Life Without Wheels: Chronicle of a Car-Free Lifestyle
So, many of you know my pet peeve that you should pass on the left not on the right and that you shouldn't shoal another cyclist (pull up on their right and overtake them) at a stop sign or stop light. Today I had the opportunity to attempt to educate another cyclist (whom we shall call the IDIOT), on why passing on the right and in the door zone is dangerous. Here's our encounter:

Me: (over my shoulder as IDIOT approaches on the right): Hey, pass on the LEFT!
IDIOT: What? Hi, good morning (in a flirtatious way).
Me: (in no mood to be put in danger by an idiot who think he's flirting as he pulls up on my right and starts to match my pace in the door zone): Hey, pass on the left! You're putting me in danger! It's dangerous to pass on the right! If I have to swerve, we're going to crash.
IDIOT: (laughing in an exasperated tone that says "whatever you don't know anything): What? Oh, hah. Listen I've been riding for 30 years. Just don't swerve.
Me: (looking at him like the IDIOT he is): No, I'm not going to swerve because I can't hold my line. If a car sideswipes me or I have to go around a pothole, I can't see you on the right, don't expect you there, we will crash. You're pushing me further into traffic. You're putting me in danger. If a car door opens, you're going to swerve left into me and I'm could get run over by a car after we crash. (note: I'm riding on the sharrows, which are just outside the door zone, and IDIOT is in the door zone).
IDIOT: I've been riding for 30 years. Just don't swerve.
ME: (thinking: do you want an iPhone 4 too?) Don't pass on the right. Safe cycling tells us to pass on the left. In your 30 years, you never learned the principals of safe cycling? (Note: IDIOT does not look older than 35. I'm assuming that he is counting his days on training wheels and riding around his childhood neighborhood as "cycling" days.)

You should note that after every reason I gave him for not passing me on the right and putting me in danger, the IDIOT laughed a "oh whatever" laugh at me, completely dismissing very valid reasons to practice safe cycling. He FINALLY finished passing me on the right (although I spent a good 3 minutes asking him to stop riding beside me in the door zone like a fool--didn't call him a fool to his face). I watched him ride in the door zone for about 2 miles, then he pulled off.

Being a cyclist for 30 years or 50 years or 75 years, doesn't give you the right to put someone else in danger. I'm guessing that if he drives, he drives the way he cycles, with no attention to road safety. And paying attention to road safety means paying attention to your safety and not putting others at risk. I'll have put 10,000 miles on my 3 bikes by the end of this year, I've done brevets of 200 plus miles, I've built my own bike, and I'm an active advocate and activist of the cycling community. None of that gives me the right to endanger anyone else. Unfortunately our exchange was not too pleasant, but I hope he'll become curious about the rules of safe cycling and maybe look up one of the handbooks online.

I don't believe in policing other cyclists, but if you put me in danger, I will let you know it. This usually means yelling at other cyclists: pass on the right and ride on the right side of the road. If I yell this at you, please know it's not because I'm a bitch or because I dislike you for some reason. I'm sure you're a nice person, just uneducated about safe cycling. But I'm still going to give you a mouthfull of why it's unsafe. So either stop doing it, or live with my tirade.


09/17/2010 07:29

I had doorzone idiot shoal to my right on Wednesday, and then she started lecturing me on HELMET use of all things.

09/17/2010 13:22

That's why bike racing experience is handy.
Just put your handlebars in front of his and ignore him. Maybe even ride closer to a few cars...

09/17/2010 22:02

I have been riding for over 30 years. But I gave up being an idiot many years ago. Most people on bicycles ride just like they did as small children. They have made no attempt to learn from there mistakes. I agree people passing on your right are a problem. What really gets me mad is when they are coming head on at you and pass on your right on a busy street.

09/19/2010 17:42

Alright, I will go ahead and play devil's advocate for the moment. Your post does not quite make clear just how far out of the door zone you were when overtaken, and while 99% of the time I will pass another rider on the left as should be done, there is that 1% of the time when it does not make sense. Just this weekend while riding on a local mountain road (which itself may negate making this a relevant comparison, since it is different than an urban street, but..) I came upon another rider who was riding anywhere from the middlle of the lane, to actually crossing the yellow line into the oncoming lane. I said the hell with that and passed on the right. I cannot think of a specific instance when riding in the city I have passed on the right, though I know it has happened, for probably much the same reason. I deemed it safer, and maybe this person did too. Now, that said, I have followed your blog long enough to believe that you were probably where you were supposed to be on the road, and that this person through inconsideration or indifference, or whatever did what he has probably done many times, pass where he thought he should. Anyway it seems like you set him straight and maybe he will think before doing it again. Although, since he continued riding in the door zone, it does make me wonder about his professed experience and ability to comprehend.

09/19/2010 17:48

Hi Michael,

You are correct in assuming that I was in the middle of the lane. Where I was on 4th Street, I was riding on the sharrows, which aren't exactly in the middle of the lane (it's a pilot program that has been poorly directed). The sharrows are actually just barely out of the door zone, and, in fact, in some instances actually ARE in the door zone.

In the instance you mentioned, on a wide highway where the other cyclist is so far over, I'd just assume they were getting ready for a left and pass on the right. But in the end, the question is about safety. If you weren't in a place to swerve into him from a swinging door, and he wasn't going to swerve into you, I'd say it's a judgement call.

The other question is, did you call out an "on your right"? To me it's also about awareness. We don't expect people on the right. If you have to pass on the right, you should at least let the other cyclist know you're coming, right? I don't know, this all seems like common sense to me. But you make a valid point.

09/19/2010 19:15

Takes two to tango. I learned in driver ed(!) not to hang around exactly even with another car. I would not have stayed with your idiot cyclist for 3 minutes. Just put on the brakes and put him in front of you for awhile. He'll lose interest if he can't see you.

I would let them go on because I've had very poor success at convincing anyone of their bad habit while having a momentary bike by conversation. You wanna tell him he has a bad habit? Ask them to stop, then talk it over. Don't prolong your exposure to a dangerous street position.

Not completely sure that a brief pass on the right isn't OK sometimes. I am sure riding without enough room for me, another cyclist, and a car is not a safe place. I'm sure I've met that guy. My survival instinct trumps my educator instinct in. Please be careful - I like your blog!

09/19/2010 19:18

Sigh, Eric. When you are right, you are right. I'm trying to work on my zen responses and not being provoked into stupidity. =)

09/21/2010 07:04

I've gotten that lecture before. Mine was from a douchey Masi track bike rider in a flat brimmed hat who then proceeded to cuss me in quite a majestic way. My argument to him as it would be to you is that if I was able to pass you on the right, perhaps you were too far left? Slower traffic keep right as they say. Seems like sour grapes from a guy who couldn't get his single speed turning fast enough to keep up to me. Of course I've been cussed by track bike riders for not leaving space for them to make right turns so I suppose you can't make everybody happy all of the time, least of all fixie riders. At the end of the day though, I never listen to anyone who critiques my riding. Rules are for cars so in the words of Weezy F. Baby; "I'm'a do what I do, and you do what you can do about it." I've yet to hurt anyone passing on the right, and if I get doored in the process well that's my problem. If someone hits you or anyone else, by all means bring them down a notch. But till then ride your own damned bicycles.

09/23/2010 18:29

Useful post. You keep churning out some good info!


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