Thursday, June 18, 2009

Interrupting my dance

See if you can identify with this.

At its very best, riding with motor-vehicle traffic is like choreography as I blend beautifully with the motorists. I'm a regular Fred Astaire on 2 wheels!

I'm not surprising anybody, and nobody's surprising me.

If I'm riding defensively, I'm aware of my surroundings - all 360 degrees - and of any potential hazards that I may be getting closer to. Obviously, I deal with the most-nearby stuff primarily, while maintaining that longer-distance awareness.

I do not like to be suddenly surprised! But if I see a car approaching from the side, or even the other direction, who will be legally required to stop or yield, defensive riding dictates that I must assume the car might go blasting on through. My trajectory must not be in its path at the critical time.

Even more critically, I do not like to suprise motorists! (At least those who are paying attention. Some are surprised by anything outside of their phone conversation or that Starbucks double-latte they're juggling.)

I adjust my speed so that I can keep rolling wherever and whenever possible. (People who haven't ridden a bike in years have perhaps forgotten... it takes a lot more energy to accelerate, than to maintain speed. If they remembered, they wouldn't gripe so much about Idaho's awesome bike-stop-sign law!)

If the folks I'm sharing the road with would only do the predictable thing, every time, my ride would be pure graceful bliss.

Unfortunately, one price I pay on account of the high number of irresponsible clumsy doofuses-on-bikes is... some concerned motorists treat me like one of those doofuses!

For example... I'll be approaching a 4-way stop. A car is approaching from the side. I slow down, so that the car can stop, and then proceed, before I arrive at the intersection. The choreography calls for me to roll on through, when the car is finished at the intersection. But the concerned motorist, not knowing my intentions (expecting me to "blow through" that stop sign), comes to a complete stop, and then waits to see what I'm going to do, before proceeding. At that point, I must stop... because it's a 4-way stop and I don't know what the motorist is going to do, either.

Dance interrupted! Momentum lost!

At that point, the motorist sometimes waves me on through. Very polite, but it doesn't really matter much.

Just do the predictable thing!

(And if one of those irresponsible clumsy bike-doofuses reads this and recognizes himself - unlikely - you be a little more predictable too, huh?)

A side note: I occasionally put the earplugs in, so I can enjoy some righteous tunes while I'm riding. But it always makes me very uncomfortable, at least in urban traffic settings. My sense of hearing is just one more valuable tool that I can use for that 360-degree awareness, and I don't like to surrender it. And I feel a sense of dismay at the large number of cyclists these days who feel they don't need to hear their surroundings. (Of course, in most instances, they're also the "doofuses.")


bob t said...

While current Idaho law allows cyclists to treat red lights as stop signs and stop signs as yield signs, in practice all too many end up treating red lights as yield signs and stop signs as if they didn't exist. In the current environment, I'm beginning to wonder if it would be better if these laws were repealed as their liabilities seem to outweigh their benefits.

Anonymous said...

You have absolutely NAILED one of my biggest pet peeves about interacting with traffic. Consistent, predictable behavior is really the ONLY rule that needs to be followed, and yet it seems IMPOSSIBLE for automobile addicts to do so. Probably 90% of the birds I have flown at drivers are as a result of one of the interactions you describe here. I'm not contributing to good feelings between our camps, I know, but DAMN!!!!

Anonymous said...

And one that REALLY gets my middle finger flyin' is when someone STOPS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD, when I'm at a side road with a stop sign waiting to cross, to wave me across. What in the hell are people thinking?!

bob t said...

The stop in middle of the road to waive across has only happened to me in the north end. I think what's going through their mind is that we are pedestrians and that they are giving us the right of way.

Bikeboy said...

Hey, Mr. danielo... what's with the Mr? Did you get married or something? (hahahahaha!)

I'm totally frustrated by the well-meaning motorists. They just don't know any better; I just wish they understood "the choreography." (And I also lay the blame on the BAD cyclists... and there are at least as many, percentage-wise, as motorists.)

bob t said...

While motorists can certainly be unpredictable, we cyclists are certainly not the paragons of predictablity either. So it's a vicious circle.

Scott said...

I left my beloved Boise last year, and am now bike commuting in the DC area. Yes, drivers are unpredictable here, too. And aggressive.

Two things that get my blood boiling are (1) Mr. "I passed a bicyclist a couple blocks back, I am now stuck in a line of cars that the cyclist is now passing on the right, and cyclists don't belong on the road (Or I'm just an ass.). Therefore, I will pull my car as far to the right as possible so that the cyclist leaves the pavement to get around me. (As often as not, I drive a Prius.)"

OK, I need to explain (2) a bit; Northern VA has pretty good bike trails that run parallel to some of our 4-6 lane parkways and highways. Side roads do intersect the main roads (And therefore the bike trail), and (2) is the guy who stops in the middle of the bike lane intersection, right up the rear bumper of the car in front of him, waiting for a hole in traffic that he can shoot into. GRRR!

Sigh... I miss my daily commutes down Gowen.

Mark said...

Here is one, a Sunday morning, at 0645. Virtually NO traffic. Glorious. I am rolling down ave C,(by the cemetery), getting ready to head east on Warm Springs. The ONLY car on the road comes to a stop on Warm Springs and waves at me to go. I was like, is this a trick? Is he going to stomp on the gas and squish me flat? Funny how I was pissed at the person who was trying to be nice. I had slowed to a stop and was balancing, expecting them to just keep going and I had clear sailing afterwards. If the traffic had been heavy I would have been grateful but like you said, "dance interupted".