leave. If they get in a car and drive away, the police are immediately informed. A police officer will be waiting to arrest them as they arrive home.”

    He has even had repeat offenders: people who served lengthy jail terms for driving without a license still leave his office, get in a car and drive away. They are somehow surprised when a police officer is waiting to arrest them when they get home.

  11. Eric
    Eric says:

    You guys are sure talking like age snobs. Seems like to want to blame his age or his health for his poor driving. I encounter poor driving every day from much younger people.

    If you want to see poor driving skills, take a lawn chair and sit out on 436 observing the traffic. Or go out to UCF or down by the Florida Mall and south Orlando where the tourists are driving their rental cars. It’s so bad down there around the Florida Mall, that I avoid the whole area.

    So when a 25 year-old buzzes you without malice, do you want to pull his license, too?

    What my father has developed over the years is a bad habit formed when lanes were typically 8-9 feet wide and cars sideswiping each other was major concern.

    That habit has progressed and I think with enough pressure he can at least be taught to swing left for cyclists since he rarely encounters them. I doubt that I can get him out of the gutter.

    There are tons of drivers that think that they have no obligation at all to move over when passing a cyclist in a bicycle lane, just like they don’t think they have to yield to a pedestrian in a cross walk unless there is a sign saying to do so.

    Laws can be passed all day long, but unless there is some sort of education and enforcement of them, they do little good.

    • Diana
      Diana says:

      Eric, I wasn’t in any way presuming to know what is best for your Dad. My parents, who both were safe drivers, took the AARP course on their own, and only told me about it later. They both felt it was worthwhile and they enjoyed it. When I had the opportunity to take the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Collision Avoidance Training (the one the deputies take) a few years back, I learned things that I “didn’t know I didn’t know.” I hadn’t had any driver’s training since Driver’s Ed in high school, back before airbags made the old “10 and 2 o’clock” hand position on the steering wheel obsolete, for example. I understand that the AARP course offers reminders and suggestions for compensating for the effects of aging (e.g. slower reaction times, reduced vision and hearing) as well as some discussion of the way drivers, roads, and vehicles have changed in recent years.

      By the way, my dear step-grandmother used to hug the centerline in her big Pontiac, with the theory that if some oncoming vehicle approached her too closely, she had at least had “somewhere to go.” My paternal grandmother, we discovered to our horror, had virtually no brakes on her old car. Rather than getting them fixed, she would pray earnestly as she drove her elderly friends to prayer meetings that God would stop the car.

      • Eric
        Eric says:

        Unless it was some sort of driving class, the instructor wouldn’t know how far over my Dad drives. I was thinking about taking the AARP class myself. Wouldn’t hurt anything.

    • fred_dot_u
      fred_dot_u says:

      Eric said earlier in this thread, “My suggestion to people that don’t like drivers utilizing their whole lane is to move left out of the bicycle lane and force people like my Dad to pass them properly.”

      As a traffic-skilled cyclist, I whole-heartedly agree with that statement. It’s been working for me for more than five thousand miles, despite drivers and law enforcement officers who are unaware of the rights of cyclists on the roadway.

      Regarding the age-related bias, it’s too common in Florida to suggest that elderly drivers be re-tested on a regular basis. Why do we not hear that ALL drivers should be re-tested? It would eliminate the age-bias claim and might get rid of the licenses of a great number of unskilled drivers. It won’t take them off the road, of course, since people will operate a motor vehicle without the license.

      Laws don’t make things work, and in too many cases the laws only make things worse. How many three-foot passing violations have been issued? It doesn’t matter to me, since most motor vehicle operators change lanes to pass me. Three feet is too close, anyway.

  12. BB
    BB says:

    My mother is 59, she doesn’t drive due to eyesight. Father is dying and she will be forced to move closer to work or retire, near her grand kids who can drive.

  13. BB
    BB says:

    “Laws can be passed all day long, but unless there is some sort of education and enforcement of them, they do little good.” ###############
    America is the land of me me me me. People have very little concern for others safety. You can’t force people to listen, nor can you arrest your way out of this cultural problem.

  14. Eric
    Eric says:

    “People have very little concern for others safety.”

    I think it is a historical thing, especially around here. When I was a teenager riding my bike to school, I took the back roads that were 10 feet wide and had a speed limit of 65MPH for cars and 60MPH for trucks (that’s the way they used to do speed limits here and the signs showed both speeds).

    Very rarely did any car pass me with the clearance they do these days. In fact, there was only one woman that would slow down behind me, wait for a straight-away, then cross the dashed or double yellow line to pass me. She drove a big fat Ford Town and Country station wagon and I still remember her name — that’s how unusual it was.

    Semi-Trucks never did that when they passed me, wouldn’t even slow down, and I thought it was normal because that’s what I had been told all my life.

    I think this link will take you to the road. It hasn’t been improved since I was riding it in the early seventies.

  15. rodney
    rodney says:

    Age is not the issue here. You are cognizant but blind to the root cause, which you have already identified.

    This continues to personify the perception and belief that cyclists are selfish, of second class, and not deserving of civility. Your callous attitude of “he hasn’t hit anyone …yet”, and obvious lack of action, to date, intensifies your own discrimination and bias against legal road users, regardless of mode. Motorist, human powered, or pedestrian.

    You have an opportunity to correct dear ‘ol dads behavior. Understand this has nothing to do with individuals as a person or their AGE, strictly their behavior. No one can be responsible for the “other” callous operators and their apparent disdain for legal road users, except themselves or a truly caring family member.

    I hope for all sake, a fatality or injury doesn’t occur.

    Your present behavior/attitude of, to paraphrase BB, “….. me me me me…..” in this situation gets you an EPIC FAIL!

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      I don’t see him very often, Rodney. Maybe for a couple of hours every other month and I was planning how to approach the situation. The first step was to observe how he drove and what decisions he made without interference from me, because if I had interfered, that would have corrected him ONCE and I am looking for a longer fix than that.

      Screeching at people is not very effective, particularly while they are driving. If you startle them or confuse them, there really could be somebody dying.

  16. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    BB wrote:
    “…nor can you arrest your way out of this cultural problem.”

    Kevin’s comment:
    We have before. In my lifetime, one of the US South’s biggest cultural problems was Jim Crow segregation. That was ended by naked force. I remember federal troops with fixed bayonets escorting little black girls to school. And a US president (LBJ) who introduced civil rights legislation in accordance with his belief that:

    “When you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will surely follow.”

    I am a firm believer in law enforcement on the roads. Dangerous drivers are dangerous, violent criminals and need to be treated appropriately.

  17. Fred
    Fred says:

    Yes I would like to see driver’s privileges revoked for anyone who regularly passes a bicycle at half a foot away, regardless of age.

    A good analogy would be if I had a habit of swinging a baseball bat within a few inches if peoples heads as I went about my day. Even though I haven’t hurt anyone – YET – you probably wouldn’t want me to live next door.

    My earlier thought was, only you and your father will know when it’s time to give up driving. Giving up that independence is going to be difficult to say the least, I saw my father go through it when he had other health issues unrelated to age. (He is an avid cyclist who still rode century rides at 65). As one fellow real Nottingham steel rider to another, just try and do it before grieving families and the law are involved.

    And at the risk of being an ahole, please don’t take Dad for drives through my neighborhood, I don’t want to be the good scare he needs to keep from running over the next guy.

  18. Brrr
    Brrr says:

    Fred said: “Yes I would like to see driver’s privileges revoked for anyone who regularly passes a bicycle at half a foot away, regardless of age.”

    That would take care of more than 90% of all drivers around here. It’s a very rare occurrence when a driver doesn’t try to pass while inside the same lane as a cyclist no matter how much of that lane you take up.

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