Saturday, January 27, 2007

Being Courteous

I was talking with a lady I work with about how it sometimes makes sense to 'take the lane'. My points included how the road isn't wide enough for a car to pass me safely when there is oncoming traffic, and that I had a legal right to do so. Then she brought up an interesting point. I can't remember the exact wording, but it had to do with the number of people I inconvenience by slowing down traffic versus my inconvenience if I pull off the road to allow those behind me to pass. I should make the sacrifice for the greater good. (a very Spock thing to do) She must want me to wait on the side until no cars wish to drive that length of pavement before I ride.

It seems to me that her internal thinking is that cars own the road and should be allowed to drive as fast as they wish, and that the cyclist somehow is obligated to let this happen. I don't want to argue with her, but I also can't concede the point. If that is true, I should expect slightly slower cars to pull into the grass when I drive up behind them at at higher speed. (I forget where I read an account where a driver came up behind a cyclist and honked repeatedly - presumably for slowing him down, but the cyclist noted that same driver didn't honk at the red light or left turning cars that blocked his way. Funny stuff!)

In reality, my riding never blocks another car for more that 60 seconds, so I don't feel guilty about it. I'm going to ride in a way that makes me very visible, rather than trying just to stay out of the way. Whenever I use the right tire track, everyone behind me knows about it.

This lady is very nice and would never honk at a cyclist, but she must be thinking that it isn't right for me (and probably you) to make her drive slower. I've decided not to have that conversation with her anymore.


Blogger Da' Square Wheelman, said...

Thanks for the post. I've also found you can have a civil conversation with drivers about sharing the road. Perhaps the new federal standards for Sharrows will help the issue?

Bicycle Diaries

2:17 PM  
Blogger Revrunner said...

Interesting ethical dilemma--balancing the needs of the many over and against the needs of the few! I think, also, of those increasing numbers of persons in my are that are riding motor scooters and what they contribute to the overall picture. I personally think they have as much right to the road as I do. But I also think that there is a point when even they really ought to--if you'll pardon the pun!--"scoot" over when the traffic is piling up behind them.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I saw that sharrows story the other day. I wonder how long it will take for one to appear in my town.

8:34 PM  
Blogger mike said...

Being someone who rides with morning commuter traffic through downtown indy on occasion, my feeling is that I'm really not much slower than the occasional road work truck, or in a rural setting, the occasional tractor. And people generally don't have a problem with those vehicles.

I take the lane when I feel like someone's going to kill me if I don't, but generally I try to stay out of the way.

Maybe it's selfish to slow down traffic, but it's no more selfish than someone who drives slow because they don't know where they're going. I just feel like if you really think the cyclist in your way is a major problem, there's a good chance you've got more problems than the cyclist.

10:24 AM  

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