Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Share the Road not the lane

Today I am writing about something that is a focus of every single ride that I lead. This is stuff that every single person who rides bicycles or drives an automobile on Indiana roadways should know.

That subject is how we as cyclist should interact with traffic and the fact that education not bike lanes are the key.

First of all let’s look at the law in Indiana (keep in mind that this varies from State to State and I would like to ad that Indiana is one of the more friendly cycling states as far as the law goes)

IC 9-21-11-2
Roadways; rights and duties
Sec. 2. A person riding a bicycle upon a roadway has all the rights and duties under this article that are applicable to a person who drives a vehicle, except the following:
(You can find the full code at this link http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/2010/title9/ar21/ch11.html but the exceptions boil down to bicycle specific stuff, like hanging on to street cars, carrying packages, Bells, but no whistles stuff like that)   This means (and I have verified this with several members of the Indiana State Police) that:

A cyclist has the right to the whole lane of a roadway in Indiana with the only lane restrictions being –
Lane use restrictions; riding two abreast Sec. 6. A person riding a bicycle upon a roadway may not ride more than two (2) abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles . Clearly cyclists are allowed to ride 2 abreast in Indiana, just like Motorcyclists. (Apparently in bike lanes or on bike paths, you can ride more side by side?)

I will frequently experience motorists who are ignorant of Indiana Law chastising me and my groups for riding 2 abreast (usually while passing on a double yellow or at some other illegal and dangerous place) the only reason that I can see for the angst I sometimes experience from these motorists is that they are frustrated because they cannot share the lane with me and have to wait for oncoming traffic to clear before they can pass.
It seems that motorists are aggravated by cyclists presence on the road because of the perceived delay that is caused by having to negotiate their way past a group (or a single) cyclist.
I have in fact timed the delays my group causes at some of the predominant bottle necks that we ride on a regular basis. (I call them bottle necks because these are places where it is difficult for motorists to pass the various groups that I lead – even when we are trying to help them – more on how we help motorists get past our groups later)
The typical delay in the bottle necks ranges from 1 minute 30 seconds up to 5 minutes – which I realize can seem like an eternity as I am a motorists to and have had to wait behind school buses, mail carriers, garbage trucks and farm tractors for this length of time on numerous occasions.  These are both extremes in the bottle necks but I have seen both of the places that this happens take this long once in a while.
I have seen motorists aggravated by delays as short as 5 seconds as well, and this is way more common than seems sensible. (If you are wondering how I know what these intervals are, I have a timer on my bicycle computer (speedometer) that displays in seconds, minutes and hours.
I realize that the average attention span of an adult is supposed to be about 8 seconds so I guess that this is par for the course.
The result is drivers who make potentially dangerous moves on cyclists with no thought to the possible consequences.
I believe that this is in part due to the “Share the Road” signs like this that dot the country side.

Looking at this sign you are givin the impression that it is ok to squeeze by a bicycle in the same lane, even if you have oncoming traffic.  It looks like you are being told to share the lane!   It seems that motorists believe that this mean bicyclists are supposed to squeeze to the right as far as they can to allow motor vehicles to squeeze by and save those precious seconds that they lose slowing down and waiting to pass bicycles.
This is not what Indiana Law says.  It is also AN EXTREMELY UNSAFE DRIVING PRACTICE.
Here is an example of a sign that communicates what the above signs try to communicate without confusing the message
This is why I encourage riders in my groups to do a few things to mitigate this risk.
1.    Ride towards the center of the lane when single file.- yes it’s legal, you are more visible and less likely to end up in an accident because you had the squeeze put on you.

2.    Be aware of traffic coming up behind you and interact with them to help them pass safely

3.    Communicate back to front and front to back about approaching traffic. I require people in my group to yell “Car Back” for traffic approaching from the rear (everyone must repeat this so that we are sure everyone hears – all the way to the front) we all yell “Car Up” when we see oncoming traffic.  Plus “Passing” When being passed.

4.    We interact and work together with vehicles to communicate it is safe or not safe to pass.  If the front rider of the group sees that it is safe to pass, that rider will windmill their arm, signifying come on by.  If the back riders are hearing “Car Up” they place their hand back palm displayed in the universal “Stop” sign, to hold them up until passing is again safe.

5.    If our group is too long to allow passing the entire line at once, we will double up and break up to shorten the distance needed to get past. This is an important concept to understand – a double line of cyclists takes up half the distance on the road and is therefore easier to pass.

6.    When cars pass us, we extend our left hands and wave (all fingers extended) this is not only a friendly gesture that can sometimes diffuse the frustration over a few seconds waiting, but it also keeps vehicles at arm’s length (for me that means a little over 2’) and that generally means a car will give me 3’ instead of 1’
All of this is no guarantee that you will not have conflict between a cyclist and a motor vehicle (there are idiots on both sides of the windshield) but it will mitigate that amount of conflict that you experience as a cyclist or a motorist.
With all the talk that Indiana is not a bicycle friendly state, because we don’t have more bike lanes and greenways (more on that later)  It seems that if we would just respect, educate about and enforce the laws that are already in place, Indiana proves to be one of the most cycling friendly states that I have ridden in.

Until next time, Happy Trails!


Coming up!

More on “Sharing the Road, Not the Lane”
How to clean your water bottles,
Supplement Reviews
The Trouble with Bike Lanes



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