“C’mon by, plenty of room”

Have you ever ridden Old Highway 50 between Winter Garden and Clermont? It’s a road that Jeff Kunerth once described as “depressing”, but I didn’t think it was when I rode it every day.

My alternative was New Highway 50, which was three lanes up the hills, two lanes at the top of the hills and two lanes in the valleys. Head on collisions with sand trucks were quite common, the speed limit was 70 and the lanes were 11 feet wide (which was considered quite wide at the time). Now THAT was depressing.

So I rode Old 50. Two lanes. The speed limit there was 65 for cars and 60 for trucks before Jimmy Carter dropped it to 55. Old 50 wasn’t so depressing at the time since it used to have orange groves for scenery and very little traffic. I used to ride on the edge and wave cars by “C’mon by, plenty of room” my wave said.

There were a few drivers though that used to hang back and wait. They waited until they could see what was coming the other way. Then they would swing way out to pass me and only swing back after they were well past, rather than zip past me with about a foot to spare like most of the other drivers.

The drivers that hung back really got on my nerves. I don’t like being followed. “What is wrong with those drivers”, I wondered? “Why don’t they just pass me close like everyone else does?”

I asked one of them that very question. She said she didn’t feel right passing me so close. She thought that three feet was about the right amount of room to pass me, so she just waited until she was sure there wasn’t anyone coming and she used about half of the other lane.

That was too strange. I really didn’t understand. Why wait, when she could pass me and be done with it? After all, it was my obligation not to delay her, wasn’t it? That’s what people kept telling me. “Stay to the side. Don’t get in the way.”

Still, she was adamant. She said she was afraid that she might hurt me if she got too close and she was willing to wait a half a minute or so to make sure she wouldn’t hit any one head on, too. So she just hung back and followed me until it was clear.

Huh. Takes all kinds, I thought.

5 replies
  1. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    The depressing part is all the crappy suburban rooftops as far as the eye can see; especially when you can remember how nice it was when it was lined with citrus groves. I once bonked on a ride and stopped and yanked a grapefruit (way back before citrus canker concerns when nobody cared); a lifesaver.

  2. Eric
    Eric says:

    I drove that road not long ago and was amazed at how narrow it was. Equally amazing was that I really didn’t mind cars passing within inches.

  3. Keri
    Keri says:

    I had a higher tolerance for close passing when I experienced a lot of close passing. Now 3ft feels close to me… because I’m used to getting more than that.

    5 or 6 years ago the pavement on old 50 was really horrible, too. As I recall the right tire track was a mess, so a cyclist had to choose the edge or the middle. The middle was unthinkable.

  4. Eric
    Eric says:

    “5 or 6 years ago the pavement on old 50 was really horrible, too.”

    I noticed that. Wasn’t like that 35 years ago, but I think the last time it was resurfaced was ’63(?). I think I was told that once.

  5. ChipSeal
    ChipSeal says:

    I too was very tolerant of close passing.

    In the thousands of miles of cycling in southern California in the decade of ’75 to 85′ it was common to have close passes. Looking back from my present perspective, I attribute the close passes to wide outside lanes. There was an expectation of sharing the lane by both the cyclist and the motorist- even if the lane narrowed!

    My tolerance to the close passes was enabled by my attitude. I became aware of the close passer when he was beside me- too late for evasive action- and the danger was essentially past! Why get upset now?

    Now, riding in the Dallas area, close passes are rare and nearly always a deliberate bullying tactic. The difference? Narrow outside lanes everywhere! There is no expectation of sharing a lane. (A bicycle and a motorist safely side by side within the lane proper.) Bicycle advocates ought to be pressing for multi-lane roads with narrow outside lane without curbside parking. It should be thought of as a 10 or 11 foot wide bike lane that is available for motorists when a bicycle is not present.

    I am approaching 10,000 miles of cycling here, and there has been another significant benefit to the narrow lanes- I have not been right hooked ever in Texas!

    Tailwinds and Merry Christmas to all! ChipSeal

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