Abandon ‘Share The Road’

What does “Share the Road” mean to you and me?

Who: Me and the driver of a plum Dodge Caravan minivan.
When: Last Saturday morning.
Where: The corner of Kings Village Road and Mt Hermon Road, Scotts Valley, California.

I was running errands last Saturday morning and preparing for a right turn from Kings Village Rd. The right turn lane is about 11 feet wide. Me and my bike take up roughly three feet. The Dodge Caravan behind me is 79 inches; with the mirrors the minivan uses up 8.5 feet of lane width. 8.5 + 3 = 11.5 feet, so even if we’re touching there’s clearly not enough room in the lane for us to ride side by side. And besides it’s stupid to pass in a turn.

So I position myself smack in the middle of the lane for the turn and queue up behind the car ahead of me.

Scotts Valley Kings Village and Mt Hermon w/ bike

The driver behind me then guns her engine, moves left to pass then cuts right with me right next to her, pushing me into the curb!

I squeeze the brakes to avoid becoming road pizza, then pull around to the driver’s side window to explain (politely) that she should wait until it’s safe to pass. Her smug, snotty response? “Bikes are supposed to share the road.

Share the Road with bicycles sign

Anybody who cycles with traffic in America learns pretty quickly to ride defensively, and it’s no surprise to us that many motorists have little understanding of the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which is the law of physics that explains why a car can’t occupy the same space as a bicycle. Most of us realize that we share the road with a few idiots, shrug our shoulders and deal. I’m a big believer in politely cooperating with other traffic and I yield right of way where appropriate, but when there’s no space in the lane, I’m going to assert my right to be there through my position.

Last Saturday’s “Share the Road” incident was on my mind during Thursday night’s Twitter Bikeschool discussion when Martha from El Paso, Texas asked “What are you doing to raise awareness to share the road?”

There were many good answers, but some of the responses affirm my belief that cyclists are sometimes our own worst enemies. A number of people responded that they wear helmets to affirm road sharing (huh?). There was a big emphasis from several on safety education for cyclists, with somebody in Akron even tweeting that he reprimands badly behaved cyclists. Visibility was another big theme in road sharing, which I don’t understand. Safety and visibility are good things, but the driver last Saturday clearly saw me, she just didn’t care that I happened to be in the lane. The visibility arms race does not promote road sharing. I wear a yellow jacket and equip my bike with bright flashing lights, but less conspicuous cyclists should not be blamed when a careless motorist fails to share the road and causes a crash.

My response to Martha’s question? The “Share the Road” message doesn’t work. It’s time to abandon it in favor of this message.


Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign

55 Comments

  1. There are a lot of people who face no repercussions whatsoever – not even an administrative loss of license – by uttering the phrase “I didn’t see the [bike/pedestrian/child/lady-with-a-baby].” Me, I keep my blinkyist lights on a 3 foot pole extending leftward from the bike, sort of a “Toro! Toro” for the bulls out there to chase, or scratch their cars against.

  2. I agree about Western Mass – I have family there and enjoy visiting with my bike. Great place to ride! A lot like rural Virginia but with more to see and do, and while there’s a lot more traffic it’s no problem, drivers are generally respectful.

  3. I agree about Western Mass – I have family there and enjoy visiting with my bike. Great place to ride! A lot like rural Virginia but with more to see and do, and while there’s a lot more traffic it’s no problem, drivers are generally respectful.

  4. Personally, I prefer “SHOULD USE FULL LANE” rather than “MAY USE FULL LANE”.

    The problem with the latter is that people think that if there’s no sign it doesn’t apply here — it only applies if there’s a sign.

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