You wouldn’t know it from watching people use the streets in this town, but most people have a strong desire to NOT be annoying. They will self censor, keep their views to themselves, and in general try to get along with their fellow human. For the most part this works out pretty well, and most people are actually pleasant and good folks. However there are some times when being annoying is not only a good thing but can save your life.
Specifically when riding your bike. I have written at length about what a door zone bike lane is, and how to ride in them. If I think a bike lane is just too small, or (more likely) if someone has parked too far into the bike lane, I will ride further to the left, sometimes well into the car lane.
This, to put it mildly, is very annoying to some drivers. They have to slow down, move over, there is honking. Frankly I feel for them, poor things. I sometimes keep them from getting to that next red light by several seconds… I don’t want to annoy anyone, but I will without hesitation. At least two times last week I was riding down a busy street when I heard the sound no cyclist wants to hear, the “krrchiss” of a finely crafted car door opening right in front of you. Twice last week careless car drivers opened their doors RIGHT (like inches) in front of me. Had I been riding far to the right like a “polite” cyclists, I would have had one of two choices, scream and hit the door, or hit the door and then scream. I could have also swerved into the travel lane and been run over…so I guess three choices.
Instead I calmly kept riding, because I was well outside the area that door was going to open. I was safe, sound and happy. Sure the car driver next to me might have been a little annoyed that they had to move over 2 feet, and slow down (there is always a red light ahead of you anyway, so slowing down just saved them some gas), but I wasn’t laying broken and bloody on the side of the road.
Its a pretty good trade off, I annoy drivers just a little, and in return I don’t get any broken bones or missing teeth. Everyone keeps on going happily, the
idiot carless driver opening their door doesn’t get sued, or have to deal with the trauma of my blood all over them, and we all get to where we are going safe and sound. The maximum good for the most people.
This strategy also protects you from the many (many) pedestrians who seem to want to walk out into the street from between parked cars. So get out there and annoy drivers (just a little) in order to ensure your own safety. They might honk, they might even rev their engines as they pass, but so what, your safety is more important than their convenience. Overcome that natural tendency to be nice, and take the space on the road you need in order to be safe. And always remember bike lanes are to keep cars out, not to keep bikes in, if you need more space take it!
One Last thing: It is THE DRIVERS responsibility to NOT open their door if ANYONE is coming (pedestrian, cyclists, other drivers), the legal responsibility is on the person exiting the vehicle, but that doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t take an interest in your own safety as a cyclist
Tags: annoy, do it, rant
Posted in advocacy, bostonbiker, education | 15 Comments »