“Commuters know about the ‘right hook’ — what about the opposite? By that I mean those drivers who creep behind you for a city block, when if they drove at speed they would clear the intersection before you got there. How do other commuters deal with them?”
This is another manifestation of the “overly courteous” driver. I’m sure many of us have been in similar situations…the driver hanging back instead of passing us, the driver waving us through at a four-way-stop intersection even though it is clearly their turn to proceed, etc.
What this stems from is that many motorists are blissfully unaware of the laws regarding bicycles on the roadway. In most (if not all) states, bicycles are considered vehicles, and have the same rights (and the same responsibilities) as motor vehicles such as cars. Or, if said motorist IS aware of the laws, they are just trying to be nice by being excessively cautious.
While these behaviors are not usually dangerous, they can be quite annoying.
Really, the best way to deal with these situations is with a smile — if you had time to talk with these motorists and to teach them the ins and outs of sharing the road with bicycles, that would be great, but folks rarely have that kind of time. It’s better to just heed that wave-through (giving a thank-you wave of your own) or deal with the creeper. I’ve heard of cyclists stooping over to retrieve a waterbottle, pretending to be so engrossed in getting a drink or looking around that the opposing motorist at that stop sign just gives up and goes through…but that technique has its own share of issues.
In short, be gracious, be thankful and above all, do it with a smile — facing an overly-courteous motorist is a million times better than facing a road rager!!
Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.
In the months since I started bike commuting, I have had a handful of interesting “conversations” with my fellow employees as a direct result of them seeing me with a bike. When I first started, they were surprised to see someone walking down the office hallway with a bicycle.
– “Isn’t it too hot out there?” [it was August in Phoenix, AZ]
– “How far do you ride?”
– “Do you bike every day?”
I explained to my co-workers that I committed myself to biking to work every day in the month of August. It was a sort of experiment. An older gentleman from the Bronx would tell me about how he used to go for bike rides on the concrete paths around his house in South Florida where he just moved from. The receptionist would tell me stories of her being a tomboy and always playing sports with the boys in her neighborhood in the 1950s.
August came and went. Those who knew about my self-challenge began acting surprised that I was still riding my bike to work. That is when the conversations turned from genuine interest (and the occasional reverie) to more defensive.
– “I would ride my bike, but it’s too far…”
– “I would ride my bike, but it’s too dangerous…”
– “I would ride my horse if I had a place to keep her during the day.” [yes, someone actually said that]
There are tons of excuses that people use for not bike commuting, many of them legit. But part of me wonders why, without any mention of the subject on my part, these people feel they have to justify or defend themselves? Could it be that most Americans inherently believe that bike commuting – or even alternative transportation – is ethically and environmentally more beneficial?
This gives me hope that convincing the average middle-class American to consider alternative transportation is not as hard as some may think. The more important challenge might be to present the doable options, provide realistic opportunity – and the rest will fall into place…
As an aside, I would like to hear the kinds of comments you get from people in your office. Do people try to justify to you why they do not bike to work when they see you standing at the elevator with a bike by your side?
We are curious to find out what other type of cycling do you do. I used to be a hardcore roadie and a casual Mountain biker and rarely a racer. RL is a hardcore Mountain Biker and a less than casual road rider and a casual racer. How about you? Our poll is right below the Just Ask Jack Picture, so vote!
My tandem racing daughter Breanna entered this contest at school called Reflections. Basically the kids have a theme, “I can make a difference” and they have options on how to participate by submitting an essay, photo or video.
So after encouraging her to enter, she started getting to work. She got the facts on her own and with the help of her loving daddy (that’s me!), she was able to complete her entry.