During the week, I usually ride in late afternoon, after I get home from work. Traffic then is still heavy; rush hour is still under way. But commuting drivers seem to be aware of what’s going on around them. They see me, and they anticipate what I will do. Knock wood, but I have never been flipped off, yelled at, or even honked at.
Now, I have a few weeks off, and I’m able to ride in the morning, but after rush hour. What a difference! The traffic is lighter, yes, but the drivers — measurably worse.
My route today took me down a four-lane suburban street, past some strip malls. I was traveling at about 25 mph on a slight downslope, approaching the entrance to one of the strip malls. A Camaro waited to make a left turn in the oncoming lane. I assumed the worst, and I was right — immediately after a car pulled out of the strip mall, he made his left into it, right in front of me. Because I figured that’s what he would do, I was already feathering the brakes, so I was able to slow a bit without a problem.
An SUV waiting to exit the strip mall on my right saw me coming, and saw that she had to wait for the Camaro to make his turn in front of her. The look of uncertainty in her eyes was evident. Should she pull out now? Should she wait until the Camaro made its turn and then pull out, or should she wait until this biker, in the bike lane, passed before she turned? If she waited for the biker, why, that would mean she’d have to sit there an additional three-and-a-half seconds without making any forward progress. What to do?
I always make sure motorists see me in a situation like that. Today I wore a bright yellow jersey — hard to miss it — and I stood up on the pedals and eased to the left edge of the bike lane to make myself more obvious. Because the Camaro’s turn almost cut me off (I was obvious to him, too, but he wasn’t gonna let no biker slow him down) she was forced to let me pass in front of her before starting out.
She must have stepped on the gas as soon as I went by her, because a car laid into its horn right away. She was so engrossed in watching this upstart biker cross in front of her soccer mom gas guzzler that she didn’t bother to notice that another car was traveling right behind me in my direction, and she nearly pulled out into the road in front of him.
That incident would not have happened at 5:30 in the evening, at least in my experience it hasn’t. But at 10:30 in the morning, with less traffic, conditions are actually more dangerous.
Ed W says
One of the joys of regular commuting is that you see the same people every day along the route. They come to expect a cyclist as just another normal part of the daily drive.
But when you get outside that normal time or take a different route, you have to ‘train’ an entirely different set of drivers.
Just today, I tried to cross an intersection as the light turned green for me. But before I go, I always look for those right-handers. They always want to turn right before I can cross the intersection – it’s better I wait than them, right?
So today, a guy – approaching the intersection as it goes green tries to run me down basically in the crosswalk. Luckily for me (and my family) I know about these guys and watch for them.
And as Ed points out, it’s just another day on the bike…
I see that happen all the time. Cars coming out of a car-park, or something similar, see a bike coming down the road and must think “I have got to floor it to get out before the bike or I will be stuck behind him”.
On the upside, this does occassionally create drafting opportunities behind the car.
You said it all with SUV! Similar thing happened to me twice yesterday. Guy in an SUV was rev’ing his Gas Guzzler like mad waiting for me to pass. Then set off like a maniac onto the wrong side of the road!