Ask Dr. Wally
I was on a group ride where the leader insisted on riding well out into the traffic lane. At times, he was directly in the center or even left of center. Isn't that dangerous? I'm afraid it will anger motorists and they'll take it out on the next cyclist they see. Too many of them are maniacs already.
Rita in Hayward
You wouldn't be a meter maid perchance?
You'll be happy to know that very few motorists are sociopaths. For the most part, they're just normal people who'd rather not hit you for fear of getting in trouble with the law. Some are no doubt worried about scratches and dents in their cars, too. Sociopaths are few and far between, though they're usually not deterred by societal mores. I speak from experience because Doris, my second ex-wife, was a sociopathic nut job without regard for restraining orders, barbed wire, or locked doors. A friend loaned me his Doberman to guard the house. The dog was a carbide-tipped eating machine named Fritz, and Doris developed a great deal of respect for him - along with a pronounced limp when the cops took her away. She had that for a couple of weeks, I'm told. That dog may have developed a taste for human flesh as I caught him eyeballing my legs when he was hungry. After that, I made a point of feeding him every couple of hours.
But, like I said, car-driving sociopaths are very rare. We're more at risk from a driver doing something stupid, like a right hook, a left hook, or the oh-my-god-I-never-saw-him-Officer as they pull out from a side street. These are the most common car/bike collisions. (In case you were unaware, a right hook is when a motorist passes a cyclist, and then makes an immediate right turn across his front wheel. A left hook motorist is making a left turn in front of a bicyclist, and the guy pulling out from a side street is looking well past the cyclist for fast moving traffic.) In all three cases, the best means of preventing one of these maneuvers is to ride further to the left in the lane. That may seem counter-intuitive because you may think it puts you at greater risk. On the contrary, it puts you where motorists are more likely to see you, and even if they don't, you're in a better position to avoid them by turning right or left using the so-called instant turn, or you can brake very hard and still have room to maneuver.
Sadly, Doris has a parole hearing coming up soon, so it's likely there will be one more actual maniac on the road. The up side is that she won't be focused on anyone but me. I wonder if Fritz can learn to ride a tandem?
Next time: Practical magic for superstitious cyclists - too few knew what voodoo could do.
Labels: bicycling humor