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Posted by on Jul 24, 2010 in General | 8 comments

The urge to get ahead

Often heard here is the motorist’s urge to “get ahead” of cyclists. Little heard is the cyclist’s urge to get ahead of motorists.

The other day I was driving my truck north on Bumby, waiting for a light to change,  when I was surprised to see a cyclist split the lane, then ride through the red light me and about 20 other cars were waiting for.

I looked around and saw my fellow motorists grumble to themselves. But then I watched the cyclist closer and saw that he didn’t gain anything. At the next block, the light was red and a truck was in the intersection so he had to stop and by the time he could go, we had caught up to him.

Bottom line is he didn’t gain anything by violating at least a dozen laws. But do you think he will get that message? Not a chance!

8 Comments

  1. The “must pass” behavior is not a motorist vs cyclist thing, it’s a people thing.

    Cyclists treat pedestrians on trails and sidewalks the way they complain about motorists treating them on the road.

    Passing queues is something we discuss in the CyclingSavvy course—both the safety aspect and the impact on First Come First Served. It’s disrespectful to pass a queue in a narrow lane and make motorists pass you twice.

    You’re right, just like it doesn’t do motorists any good to speed through traffic lights, it rarely does cyclists any good to queue-jump and run them. It’s a misperception that the momentary motion affects the total trip time in any meaningful way. It’s not worth the risk or the animosity created.

    • I’ve heard cyclists justify running reds as a “safety” maneuver. Apparently because it (momentarily) increases the distance between the bike and the cars, at least until the cars catch up again. Or because it increases the distance between the cyclist and the motor exhaust.

      I find I can get the same effect by being the last one through the green, instead of playing frogger and leapfrog.

      Hmm, I wonder if some of the point of running reds is to add some fun and games to the mundane act of transportation.

  2. I agree about everything except Eric’s terminology. If a car passing a cyclist without changing lanes is called lane “sharing,” it’s a bit unfair to refer to it as “splitting” when a cyclist passes a car without changing lanes. A bit of anti-cyclist bias built into everyday terms. I use the latter term when a car passes me without a lane change.

    • Lane splitting is the common term for going between 2 lanes of traffic. It’s legal for motorcyclists and bicyclists to lane split in CA.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs4ZqIlur0c

      In the case of the video, traffic was backed up for miles. None of the cars Dan & Brian passed would have to pass them again.

  3. @Mike: I agree with you, and that is what I try to do, but I must say that being the last one through the green is almost impossible. Inevitably, one of those “uhhhh… must… pass….” zombie motorists will run the red light behind me. I don’t have solid data, but it sure seems like they’re more likely to run red lights behind me when I’m on the bike than when I’m in a car.

    • Lyle said: “being the last one through the green is almost impossible”

      The way I’ve been doing it lately, when there’s a narrow outside through lane, is to go most of the way across the intersection, then shift a bit to the right and slow or stop. There’s usually some unused space between the through lane and the crosswalk.

      When the last car has gone through, I merge back to the through lane, and finish crossing the intersection.

  4. I have no such urge. It occurred to me that if they are in front of me and speeding away, they are no longer my concern. I don’t jump the line at intersections either. Then again, most times around here the traffic lights let all the traffic through (few vehicles have to wait for a second cycle of the light).

    • “It occurred to me that if they are in front of me and speeding away, they are no longer my concern.”

      That was one of those epiphanies it took me overcoming the impatience of youth to get. But man did it make cycling less stressful when I got it! :-)