Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bicycle Commuting and the Door Zone of Denial

The bike lane seems wide until one pickup parks in it with an open door, illustrating the ZONE OF DENIAL

I didn't put this photo of the pickup in the bike lane up to complain about him specifically, but rather because he will help me to illustrate, in case someone is interested, why I rode past him out in the spot marked "Here" in the photo. 

When no cars are on it, this street plus bike lanes seem wide, but that perception alters significantly with traffic and a pickup parked, OK illegally, I'll say it, right in front of the NO PARKING sign, but there were dozens more vehicles doing the same right behind me so I can't single him out, and he was only stopping for a minute anyway. 

Prior to coming upon him, I was riding out in the 'Here' zone, around where Steve A calls "The Line of Sweetness", which is perhaps most precisely illustrated in this timeless graphic by Rantwick: The Line of Sweetness. I was avoiding at all costs the ZONE OF DENIAL which was full of parked cars, door zone risk and driver walk zone uncertainty, consciously choosing to ride in the position, and feeling like, "Man, I am way the heck out in the street, and I wonder what a driver coming up behind me would think about that," when I heard one driver come up behind me. No honking though, nor tailgating, so they seemed OK with it. "Hey," I can only dream they were reflecting in their air conditioned comfort, "With all those cars parked illegally in the bike lane, it's only fair for him to ride there, straight down The Line of Sweetness, and besides, where else is he going to ride?"

But I was also thinking, in the event a driver asked me why I was riding way the heck out there in the Line of Sweetness, outside of the ZONE OF DENIAL, how would I explain it, when Mr. Friendly Bike Lane Parking Pickup Drivin Man (Mr. FBLPPDM) showed up to illustrate the point!  Thanks, Mr. FBLPPDM! It's also interesting to me, looking at my illustration that this is a situation where it is SAFE for a cyclist to pass at this moment, and probably UNSAFE for another Pickup Drivin Man to try to squeeze by. Being in a big hurry, typically, he would probably try anyway, but I doubt his far-stickin-out side mirrors would clear both sides by three feet.

You know those security personnel patrolling the drop-off zones at the airport, making sure that drivers obey the rules and move along smartly? I anticipate that very soon those zones will be patrolled by angry-sounding, authoritative-looking robots that zip back and forth making nasty barking, buzzing, and beeping sounds at violators, ultimately clamping on wheel clamps for egregious violations. Once they have all the bugs worked out, I for one will welcome the CLAMPBOTS to patrol the bike lanes of our cities, too, enforcing the traffic laws and clamping down on violators. Not just for us bicycle commuters, but to keep Mr. FBLPPDM and his pickup drivin cohort safe out there, too.

Until that glorious day, however, I say, hello sweetness. Ride sweet.

On an unrelated side note, I would like to wish a happy birthday to Pierre de Fermat, born August 17, 1601, and send this song out to his wandering, marvelous soul.


  1. Makes me think of this wonderful video...

  2. Alastair, thanks for commenting, yes, that video is great, illustrating well the circus-like nature of New York City streets, which have a level of chaos and contention far above anything I commute in. I am happy to report that law and custom in Phoenix permits and requires me to ride where it is safe and practicable, which means I am not bound to stay in the bike lane if it is unsafe or impossible to do so, including legal sidewalk riding and taking the lane when necessary. I also wanted to mention that this photo also shows what is an untenable arrangement for pedestrians on this street, some of whom are children walking to school.

  3. Fortunately, playing the video Alastair linked, on MUTE, simultaneously with the one I linked in another tab or window, yields an excellent result:

    vid1: Dame Judi Dench Best Send in the Clowns EVAH

    vid2: NYC Bike Lane Circus Acrobatics (MUTE)

  4. Hey, thanks for the flashback to the lemons and lollipops. As you say, ride sweet.

  5. Oh wow that photo is pretty fantastic. We're about to get bike lanes over here in Dallas and I get the sinking feeling I'm going to get to snap more than a few of these myself. I wrote a little post about where I ride on the road, but it wasn't near as eloquent as "The Line of Sweetness". I'll have to keep that in mind ...

  6. Goofy mathematicians.
    The story behind Wiles and Fermat's Last Theorum is quite an amazing story.
    In a nerdy sort of way.

  7. RANTWICK some days it's all lemons and lollipops, isn't it?

    veesee thanks! Good luck with your new bike lanes, I look forward to reading about your experiences in them.

    limom, one of my favorite PBS programs of all time. In secret, for years, the dogged pursuit of truth. Elliptic curves: I would totally ride those.

  8. I do a combination car/bike commute every day - I drive the first part of my commute, but I have a Montague folding bike that I ride for the last 5 miles or so. My drive is mostly through the suburbs and larger streets that don't have bikes anyway, and then I ride once I get to the city.
    Anyway - I see stuff like that all the time. And other drivers don't seem to understand why, when I'm on my bike, I ride in the line of sweetness.
    Oh well. Maybe if more drivers rode bikes, they'd understand?

  9. LBJ, purely coincidentally, there was a fabulous post on the AZBIKELAW blog which included references for where cyclists should ride in the lane. I think I'm going to make laminated copies to hand out for educational purposes, since, as you say, no one seems to know this stuff:


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