Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Don't wanna share.

I was thinking about this "share the road" article as I was riding around town this afternoon. One premise of it is that "share the road" essentially evokes negative memories from Kindergarten of being forced to share your toys and your milk-n-cookies. Which is pleasant for no Kindergartner.

This time of year, bike lanes have a tendency to become useless and dangerous as they fill with leaves, ice and slush, and other road debris. Consequently, this is the time of year I tend to avoid roads with bike lanes. Instead, I find nice, wide roads. Multi-lane ones where I can take an entire lane without slowing traffic down.

I adhere as closely as I can to the principles of Vehicular Cycling.

In other words, I do a lot sharing the road with motorists.

And the problem with that is one of perception.

I may perceive myself as a vehicle with equal rights to the road, but that doesn't mean motorists don't perceive me as a slow moving object to avoid and to get around as soon as possible.

For example, this afternoon.

I was in the far right lane on a one-way, three-lane road. A white compact car was behind me; and next to it, one lane over, was a red sedan.

What happened next is when "share the road" means two different things to two different parties.

I have sometimes experienced that if I'm not assertive enough in my taking the lane—if I'm hanging out in the right-most third of the lane, or even smack dab in the middle of the lane instead of closer to the left-most third—then a motorist behind me might chose to interpret "share the road" as share the lane. And they'll drift over a little bit so that they're actually occupying two lanes as they attempt to pass me without getting all the way over.

There is some logic behind this tactic on a two lane road where changing lanes to pass me means driving fully on the wrong side of the road. Driving on the wrong side of the road is uncomfortable, even when conditions are clear.

But there is less logic—if in fact there is any—in sharing the lane on a wide, one-way, multi-lane road like we were on. There's no reason not to wait until it's clear, and then change lanes properly, like you would do to get around any slower moving car.

So instead of adhering to logic, the white compact attempts this share the lane tactic, accelerates and drifts towards the red sedan. Red sedan honks and the compact brakes and falls back in line.

One block down the road, I signal and leave the road, still next to the sedan, having obstructed traffic not one bit.

Being told to share the road may cause some people balk and insist that they keep all their cookies to themselves. But it is also problematic at times when those who would be willing to share don't know precisely what it means to, or how they ought to do it.

Share the road, folks. Not the lane.

Perhaps, as suggested in the article, we should abandon use of the slogan altogether and rely on simple "Watch for bicycles" signs.

Less connotation. Little more direct.


Jon said...

I love the people who pull up to a stop sign, in the wrong lane, because they just can't stay behind you (even sitting still).

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