Tuesday, June 12, 2012

By the Frights of Their Eyes

The delicate art of the turn / merge / cross is not without countervailing complications

Often when turning onto, merging in, or crossing busier streets on my bicycle, I find myself steering toward the spot where the car won't be when I get there. Often, the car is in the spot when I start the turn / merge / cross, but due to its forward motion, I'm confident it will no longer be in that spot by the time my bike gets to it. I find this approach necessary for crossing, merging, and turning on to busy streets, because otherwise it seems like I may have a very long wait for a simple, clear opening in traffic.

By the nature of the maneuver, though, a driver of the vehicle in question who happens to look at me when I'm starting this maneuver with confidence may think for an instance that I am actually trying to steer into them, rather than behind them. I don't think I could if I tried, but in any case, I have seen more than one example where my steering toward the to-be empty spot has caused momentary fright, alarm, consternation, concern in the eyes of a driver. It all happens pretty fast, so it's not like I have time to reassure them, or always make some motion to indicate what I'm doing, although sometimes it is possible to point behind them to show them where I'm going. 

However, I've also found that drivers who are paying enough attention that they will be able to see and understand my hand signal are seldom the ones who are alarmed by my steering toward the spot where they're not going to be when I get there. The ones who seem most alarmed are the drivers who are distracted by something else. Yesterday, a woman who was texting while waiting for the stoplight, and I don't mean a brief "LOL" I mean intense, focused, lengthy thumb dancing, looked up and saw me waiting for the light in the lane next to her, and looked like she was going to jump out of seat.

So I guess I'm saying, it's never my goal to scare the crap out of drivers with my riding, but if a driver is so distracted that they are startled by a cyclist at a stop light while both are sitting completely still, I don't feel that much concern about having a similar effect while in motion in traffic, except that it causes me to increase my Plan B bail out priority in case the distracted driver doesn't happen to see me at all and changes lanes toward me, thereby putting their vehicle where I intended to travel to get to where they were not going to be.


  1. I've discovered that most motorists don't have a clue about where their OWN vehicle is going to be --- relative to reality and the other roadway occupants --- in next SECOND, let alone the next TWO seconds or more!

    Example: I was riding home yesterday, taking the lane, and was about a car length and a half from a stop sign. Behind me, about a car length back, was one of The Clueless Ones. He saw the stop sign and gunned his engine as if to pass me and get to the stop sign first.

    The ONLY way he could have performed that maneuver was if he had some sort of Star Trek Transporter button on his dashboard which would have INSTANTANEOUSLY moved him over me and to the stop sign.

    I wobbled the front wheel, and with my left arm I pointed down and to the side; the Stopping/Braking signal. He screeched his brakes. After we had both stopped, and had a couple other cars on the cross street clear the intersection, when I cleared the intersection and moved to the right to let him roar by he was shaking his head as if I were the idiot.

    1. I have also seen the Star Trek magic tractor beam in effect: car goes through a light, following car follows right behind as if magically connected by right, privilege, duty, honor, or tractor beam. Gunning the engine to get to the stop is a variation on Chase, Pace, Race and Hook, or race to the red light. Foolish, pointless, foolhardy, and dangerous.

  2. Texting whilst driving is actually illegal in Western Australia. Is it in the States?

    1. BB the laws about cell phone usage and texting while driving vary significantly from state to state. In Arizona where I live, there are no restrictions (although bills have been brought, but not passed). This Governors Highway Safety Association page summarized the differences: 10 states prohibit usage by drivers while driving, 39 states ban texting by drivers.


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