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.
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.“
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.