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Posted by on Sep 17, 2010 in Uncategorized | 40 comments

And yet, it was a flawless ride

Some interesting things happened on my way downtown yesterday.

I was headed to the Health & Fitness Fair at First Presbyterian Church on Jackson St to promote Bike/Walk Central Florida and CyclingSavvy. My printer crapped out, so I needed to stop and get some fliers printed at Staples. And I was running out of time.

As I approached Colonial on Maguire, I could see I wasn’t going to make the light. I remembered that the right turn lane gets a mid-cycle green arrow in the mornings, so I opted to turn right on Colonial instead of going to Fairgreen. Good decision. I had the road to myself to Primrose and got the left turn arrow there right away.

Leaving Staples, I decided to head out onto Bumby. In my mind, I was headed for my rat path to go down Robinson. That’s how I normally get downtown. Then I realized it would be a lot quicker to take South to Rosalind. I typically avoid Bumby because the pavement is so awful, but there I was, so I was taking it to South Street.

Fortunately, there wasn’t much traffic. A few cars stopped in the right lane behind me at the red light at Robinson, but they had no trouble changing lanes within the next block. I skillfully navigated the good pavement to keep from giving my laptop too rough a ride.

When I turned right on South Street, an OPD car was turning left from the opposite side. I held my breath for a moment (remembering Mighk’s encounter). But the officer passed without incident. I think it was a CSO, anyway.

A couple blocks ahead, I saw another cyclist on the road. Even though the sun was at my back, he wasn’t easy to see. He was wearing dark clothes and riding on the edge line (which is about an inch from the edge of pavement). He blended into the landscaping. The lanes on South Street are very narrow (~10ft). I watched to see what the other drivers would do.

It appeared as though they didn’t see him, or they didn’t recognize how narrow the lane was, until it was too late to change lanes easily.

Behind me, motorists were avoiding the right lane—changing lanes way back. After they passed me, some would move to the right lane. They would stay in the right lane until just before they got to his position, then brake, wait for a gap in the center lane and move left to pass. Only one gave him less than three feet of clearance, but all of them seemed to have more trouble passing him than they did me. It appeared as though they didn’t see him, or they didn’t recognize how narrow the lane was,  until it was too late to change lanes easily.

This is actually consistent with what a number of non-cyclists have told me about their experience with encountering a cyclist controlling a lane — it makes it easier for them because they know exactly what to do and within plenty of time to do it seamlessly.

I was riding a little faster than the rider ahead, so just before Summerlin, I overtook him. I don’t usually do this, but as I went by, I said, “Take the lane, man, it’s yours!” When I stopped at the red light at Summerlin, he pulled up next to me and said, “Thanks. I guess I remember reading something about that in the Sentinel.” He was going to Church Street, so I invited him to ride with me. We had a nice chat and I was glad I had said something.

I arrived at First Pres in good time and it had been a flawless ride — not a single negative encounter (or so I thought). My destination and the stop at Staples put me on roads I don’t normally use. My entire route was on what would probably be considered busy roads, but at 9:45am, there wasn’t much traffic.

It’s helpful to have a picture perfect commute when you plan to be talking up active transportation how great it is to ride a bike in this town. And I had a great day sharing the love of cycling in Orlando!

Who knew?

While I had an absolutely flawless ride to downtown, a member of the cycling community in a car happened to encounter me on Bumby and had a completely different point of view. He was incensed that I not only had the audacity to ride in the middle of the lane, but that I was flaunting my “right to the lane” on my shirt (see photo above). He wrote a 3-paragraph, all-caps rant to Mighk Wilson (because, you see, Mighk is responsible for all bicyclists in the metropolitan area) about how every motorist who had to pass me (all 6 of them in 1/2 mile on a 4-lane road) now HATES cyclists.

Not only did he project his beliefs about the inferiority of bicyclists onto motorists who passed me without incident, he projected negative intentions on me. He asserted that I want to “antagonize” motorists to make my point—not just by controlling the lane and wearing the BMUFL shirt, but by using that road at all, when I could have “easily used a parallel street with much less traffic.” Much like the “advocates” who have been deriding Reed Bates, he basically accused me of undermining the needs of cyclists by making motorists change lanes.

Wow. And here I thought I was just driving to a health fair to promote bicycling.

The Cyclist Inferiority Complex

Inferiority complexes cause people to have overactive imaginations about negative feelings and intentions of others.

This dichotomy between my positive experience and this observer’s extreme negative reaction, attribution error and subsequent raging complaint has certainly given me cause to ponder what Forester coined the Cyclist Inferiority Complex. There is disagreement, even among bicycle driving advocates, as to the appropriateness of this label. But I think it describes a very real pathology.

There is no doubt that the general traffic culture has been skewed to give priority to drivers of motorized vehicles. The dominant organizational culture of both traffic engineering and law enforcement is skewed to enforce this priority. The engineering juggernaut can be seen as recently as the process to ordain the SLM (sharrows) as an official marking—in order to allow the marking into the MUTCD, the minimum placement recommendations were reduced so much as to invalidate the purpose of the thing. Dan Gutierrez is cataloging the results of that now. I will soon be sharing another frustrating saga on the enforcement of imaginary laws, and how police officers are stubbornly refusing to interpret the exceptions to the FTR and MBL law in favor of a cyclist’s right to travel safely.

Most of the contention about the CIC label surrounds applying it to cyclists themselves. I refrain from using it to describe people who are simply, naturally afraid to ride in traffic. We all come into adulthood with this baggage, it takes education to get rid of it. In fact, key components of the CyclingSavvy course were specifically designed to free students from the baggage — you simply can’t teach strategies for safe and empowered cycling with that stuff in the way.

What’s interesting is, while motorists have been enculturated in this belief system, too, the majority actually hold onto it with less ferocity than cyclists do. As I mentioned before, non-cyclists have related to me, without animosity, the experience of encountering an assertive cyclist. When I explain exactly why we ride that way, it connects the loop between experience and knowledge and makes complete sense to them. In my experience, the motorists who reject this information and refuse to get it are as much a minority as the ones who honk (less than 1% of those I encounter).

Inferior cyclists seem convinced the assertive ones will anger the gods of the temple of speed and cause them to smite the tribe.

There seems to be a larger percentage of cyclists who are hostile to those of us who do not act like second class citizens. I have encountered these everywhere: browbeating former students when they try to practice what we’ve taught them; writing hostile comments about our educational videos; inhabiting advocacy forums and running advocacy organizations that refuse to support the rights of assertive cyclists (then deliberately discrediting said cyclists in order to save face). They seem convinced we will anger the gods of the temple of speed and cause them to smite our tribe (and refuse to give us more bike lanes). There really isn’t any better way to describe that behavior than to call it an inferiority complex. It does more to undermine the legitimacy of cycling than anything motorists do.

But it really was a lovely ride.

And a lovely ride home, as well. I took the quiet streets. Because I wanted to.

40 Comments

  1. Crabs really do pull one another back into the pot. Cyclists too. Its the natural order of communities to harmonize and put errant people back in line with societal norms.

    The only real option is to change those norms and let the power the crabs pull everyone else in line.

    • Well said Will.

  2. Very nice article, lots of confusing acronyms though. Could I get a guide?

    • Sorry Marcus. I get lazy with that. Maybe I should make a glossary.

      BMUFL=bikes may use full lane (it’s now an official sign in the MUTCD)
      MUTCD=manual of uniform traffic control devices
      SLM=shared lane marking (sharrow)
      CSO=community service officer (unsworn civilian officers)
      OPD=orlando police department.

      Let me know if I missed any. Thanks for bringing that up.

      • FTR=Far To the Right
        MBL=Mandatory Bike Lane

        Both list exceptions to describe cyclists’ normal behavior.

  3. We need more shirts like that one. The power of suggestion.

  4. I’m not in FL, but I confess to having some version of CIC. I ride on the edge of the road. I do move out to a more prominent lane positions at lights and in places where someone might right hook me. But I ride on a number of 2 lane roads that are kinda busy, and I just can’t stand the thought of my slow riding (and I am VERY slow) making people behind me mad.

    I’m a total wuss, I guess. :(

    • I don’t think you’re a wuss. It takes a lot of courage to take the lane anywhere (at least until you get used to it and the positive results), but even more on a 2-lane road. I don’t know many people who are comfortable taking the lane on a busy 2-lane road. I avoid them like the plague.

      http://commuteorlando.com/wordpress/2009/07/02/the-dreaded-busy-two-lane-road/

      • Keri, great post, and thanks again for putting up this fantastic blog. I am still forwarding your “traffic is a dance” video link to riders and potential riders out here.

        If you don’t mind a little bandwidth being used .. I followed the link re the dreaded busy two-lane road. I live in the exurbs of north-central Mass and this is really the only kind of road we have out here. A few have proper shoulders, but most do not, and some haven’t even got lines painted on them at all (no kidding). All of my riding is on roads like this.

        In almost 3 months of daily commuter riding I’ve not yet had a rude encounter with a motorist, but just this week a female passenger in a passing car yelled out “f*cking bikers!” as they went past. Minutes later the cause of this became apparent: a peloton of lycra-clad riders, replete in team regalia, passed me and then resumed their 2- and 3-abreast riding positions – on a narrow, busy 2-lane road!

        Keri, it was ugly to watch. The team riders didn’t change down to single-file to let passing vehicles get by, so traffic got backed up behind them. Personally I was mad at them for causing some driver animosity there, since I ride that route daily and they pass through only once in a blue moon. I see more or less the same drivers at the same times every day .. we’re used to seeing each other and relations are pretty good. Many friendly waves are exchanged. They seem to respond nicely to a little road-sharing courtesy. Here is an example:

        At one point in the route between home and work, there is a blind turn (cut into a hillside) that car drivers normally zoom through. At least 80% of the time, an overtaking car will pace me through the turn (at a safe distance) and then I’ll pull over onto a wide driveway just past the turn, so that the cars can get by. I very much appreciate the ones who do the pacing and who keep someone from zooming through the turn and hitting me.

        • “The team riders didn’t change down to single-file to let passing vehicles get by, so traffic got backed up behind them.”

          That isn’t the right way to have a pack behave on a narrow lane. For example, a group of twenty riders in single file, drafting, is going to be a line of such length that it is difficult for an overtaking driver to pass. Double up the riders and you now have a line that is ten riders long, still somewhat excessive.

          Split that group into two groups, split the groups apart with room for a driver to return to the lane and it’s far more tolerable for other road users. This is one of the things taught in the TS 101 course that very few groups know, I’m sure.

          Unfortunately, instructing those group riders is as difficult as instructing law enforcement during a traffic stop.

          • As Fred said, it’s not single-vs-double, it’s the group size. A single file group is at risk of getting run off the road by a bad pass because a motorist can’t determine how much time is needed to pass. It’s better to ride double and discourage bad decisions.

            A group of 20 can’t be passed easily in any configuration on a narrow 2-lane road. It’s also harder for a group to practice control and release or pull over.

        • Curly Suze: Your comment is sounding much like those that Keri describes coming from her belligerent critics.

          (1) What is your problem with roads that don’t have shoulders. I mean, they suffer more damage from heavy vehicles but that hardly seems like something to get upset about. And edge lines are certainly helpful guides when traveling at night but I hardly think that their absence warrants any disdain.

          (2) You make a point of the cyclists wearing lycra. What is the purpose of this except to stir up bias about “obnoxious cyclists who like to block traffic”.

          (3) I can’t really be sure what you are thinking regarding the group’s failure to single up but I can’t help suspecting that you are simply assuming that no group of cyclists ever has a legitimate reason not to single up when a motor vehicle approaches them from behind. Would singling up have actually made it possible for other traffic to pass them safely? Would it have encouraged other traffic to pass unsafely? And again, I hardly think it warrants either you or the woman who yelled at you getting upset. I end up stuck behind motorists quite a bit who, it seems, could have moved right to make room for me to pass. I don’t get upset. I just wait a little until I have room to move on. Waiting is not such a horrible thing.

          • Hi Eli. With regard to the peloton, I’m not disputing their right (or that of any other cyclists) to use the road .. I was more miffed at the way they annoyed a driver enough to yell something at me. I have to ride that route every day.

            It’s more narrow roads than roads that haven’t got shoulders. The is like the part of Massachusetts that time forgot, or so it seems.

            Legally, have I got right to take the lane all the time? Absolutely. But is it a good idea to do so on roads like these?

        • “…so traffic got backed up behind them.”

          Two comments:
          1. Cyclists are traffic.

          2. Once upon a time, I had a job driving a gravel truck. When fully laden, it was very slow. I was a conscientious driver. When going through blind turns like the one you describe, I was much slower than a bicycle.

          On busy, winding roads, I would always follow the rule of “can you stop in time?” In other words, if I went around a curve and saw something in the road, could I stop before I hit it.

          Quite often this meant that I was driving the truck on busy, winding roads at 20 MPH when the official speed limit was higher. Long lines of cars would build up behind me, since the large truck was much harder to pass than a bicycle.

          Did car drivers freak out in road rage insanity? No. They just drove safely behind me until it was safe to pass.

          • Kevin says “I would always follow the rule of ‘can you stop in time?’” which is something that was taught in drivers’ ed class in my high school, many many years ago.

            It would appear that few drivers today were either taught that bit of wisdom, or that they have forgotten it.

            I admit that I probably didn’t remember it when I was a younger, more foolish driver.

            Safety on the roadways should not be an exception, but it appears that it is, in today’s society.

    • Janice:

      We promote a strategy called “Control & Release.”
      http://mighkwilson.com/2009/08/give-and-take-control-and-release/

      Cars usually travel in platoons. Are you the first in line at a red light with a bunch of cars behind? Go to the far side of the intersection on the new green and wait off to the side while the platoon passes; it takes only a few seconds. You then get the road to yourself for quite a while.

      Have a single car come up behind without a gap in on-coming traffic he can use to pass? Controlling the lane brings him down to your speed. You can then determine if it’s OK for him to pass within the lane at a lower speed.

      Simply put, it’s better to pull over and let a string of cars by and then get out and control the lane, than to hug the edge and let everyone squeeze by. Look for opportunities to make the former happen when necessary.

  5. I agree with R Wharton, where do we get such shirts?

    • I’m working with a vendor to get some. I’ll post when I have a price for both technical shirts and cotton shirts.

  6. “They seem convinced we will anger the gods of the temple of speed and cause them to smite our tribe (and refuse to give us more bike lanes).”

    Spectacular.

    Good story with a good moral. A familiar story too. I am interested to hear the further comments you promise on the enforcement of imaginary laws.

  7. Things are changing, albeit slowly. Keep up the good work Keri and don’t let people get you down. Paradigm shifts can be very painful for some people.

    I see it every day in my own work. I sometimes feel like I’m chasing windmills, but I believe in the end, our communities will be better places to live.

  8. Janice,

    I don’t think you’re a total wuss. I have heard even Keri say that busy 2 lane roads being among the hardest to be comfortable on. I’ve gotten very comfortable controlling a lane on multi-lane arterials with narrow lanes, like Keri shows in her videos, partially because it is not that hard for motorists to pass in the next lane. On two-lane roads, although the lanes are usually slightly wider, it IS harder for me to think about controlling the lane even when I think maybe I should.

    Interestingly, and I don’t know how true this is everywhere (I’m in Maine), I find that as long as there is no traffic coming in the opposite direction, most motorists have no problem crossing over the double-yellow line to give me some room, and I don’t have to be too far out. (We have a 3′ law that also allows passing a bicyclist in a no-passing zone [meaning, crossing the double-yellow] if it is safe.) I still ride at least 18-24″ into the lane, though, if there is not a usable shoulder. It’s when traffic is heavier and they have a harder decision to make that I find more of them are tempted to make a bad one. And still, the only time I feel justified being right in the middle is if there is bad pavement in the entire right half, as there is on a certain part of my commute. And I must say, plenty of people are patient behind me, maybe seeing my problem. Then I move over a little again when the pavement is clearer, and maybe give them a friendly wave if I know they’ve been waiting. But I still wonder if I’ve maybe got a little remnant of what Keri (and Forester) call the CIC, but it really IS hard to feel like there’s a multi-ton metal vehicle behind you who’s driver wants to go faster. It’s not wussy. It’s just the culture, and pretty natural. That’s why it doesn’t go away without education and practice.

    • The only justification you need to claim the lane is the fact that you are entitled to be there. Most people that don’t ride don’t really see the bad pavement, I don’t think most non cyclist understand the effects of bad pavement, because with a car you just go over it and use the suspension.

      Most people are just patient. Most people naturally understand the “1 vehicle, 1 lane principle when you assert it. I’m actually reminded of a thing I read about babies. Lets say the kid is trying to walk and falls over. It then looks to its parents. If the parents are laughing, the baby laughs. If the parents look scared, the baby cries. If you act like a vehicle, people will take your lead like that baby and run with it.

  9. @JohnB: Thanks for the kind words. I AM more assertive in the lane when there’s a center turn lane that the car driver can move into, or a 4-lane road with visibility.

    But then there’s the thing that happened the other day. I was riding a low-traffic road that parallels a busy 4-lane road. A school bus came up behind me … and STAYED behind me, about 40 yards back. That was a new one — staying that far back. I was thinking WTF??? just PASS me already. I could hear cars honking behind the bus, so I gave up and hopped on the adjacent side walk just to get out of the way.

    That was weird.

  10. I don’t agree with your assessment that the shared lane marking criteria in the MUTCD “were reduced so much as to invalidate the purpose of the thing.” Had there been a robust set of data using 12-13 ft offsets, it might have affected the decisionmaking process – but could have resulted in even more delay in SLM approval (which wouldn’t have benefited anyone).

    Also, the NCUTCD Bicycle Technical Committee is developing some good “how to” guidance to provide to agencies on where to properly install SLMs under many typical conditions (and this guidance is being written by experienced LCIs such as John Ciccarelli).

    • With all due respect, if someone wants to invalidate the purpose of the sharrow, the minimum placement recommendations allow them to do that. Eleven feet from the curb next to parked cars is unconscionable. It is in the door zone. What’s the point of a shared lane marking if you can offset it outside the usable lane and in the door zone?

    • I’m sorry Richard, but that line of reasoning is what leads to poor designs and engineering failures. I’ve spent the last 15 years of my professional life cleaning up the results of such failures in the military satellite development area, and improving the government and defense contractor standards that lead to those failures. So I’m well versed in the politics of how (typically cost and/or schedule) inadequate engineering standards are developed. It’s much better to “do it correctly” than to “do it quickly”. By actually admitting that had there been “…robust…data using 12-13 ft offsets, it might have affected the decisionmaking process – but could have resulted in even more delay in SLM approval (which wouldn’t have benefited anyone).”, you make it clear that speed (which is another word for politics) took precedence over proper design criteria.

      So inadequate, not-so-well experimentally grounded standards benefit people? Who are these people? Could those people be bikeways planners that want to squeeze cyclists into the door zone when there isn’t enough right of way to create a “proper” MUTCD standard door zone bike lane, or a segment between stretches of door zone bike lanes? You can’t be talking about those who ride outside the door zone. And do you believe that door zone SLMs benefit those that think of them as lane positioning guides and ride over them when in the door zone? Even if the cyclists lane position is a little more leftward biased, but still in the door zone; I don’t see how this is a benefit. I’ve taken thousands (sic thousands) of photographs of SLMs (AKA Sharrows) across the state of CA that were designed to the minimum standard that are in the door zone; so which people are these SLMs benefitting?

      The problem with the minimum is not just the numeric value of 11’ (and 4’ for lanes w/o on-street parking), but also the guidance that SLMs are lane positioning guides for cyclists; this is where you guys on the committee really blew it (harsh, but true). And I don’t care if it was a political compromise to accelerate adoption of the standard in the MUTCD; it promulgates the idea that a SLM is a lane positioning guide, and that makes the minimum problematic, since an 11′ from the curb SLM is a standard lane positioning guide that routes cyclists into the door zone; and such designs are mushrooming throughout the state CA and I suspect nationwide. This coupling of the minimum to lane position guidance is why the minimum needs to be well above 11 feet on roads with on-street parking to keep entire SLMs (not just the center line) out of the door zone. I know you know this, so suck it up and fix it instead of telling us why the committee made the speed over quality compromise. And please don’t think I’m not sympathetic to your plight, I’ve had to make my fair share of compromises in my own professional work because of national politics that often place cost and schedule above quality, so mea culpa.

      I’m not on the committee, so it’s not my job to clean it up, and as an engineer who is working to educate cyclists and professionals about the inadequacies of the existing standards and typical installations, I do have a serious problem with your stated rationale, because it justifies placing speed over quality (to benefit people?), and promulgates the coupling of the door zone/edge position minima to lane positioning guidance. If I were a cynic, I’d be thinking, why won’t the committee just make another speed-based compromise to add less than helpful “how to” guidance, given their previous behavior?

      Because I’m an optimist at heart, I’m doing my best to photo-document the problems and hopefully help you and others on the committee, and advocates engineers in CA, to see what the existing standard has produced in the field. Also note that SLMs are also being placed 4′ from the curb in 12′ wide lanes, which when thought of as lane positioning guides, promotes edge cycling in lanes too narrow for safe side by side lane sharing. Thus the coupling of the inadequate minima (both for lanes with no parking and those with on-street parking) to lane positioning guidance is training cyclists with paint to do the opposite (lane edge bicycling) of what we LCIs teach them to do, namely to control lanes that are too narrow for safe side by side sharing with motorists or when parking is present, ride in the door zone instead of controlling the “effective lane”. Please see these images for what I mean by the “effective lane”:
      http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=1062724&l=305e6e6ccf&id=1574017310
      http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=1062725&l=0019baf524&id=1574017310
      http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=1081231&l=2d59504257&id=1574017310
      http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=1149659&l=713a060dbd&id=1574017310

      Don’t take my word for the poor placements of SLMs, please look at the images I’ve placed in publicly available FaceBook albums:

      Sharrow Lateral Placement and Frequency Issues:
      http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=56977&id=1574017310&l=fdc45d654a

      Door Zone Bike Lane and Sharrow Clearance
      http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=38533&id=1574017310&l=c3c75e1cbe

      Sharrows on 14th St. in Santa Monica
      http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=56528&id=1574017310&l=eac56addc8

      Abbot Kinney Blvd – On-Bike Perspective on Sharrows
      http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=57354&id=1574017310&l=58ae53ff06

      Abbot Kinney Blvd – Cyclist behavior on the new Sharrow route
      http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=57206&id=1574017310&l=ecdd99a072

      Sharrows After Dark:
      http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=72857&id=1574017310&l=2119475275

      Westwood Blvd Sharrows at UCLA
      http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=18500&id=1574017310&l=951de87540

      • I find your comments on “speed” (as pertaining to the SLM approval process) amusing, as one of the biggest gripes that advocates and practitioners have had with the MUTCD approval process is the slow pace. It took over a decade to get SLMs approved. In fact, there was already proliferation of markings prior to approval – many times in even worse locations (and with worse designs) than in your photos. If the proposal had been delayed longer, it still wouldn’t be approved now (due to rulemaking cycles) – and agencies would be putting SLMs in anyway due to popular demand, and probably anywhere they pleased, due to the lack of firm guidance. Would you rather had have that situation?

  11. As I said – would we be better off with the 11 ft minimum (which isn’t a requirement or a maximum), or no SLM at all? And remember that several cities wrote very strong letters to FHWA during rulemaking wanting 10 ft as a minimum.

    Which brings us to: Who would you rather have developing MUTCD content:
    1. A National Committee of practitioners, although imperfect, who at least have “hands on” experience, or
    2. FHWA staff, remote from actual practice and accountability, or
    3. politicians such as Sam Adams or Earl Blumenauer?

    Like it or not, agencies will happily settle for getting most of the riders out of the door zone, even if it isn’t all of them. Also, there is no guarantee that some less-confident riders will get clear of the doors with a greater offset. But it’ll be better when there’s good guidance out there telling engineers that in many cases the marking should be quite a bit farther into the lane – and we’re working on that.

    • Yes, I do recall the cities who wanted 10ft placement. There’s a special circle in hell for them.

      Initially, I thought it was better to have the SLM with the compromised minimum. I know Mighk wouldn’t let sharrows be placed at 11ft. But the more I see evidence of minimum being used as justification to override advocates who are trying to guide better placement, the more ambivalent I become. I would certainly rather have no sharrows in my town than sharrows placed in the door zone.

      Richard, I’m not faulting the BTC. My statement was about the culture that is biased against bicyclists as equal road users.

      IMO, the SLM loses meaning when it is placed anywhere but the center of the usable lane.

      I don’t care for the allowed use on the side of a wide lane because I think it muddies the meaning. But when it’s placed to the right in a narrow lane, and especially in the door zone—hazardous part of the road it was supposedly intended to keep cyclists out of—then it might as well not exist.

      In a lane that is not wide enough to share, it costs NOTHING to put the sharrow in the center. That’s what’s so revolting about it. It’s not about cost and reasonable compromise, it’s about belief that people driving cars are superior road users. The door zone placement adds an element that suggests that their tender convenience is more important that the LIFE of a bicyclist. The paint is being used to guide a bicyclist to a position that is LESS than they are allowed by law. It’s dirty trick. That’s why I find it so offensive.

      • I say, do it right or don’t do it at all. This compromise thing is bullshit. By the way, I thought that sharrows were only meant for wide lanes, as an alternative to dividing them into a bike lane and a narrow general lane. Why would you put one in a narrow lane?

        • Placing them in the center of a narrow lane was intended to indicate that the cyclist was entitled to use the full lane. They were used this way here on a 2-lane road with 9-10ft lanes as a means of encouraging cyclists not to hug the curb.

          The road is the only east-west route through town (other than a congested state highway), it is a bike route, and a feeder for a lot of residential, but also a cut through for motorists wanting to avoid the traffic jams on the big road. It was hoped the sharrows would discourage motorists from bullying cyclists while encouraging better lane position and discouraging sidewalk riding.

          I still see people on the sidewalk, but the ones on the road do seem to be riding more assertively. I haven’t noticed any change in motorist behavior.

  12. I have frequently observed motorists pass me easily only to get confused and stuck behind a cyclist up ahead riding on the fog line. Another caveat about that two lane road – if I believe my local police, you are more likely to be ticketed for riding assertively in a narrow lane there than on any road other than one with a shoulder. Particularly if it has a double yellow line and a timid motorist creates a stackup behind you.

  13. I’m one of those who’s never liked the term Cyclist Inferiority Complex. I much prefer Cycling Traffic taboo. But Keri’s made an important observation here: that perhaps it’s not the entire culture that has insisted on second-class roadway positioning for cyclists, but the majority of cyclists themselves.

    To me a “complex” implies a failing of the individual. With an “inferiority complex” an individual can feel inferior while the rest of his group can feel equal and normal.

    In a taboo, it is the group which has set the rules of behavior.

  14. Curly Suze:

    I don’t know why your comment doesn’t have “REPLY” button. Maybe there is a comment depth limit or something. Anyway…

    I know you’re not disputing cyclists’ legal right to the road. You seem to be disputing cyclists’ moral right to the road. You are angry about being yelled at, which makes perfect sense. But instead of correctly placing your anger on the woman who yelled at you, you are misplacing your anger on a group of other cyclists for not trying hard enough to appease potentially upset motorists and put them in a good mood so that they might spare you from their misplaced anger. This is some pretty twisted logic.

    Is it a good idea to control a lane on a very narrow road? Well, of course. That’s whole point. It’s a good idea to control as much space as necessary to ensure safe and convenient travel for yourself. The more adverse conditions are present on the road, the more assertive you need to be. Often there is no advantage to controlling an entire lane and is this case it does make sense not to for reasons of politeness. But taking a more assertive position is never “a bad idea” safetywise. But you did not say anything before about it being “a bad idea” to control a lane. You said that it was antagonistic for the group not to single up. I don’t see what connection you are trying to draw and it seems like you are grasping for a way to find fault with the cyclists and excuse the motorist.

    • Eli, if you’re bored and looking for a fight, I’m not interested, sorry.

      But explain to me again, pretty-please, why I should feel good about the way the peloton riding 2- and 3-abreast on narrow, crowded roads caused one of the hundreds of hitherto polite local car commuters (who I interact with daily) to yell at me.

      There are places out here where I control a lane, but they’re few and far between, and usually at intersections. This is cow town here .. lol the town I live in has got only one traffic light, and it’s a blinky yellow (for a stop sign) a couple miles north of here.

      • Regardless of the behavior of the other cyclists, I think that person who yelled at you can’t really be considered one of the hundreds of polite drivers. There is no justification for yelling at you. Yelling at you because she was mad at some other bicyclists is like yelling at some random person of [insert ethnic minority of your choosing] because some other person of the same minority did something to piss her off. In that context, I doubt you’d find her behavior anything other than bigoted and shallow. That’s what it was.

        Put your anger where it belongs. On a bigot who vomited up negative crap on you because she didn’t consider you to be a human being, but a member of a minority group she was mad at.

      • You describe the roads as narrow. Is the lane in question narrow too? If the lane is of substandard width (defined (at least in California) as “too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane”) then we’re not required to share. In that very common situation I don’t offer to share my lane with overtaking drivers – for my own safety and theirs. They should overtake in another lane.

        Even a lane that’s too narrow to share with a car, is generally wide enough to share with other bicycles. So what’s rude about riding side-by-side?

  15. Hi Keri,

    Great article as usual. Many of the comments are quite good too.

    I have a concern about Forester’s term Inferiority Complex/Phobia. On the one hand, it is a brilliant observation that often rings true. On the other, it is often counterproductive to mention this in public unless you can explain the idea throughly — it puts people on the defensive and then they stop listening (as Schubert would say, they put their fingers in their ears).

    I’ve been trying to find a better way to attack this notion. One idea is to frame it as one of the “Three Great Fallacies of the Car Culture”. This should be less off-putting to most people. Your “friend might be a lost cause but perhaps it will help others see through their biases.

    For more on the fallacies, see http://labreform.org/CarCultureFallacies.htm

  16. If I were designing the sign, I’d add a state law citation like they do on the red light running signs. That would make it clear it applies to all roads and isn’t something special.

    • We’d have to change the law to remove the requirement that a bicycle share a lane. I’m all for it. http://www.scrouds.com/pics/SLBMUFLCL.JPG

      It would be a big honking sign if the BMUFL part is kept at its orginal 30″x30″ size.

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