Take the Lane, Damnit.
(The original title of this piece was “Sometimes, the Biggest Danger a Cyclist Faces is Himself” but I had a change of heart while riding…err, writing.)
I won’t ride a bike, not in the city, this or any other, because I’m petrified of traffic. Because drivers are assholes and they exist in a greater number than cyclists. More drivers means more assholes. Even though I get just about the same speed as a bike when taking a huge hill on my scooter, I wouldn’t switch. I’m fat, and I smoke, and it’s just an all around bad idea. (Scooterists can be dicks, too, I’m sure what with being chain smoking cool fatties and all.) I’m confident, though, that I meet less asshole drivers when I’m scooting than when I’m walking, or when others are biking, simply because my machine will do more damage to their car if I’m struck than if I were on foot or on the thin frame of a bike. I’m pretty sure the insurance costs are taken into account when drivers consider mowing me down.
I recently met a cyclist who was sideswiped in front of Peachtree Center station, after being cut off by an SUV dropping someone off, presumably because that driver just had to make that dropoff just right then in such an errant fashion. Though the dropoff was not when the sideswiping occurred. That happened a minute later, after rude gestures were exchanged. The driver sped up on the left side of the cyclist and knocked her over. When the cyclist caught up with the SUV at the next light and asked what the fuck, the driver told her she was an idiot and deserved it. Keep an eye out for a vanity plate with some stupid iteration of PUPS4YOU or PUPS4U or some godawful breeder shit. (Cyclist, please feel free to chime in on the correct plate number!) Keep an eye out, and know that the owner of that vehicle is guilty of assault with a deadly weapon. Leave them a mean note or something.
I’ll be frank. I don’t like many cyclists, the way they ride, and their stupid little outfits. There are levels of cyclist asshole, as there are levels of driver asshole (I’ll get into that another time), and these levels of asshole usually have blurry lines. There are the fixie hipsters, who often ride without a helmet; There are the messengers, who occasionally latch onto the side of a faster vehicle to get a higher speed; There are the listless, possibly homeless cyclists who trot around on rickety frames on weekends; There are the family cyclists who take their time along parkways with kids in tow; There are the spandex-clad, Lance Armstrong-wannabe bike-rights elitists. The latter really seems to suck the most.
Once, when I was riding the 12, a red-clad string bean was holding his own Tour De Fuckery. He first came around the bus on the right as it made the turn from Brady onto 10th Street, sharing a lane with the bus and basically sitting in its blind spot, which is stupid. He then hopped onto the sidewalk, which is illegal. (Want more information on bike laws and regulations? Click here for a PDF guide.) That’s right, drivers, bikes belong in the street. Suck it.
He then skipped out from between two parked cars, right in front of the bus, so close and practically horizontal across the lane that I could see his face through the windshield from my seat in the back (and I have vision problems). The bus was probably traveling 20 miles per hour, maybe slower. The operator slammed on his breaks to avoid most definitely injuring the cyclist, sending everyone in the bus hurtling forward. Though all passengers were seated at the time of the incident, the operator stopped the bus and asked if there were any injuries, if emergency services were needed. (Some thuggy jackass next to me taking up all the damn leg room with his baggy jeans made a joke about his stomach hurting. I really wish the driver had called emergency services on him, because I’d bet he had a warrant. Fucktard.) Alas, the cyclist and everyone else went on with their lives, thanks to the quick pedal work of the operator.
Last year, a cyclist in Miami was hit by a bus. He was injured, his bike was trashed, and he was immobilized for months. He’s suing. The video has been released, though it’s a video of the already-choppy buscam footage.
From the beginning, I see a couple of things that lead me to believe that the cyclist was riding without consideration for the laws of Florida, or without common sense. At :44, the cyclist blows a red, moving in front of the bus and acting unpredictably for those at the intersection making yellow light left hand turns. The collision occurs at 1:37, and again (per editing, from a different camera) at 1:42. I’ve watched these few seconds of video repeatedly, trying to figure out who is at fault, and I can only come down on both the cyclist and driver. It was an equal collision with unequal results.
According to Florida bike law:
A cyclist should maintain no less than 2 feet of clearance from the edge of usable pavement to have room to maneuver around obstructions and to be more visible to crossing traffic.[…]When a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and a car to share safely, the cyclist is entitled to the use of the entire lane. Within this lane, the cyclist usually rides on the right half to facilitate visibility for overtaking motorists, but should ride far enough left to discourage motorists from trying to squeeze past within the lane.
A few of the youtube comments I looked at said the cyclist should have taken the lane, as is his right. Riding too far to the right gives drivers and bus operators the idea that the lane is wide enough to be safely shared. One point for the operator. Unfortunately, the operator is caught on video saying:
He came into this bus. I didn’t hit him. He did that sh– on purpose… He was looking for an accident. He is OK. I’m not nervous and I’m not scared.
That’s a dick move on the part of the operator. No one acted purposefully, as both the operator and the cyclist claim. It was a matter of a too-small space, and too-large confidences.
Looking forward, it’s going to take action from both factions. Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect unilateral peace when it comes to cars vs. bikes, but the following pages have tactics to minimize collateral damage.
What we really have is a fundamental issue of people not paying enough attention, showing blatant disregard for the rules of the road, as well as blatant disregard for the lives of others. Drivers: back off. Cyclists: wear a fucking helmet. And take the lane, goddamnit.