Just Ask Jack — Red Light Procedure?

Lance sent in the following question:

“I’ve been okay with traffic protocol except for this one thing. In the instance of a red light and there are several cars in front and in back of me, is it proper procedure to stop behind the car that’s in front of me as any other car would do or do cyclists have the right to pass everyone like a motorcycle and come to a stop right at the crosswalk?

I’ve been stopping behind cars so they don’t get p*ssed at me but I’m nowhere close to sure that it’s the right thing to do.?

Lance, first of all, it is NOT ok for motorcyclists to pass everyone on the right to get a favorable spot at the front of the line. This is a version of “lane splitting?, which is commonly practiced by motorcyclists (and a good number of bike commuters), but is absolutely illegal in most jurisdictions.

A technique for solving this traffic protocol riddle that I have found useful is to sneak up on the right until you are in the second or third position in line…and stop between cars rather than alongside one of the cars. Then, when the light turns green, you let the first and/or second car do their thing while you get up to speed, get clipped in to your pedals, etc. Oftentimes, that first or second car will make an unannounced right turn, so by hanging back for the first few seconds, you avoid the dreaded “right hook“. Once I’m rolling at speed, I try to hog the lane a bit (getting out into the middle of the lane and standing up) to prevent other motorists from trying to hook a right (or a left) in front of me until I am clear of the intersection.

I mention “sneaking up? on the right side of cars because I have found that doing it blatantly really pisses motorists off. If you do it slowly and steadily (being careful to avoid rearview mirrors and the like), you are less likely to step on any toes.

Regardless, there are a few considerations to keep in mind when passing on the right, particularly if there are any driveways or parking-lot entrances between you and the light. If there’s any spot where a car could conceivably turn right (into your path), be extremely cautious or forgo right-hand passing altogether. Better safe than sorry, I always say! Also, gauge the amount of room you have on the right — if you’re passing and you run out of room between the cars and the curb, you can get screwed pretty quickly. Finally, be wary of the rare but extremely painful right-hand “door zone? — someone suddenly getting out on the right-hand side and throwing their door open to step out onto the sidewalk will ruin your day in a heartbeat!

Blind adherence to motorist laws is as dangerous as being a total scofflaw. Please, use common sense and judgement for your own safety. If breaking a motorist law turns out to be safer for you, by all means DO SO!

Here are some collision avoidance tips from the folks at Pay particular attention to collision types 3, 4 and 5.

And, since we here at are not lawyers, it is up to you, our readers, to check all applicable local laws for your situation. In some municipalities, passing on the right will get you a pricey ticket (or worse). Be safe, be smart and be aware!

Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.

Hope for the Tampa Bay Bicycle Commuter

If you’re a bicycle commuter in the Tampa Bay area, things can feel pretty lonely at times. There’s only about 6 daily commuters in our area (just joking!), and there isn’t much in the way of moral support around these parts.

But wait, there’s hope!
Tampa BayCycle homepage

Tampa BayCycle is a joint effort between the New North Transportation Alliance (Julie Bond, the executive director, is one of our featured commuters) and the Tampa Downtown Partnership, as well as a host of other corporate sponsors. This organization has provided the Bay Area commuter a wonderful resource for advocacy, communication and information exchange, and recently wrapped up their first year’s “Commuter Challenge”, where riders were encouraged to recruit fellow bike commuters or newbies in exchange for the chance to win prizes. They even had a kickass party to celebrate their first Bike To Work Month, where activists were invited to enjoy pizza, billiards, bowling and prize raffles (my wife and I both won light sets for our bikes and I won a Cateye wireless computer — very cool).

In June, Tampa BayCycle rolled out their very own blog, which is geared towards providing the Tampa area commuter another way to communicate amongst themselves and to spotlight local news, commuter profiles and other information of interest to bicyclists. It’s a great resource, and you should check it out and add comments…let’s get some traffic headed their way (after all, they did put a permalink to on their blog site)!!

Tampa BayCycle Blog homepage Is Growing!

Please help me welcome our newest addition to the team, Lance Lowry!

Lance comes on board with a plethora of cycling experience. He is a XC mountain bike racer and a fixed gear commuter. We’ve been riding with Lance on various mountain biking trails and decided to asked him to join the BikeCommuters and teams.

We’re pretty excited to see what he’s going to bring to the table and we know that he’s got a lot to offer. So please, don’t be shy and welcome the fella to the BikeCommuters Family!

Resources for the New Bicycle Commuter

Know anyone who has expressed an interest in giving bicycle commuting a try? Many of us have talked to someone who wants to do it but doesn’t really know where to begin. Well, here are a couple Internet resources (besides OUR fine site!) you can point them to. The following sites are generally designed for and aimed at beginners, although a couple of them offer information that will be useful for even the most seasoned, long-time commuter.

Paul Dorn’s Bike Commute Tips

Paul Dorn's Bike Commute Tips website

I’ll start with my favorite — the excellent site put together by Paul Dorn. This site has something for everyone, novices and pros alike. It is clearly divided into major categories and is well-written.

Paul also writes an excellent blog that highlights bicycle commuting news from around the U.S. and beyond.

Bike Safety Institute

Bike Safety Institute website

This site, despite its lofty title, primarily serves as an online ride calendar (that isn’t updated very often). Still, there are quite a few tidbits hidden around the site for the beginning commuter. One tidbit I discovered during a recent visit is the table of bicycle fatalities by state, compiled in 2004 by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration‘s Center for Statistics and Analysis. The top ten most fatal states (per one million population) are Florida at number one (boo!!!), Nevada, Hawaii, Washington D.C., South Carolina, Arizona, Puerto Rico, Delaware, North Dakota and California finishing out at number 10.

Bicycle Fatalities By State

Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

Bicycling Info's website

This website is chock-full of statistical information, image libraries, engineering considerations and many other resources. This site is also very popular with transportation planners who are hoping to include pedestrians and bicycles into their urban plans…our local bicycle/pedestrian planners are actually the ones who turned me onto this site!! Plenty of information is geared at beginners, and even more is available to the advanced commuter or active commuting advocate.

Check these sites out — you may learn something new, and you will certainly be able to point someone in the right direction if you’re ever asked “how do I get started commuting by bicycle?”

As always, if there are other sites you could recommend to beginners, please let us know about them and we may include them in future articles.

Riding a fixie for the first time

I don’t consider myself a Fixed Gear Rider expert, but I want to share some of my first time experiences riding a Fixed Gear bike to work.

The first Fixed Gear I ever ridden was a Bianchi Pista that belonged to Steve Boehmke, at that moment I knew I had to have one. Last November I received a Raleigh One Way to review for a previous site that I used write for, although it was a little big, I decided to ride it to work fixed gear style. Here’s what I quickly learned that nobody told me:

*Be mindful while turning. There’s no coasting thru the turns, so if you lean too much, your pedals may scrape causing you to fall.

*Use your brake to slow down on the downhills, if you don’t the super high cadence will cause you to bounce up and down or your feet will fly off the pedals making you look a little goofy.

*Be mindful of your pedal position when stopping, if your pedals are not in the position that you are used to while re-starting, you will have to push the bike or do a rolling start until your feet catch up with the pedals. This is not easily done while riding in traffic.

*Keep in mind that there is NO coasting, a habit that is really hard to break. If you forget, (and I guarantee that you will) the shock to your legs will not be pleasant.

Swobo Sanchez

After a few miles of riding you will get the hang of it, you will either hate it or love it. If you hate it, don’t give up, riding a fixed gear bike is fun and it will improve your endurance and riding form.