Thursday, August 28, 2008

drawing attention

This guy gave me space but there were a couple cars that didn't today on the way to work. I pull my bob trailer to get people's attention, make me look bigger, and hopefully get more space. Today, I think the attention drew some closer since they were looking at me while not moving left. Different time of day than I normally commute, different people, post lunch tiredness, whatever, the close ones didn't cross over the yellow line when there was plenty of room.


Scott Redd said...

I bet drawing the trailer does help get people's attention.

I switched my single pannier from the right side of the rack to the left. I can't be sure, but logically, that would seem to make me look a little wider to the traffic behind me.

Sometimes I wonder, though, if having bike equipment like helmet, lights, panniers, and even wearing a bright jersey or vest changes people attitudes.

As if they think, "Oh, there's an experienced cyclist. He can take a close pass."

Where on the other hand they might look at someone with none of this equipment and grant him a wide berth, thinking he's a novice.



Biker Bob said...

Although it seems a bit counter intuitive, I sometimes ride far enough into the lane that people are forced to cross the line to get around me. Once they break that imaginary line, they tend to go even further and pass with a large amount of space between us. That doesn't keep them from honking when they go by. But if I have to choose between a honk or having my left elbow ripped off, I'm going to choose the honk.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes when I'm not thinking about it, I stay really close to the right side. I think it's instinctive to shy away from those big scarry cars. That's when I get buzzed the most. People get upset when your slowing them down and sometimes buzz you on purpose if they can fit between you and the line.

You could also get one of those nifty air horns that Zack has on his bike and honk at people that pass too close.

dale said...

I divide the road up into five lanes - the doubletrack from tire wear and the three non tire wear lanes btw the white and yellow lines.

I try to ride in the right tire lane. Any farther right and they sometimes try the squeeze play. Farther left comes close to most who only pull over half a lane - running their right tires on the left tire lane.

I'm not sure what people are thinking when driving. How many see a biker on the road and it irratates them rather than encourages? Probably more than 50% would rather not see us on the road. Yet I'm guessing 99% usually give me adequate space. Yesterday was below 90%.

buconine said...

The overall attitude in Omaha towards cyclists is pretty awful. I've been yelled at by people to get off the street. I've been yelled at by the police and joggers/walkers to get off the sidewalk even when being extremely polite. I've had rednecks scream profanities at me while riding with my kids.

It takes me 8 minutes longer to ride to work than drive and i still refuse to do it due to the fact of getting clipped daily, too many close calls and the fact that really, no one cares if they run me over. I had a guy bump me while making a right turn the other day. He got out of his car and screamed at me, instead of asking if i was ok.

Bike paths and city parks are no better. The "herds" that walk Zorinsky and refuse to move for anyone, the dog walkers with 50ft of leash out that get mad when you try and ride past. Man, this town sucks...

Thank God for dirt. Everyone is your friend on dirt. Joggers, walkers and familys all chat on the trails. It is just an awesome environment that i wish would transition to the streets. I've always gotten a hi or a wave on the trails. Sometimes i can't even get a nod from another cyclist on the street.

I guess all we can do is pray and hope for a day when attitudes change and we have some freedom to ride the streets safely...

Scott Redd said...

I've been bike commuting for only about seven weeks, but so far I haven't had any "screamers." I've only have a couple of honks and a handful of closes passes. Of the honks, only one I know for sure was directed at me (a little old lady who probably got her license before roads were paved, and was most likely concerned about the reckless young man who doesn't know better than to ride in the street).

I live somewhat midtown and commute to downtown, and I do think that people's attitudes to cyclists varies based on location in the city. Compare for example, the experiences of a fellow commuting friend, Jeff, who lives around 156th and Harrison and commutes downtown.

Jeff tells me stories each week of the various "words of advice" he gets from people during his commute. Almost all of those negative experiences happen in the suburbs, where drivers probably don't expect to see cyclists.

What's ironic is that these suburban areas have great trails around lakes and through neighborhoods, but I think the expectation of the common suburbanite is that you rack your bike, drive to the trail, exercise, then rack the bike and return home. Cycling in the street is for poor people and urbanites.

I think that drivers who live and work in the older parts of town expect to see cyclists and are a little more accommodating.

I believe that when the city starts marking the bike lanes and erecting signs, the activity of urban (and hopefully suburban) cycling will be a little more legitimatized in the eyes of the ordinary driver.



dale said...

Buconine, maybe if you stopped wearing that "CARS SUCK" t-shirt when you commute, people might not yell, honk, and buzz you. ;-)

Maybe a less traveled route, even if it takes more time, could be found? Maybe take a look at active omaha commuter map (8MB file) for other possibilities?

I would also recommend reading "The Art of [Urban] Cycling". We have the 1st edition at the shop if you want to check it out and I think it is in the public library too. The 2nd edition drops "urban" and adds some thoughts on suburbs. I felt more confident on the street after reading it.

Still, I wonder sometimes why I commute on non neighborhood streets (>25mph). Especially when considering the damage getting hit can do. In the end, I decide the risks are worth the rewards, and then look and listen closely while riding.

Using paths, I say "on your left" and "thank you" as I pass walkers. But I probably pass at only 10-15 mph, slower if there are a lot of people. Sometimes I say it's a nice day.

A soft word can turn away anger, but I fight the urge to give a one finger salute when buzzed. I can't control their actions but I can control my response to their actions.

buconine said...

I agree with Scott on the areas making the difference. Mid/downtown seems to be much easier than WestO or at least less problematic. With all the construction and roads closed in my area, there was only really one efficent way to work. I had planned alternate routes but with Pacific closed all summer, i didn't have alot of options.

I don't return agression to drivers because a wave and a smile just makes them that much more frustrated. I've also noticed alot less anger when i wear street clothes instead of a riding kit. I know seeing a chubby old guy in spandex must be terrifying but it is no reason to run me over...

I'll have to take a peek at that book Dale. I'd love to commute more but with the bustle of getting kids to school in the morn, i am just a summer commuter at best.