Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why Taking the Lane Can Be Safer Than Inviting the Scooch Pass

For this video, I rode as far to the right as possible, and you can see the results. The red car approaches, changes lanes, and passes me (:46) without difficulty. The SUV, on the other hand, although the lane to the left appears open, free for him to change lanes to pass, opts to scooch by me very closely (:56). The camera is mounted on my rear rack, on non-drive side, and my left elbow sticks about a foot farther into traffic than the center of this shot.  The lens on this camera is somewhat wide angle, so he passed me very close indeed.

I could post similar videos except with me riding more in the center of this lane, but all you would see is this NOT happening. You might see cars occasionally riding my tail, gunning their engines, or honking, but that happens a lot less often than you would expect. The vast majority of cars do what the red car does in the video, when I send a clear message about what lane position permits me to ride safely on this stretch of street. On the other hand, the scooch pass is extremely common, if/when I invite it with a far-right lane position.

I was thinking about making three videos, riding in different positions, and I still will make some showing different experiences in this area, but this one illustrates the point: my lane position invited the SUV to scooch past me at 45 mph, so he did. That's an invitation I don't plan on issuing any more. It's not safe. Get up. Go ride.



  1. You are a braver man than I. Nowadays, I try not to encourage such motorist misjudjment, partly because it represents a large, but unknown fraction of "cyclist struck from behind" and "he swerved in front of me" cases. There are enough curb huggers out there that I can experience it vicariously.

  2. That's scary. Plenty of room for the SUV to move over, but the driver chose not to. I have to wonder what the driver was thinking.

  3. It's scary to see that, especially with the camera pointed backwards. A great illustration of why I don't hug the curb, either. Sadly, it's very difficult to explain this to drivers, who think you're just being a jerk by taking the lane. And even some cyclists don't seem to get it.

  4. Steve, it's not my typical lane position, but I was trying it out to investigate it a bit. It was a short investigation, and I won't be repeating it--not brave at all.

    JK, I'm not sure what the driver was thinking, but I do feel that inviting them to scooch pass is not safe, because some of them will accept the invitation.

    Apertome, I have brought it up in conversation, and it (take the lane) does seem like almost an alien concept, counter-intuitive, odd, to drivers and cyclists alike. Yet on this street, when you look at the alternatives, the only "safer" choice than taking a safe central position in this lane would be to not ride at all. Which is actually the foundational belief beneath a lot of the talk. So I see it as a necessary step to establish, firmly and clearly, that I AM going to ride by bike to work. Once they get that, they'll see that my next step is to figure out how to do that safely, which means...take this lane.

  5. JRA - Yeah, now you can see why I either find a different route than 44th Street (if I can ) or take to the sidewalk when I am riding it. The post in my blog, The Solidly Safer Sidewalk, was all about 44th Street just south of Thomas Road.

    Riding that sidewalk, I may have to bring the speed way down to just above walking speed when I approach driveways, but I'll do that rather than see SUV grills filling up my rear-view mirror!

  6. Complete agree, BluesCat--I'm done trying to blend lawfully/predictably with the craziness that is 44th Street. MAG needs to take it off their maps as a "bike route", ditto Google, until City of Phoenix does something to make it less death-defying for a cyclist to ride it. I'll say it: SUVs driving 50 mph hell-bent for happy hour on a surface street is an extremely challenging for any cyclist at any level using any approach: in a setting where drivers consistently, predictably, and willfully violate the law, you have to look out for number 1. Safe and legal passing, 3 foot cycling law, lane position, speed limit, even the fundamental right of travel, all are thrown out the window nearly every time I ride this stretch. I've been in third world countries where people know how to drive better than on this street.


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