Today in Traffic News

I see things on the road that strain my credulity pretty regularly, but today’s traffic rudeness took the cake.

There I was: riding Kermit Allegra at a moderate pace in the bike lane in front of Belmont University, just around 5:30 in a misty drizzle that has a Pacific Northwest feel. As I approach the corner by the Circle K, I notice a car stopping for a ped a few car lengths up. I slow, even though the ped has plenty of time to cross the bike lane before I reach him, and as I do I see the car that had passed me a few moments before veer to the right, into the bike lane ahead of me, to go around the car that is stopped for the pedestrian.

This particular crosswalk was marked with signs like the one pictured at right a couple of months ago. Belmont is one lane in both directions, no passing permitted.

Traffic being what it was, the eager beaver driver was held up about a block later. I passed her in the bike lane. She was talking on the phone.

I am far from a perfect driver, cyclist or pedestrian, but incidents like this infuriate me. They are the exception. But this month I have had a car accident and a close(r than I’d like) call while riding my bike, so the possible negative consequences of moving around in the world are on my mind. My commitment to minimizing the risks I take while doing so has been reinforced, but I’m also more conscious than ever that there’s not much that can be done about the other people on the road. So there’s a combination of hypervigilance and “que sera” fatalism going on here, at least for the time being.

What’s the craziest—or most courteous—thing you’ve ever seen someone do on the road?

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30 thoughts on “Today in Traffic News

  1. Max_Paq says:

    Craziest: A car hitting a cyclist who is going toward him on a separate bike path with is light on. I still don’t understand how he didn’t saw me.
    Courteous: It always put a big smile on my face when people, especially automobilist let you pass (cross the intersection or whatever) and when they have a big smile on their face while doing so.

  2. Max_Paq says:

    Craziest: A car hitting a cyclist who is going toward him on a separate bike path with is light on. I still don’t understand how he didn’t saw me.
    Courteous: It always put a big smile on my face when people, especially automobilist let you pass (cross the intersection or whatever) and when they have a big smile on their face while doing so.

  3. Kate Putnam says:

    Around here (despite all the nice signs declaring Greensboro a ‘bike friendly community’) people tend to use bike lanes more as passing lanes for when the car in front of them is waiting to turn left. Drives me nuts because if they couldn’t wait two seconds for them to turn, you know they didn’t spend those two seconds checking to make sure there wasn’t a biker using the lane.

    • Dottie says:

      Greensboro, NC? I lived there for a year after college. I did not ride a bike back then, but it does not stick in my mind as particularly bike-friendly, except maybe around the university. I hate hate hate drivers using the bike lane to pass left-turning cars – I know those mo-fo’s don’t look first.

      • Dominique says:

        I don’t understand how you could even pass in a bike lane? Up here in Canada bike lanes are not even a meter wide (I think they’re about 2 feet or a little more..)!

        • Trisha says:

          This bike lane is pretty wide, about three feet, but what makes the move even crazier is that the person was taking advantage of the fact that there was an entrance to the gas station there, so no cars parallel parked. So basically she was half in the bike lane, half in the driveway to the gas station. Where anyone could have been about to pull in or out.

  4. Maggie says:

    How about ironic? I was once forced off the road by a late model Prius which had a bumper sticker that read, ‘COEXIST’.

    Fortunately, most of my biking experiences have been with courteous drivers.

    • Kristin says:

      My neighbor down the street has a big sign in her front yard: “Slow down – your neighbors walk and bike here!” About a block from her house I was trying to cross a busy street on my bike and she almost hit me! I wanted to say something when I passed by her house but she had a young child with her and I didn’t want to cause a scene. I guess she has good intentions?

    • Kristin says:

      My neighbor down the street has a big sign in her front yard: “Slow down – your neighbors walk and bike here!” About a block from her house I was trying to cross a busy street on my bike and she almost hit me! I wanted to say something when I passed by her house but she had a young child with her and I didn’t want to cause a scene. I guess she has good intentions?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Craziest. I had a close call in Seattle in 1974 when a motorist shot out of a driveway and into my path. Most courteous. Actually – most days.

  6. steve_a_dfw says:

    Craziest. I had a close call in Seattle in 1974 when a motorist shot out of a driveway and into my path. Most courteous. Actually – most days.

  7. Keiron Curtis2 says:

    Sadly I’m unable to think of one act of courtesy, but nasty bad tempered affairs are too numerous to mention. I used to stand and argue after other road users had cut me up etc., but like you, experience has told me just to get on with it.

  8. Sigrid says:

    What is interesting to me is why in some places it is common courtesy for people to naturally stop for people in a crosswalk. Two shining examples of this that instantly come to mind:
    1. My beloved NorCal (particularly my old home base Mill Valley and San Francisco)
    2. Oslo, Norway
    NorCal because I lived there and saw courtesy occur on a daily basis.
    Oslo, because it was the first European city I visited many years ago and was so confused by people stopping to wait for me to cross the street. American’s were not doing that in the places I had lived up to then and it baffled me and I think, blew my mind.

    People in these places see a person approaching, or in, a crosswalk – they stop. There are certainly exceptions to these places as there are everywhere else, but in these two places I was always blown away by the courtesy of the drivers. Riding with my husband in NorCal people would actually often roll down their car windows as they passed us on our tandem, not to yell ~ but to cheer us on!! What is it about a place that creates people with manners, puts others before themselves, and in general makes it a pleasant place to be as a pedestrian or cyclist? Perhaps the result of useful propaganda campaigns (I remember the “Keep America Beautiful” campaign in the 70s – were there some ped/bicycle friendly campaigns in these places at one point)? Something cultural/societal is going on in these places that ingrains these behaviors into the people who live there and it needs to spread.

    In Minneapolis I am constantly impressed by the kindness of people in general, but when it comes to putting them behind the wheel of a car they are often rude, talking on their phones, texting, running red lights, making up their own rules, speeding, and certainly NOT stopping for people in crosswalks in the places I often am at (though there are exceptions here to all those too). Perhaps some positive propaganda campaigns need to begin…

    Bicycle lanes are not…
    -a place for cars to park
    -a passing lane
    -a place to throw your glass bottles
    etc. etc. etc.

    • Dominique says:

      I went to university in a small town in Canada and everyone does the same! As soon as you approach the curb everyone stops for you. Theres a crosswalk from the dining hall to campus and the cars sit idle for 10-15 minutes sometimes because of so many students. We try to stop and let a few cars go through, but the drivers won’t allow it..

  9. Stephen says:

    I was riding in a neighborhood and coming up to a stop sign. I always take the lane at stop signs to prevent right hooks. A Land Rover approached from behind and slid up next to me at the stop sign, basically all the way left in the on-coming lane. The Land Rover rolled through the stop and immediately turned left into the first driveway. I guess they couldn’t stand to wait behind me for 2 seconds before they got home?

    I usually enjoy riding the major streets more than the neighborhood streets. For some reason, I’m treated more like a vehicle on the major streets than neighborhoods. Maybe in the neighborhoods they think I’m playing around on a toy.

  10. Dweendaddy says:

    This morning at the cornder of Blair and 24th I had a common thing happen to me as: I got to the stop sign and the overly courteous driver whose turn it is waited for me to go through. I am confused – “are you waiting for me…. but it is your turn!” so it really just slows everything up. Better than getting cut off, of course!
    The other day I was biking on Belmont and there was a car in the bike lane, basically in front of a parking space – they were too lazy to parallel park, and were just waiting. There are not THAT many bikes anywhere in Nashville, even on Belmont, so I can’t really blame them. I stopped and said, “could you guys not stop and block the bike lane.” They looked at me as if I had just said “Could you guys pick up and fly to the moon, I hear there is some cool pie there.”

    • Trisha says:

      Oh, that is always confusing! I’d rather they not switch up the order; confusing all round. But yes, preferable to being cut off.

      There are cars sticking out in the bike lane on Belmont all the time. Pretty frustrating.

  11. Lauren Taylor says:

    i had a guy in a giant truck try to use the bike lane to pass a car turning left… i was fast approaching him, and ended up running into the curb to stop… popped my tube & broke a spoke >:(

    i feel like every time i ride i have at least one close call (usually in the form of someone cutting me off & then slamming on their brakes at a stop sign, or passing waaay too close, something like that), but i also have a lot of good experiences – lots of smiling & courteous drivers! so that is nice.

  12. Ann from Geneva IL says:

    Luckily, many people here are good with peds and cyclists. When I’m driving, I expect kids to be distracted and teens to do goofy things (like mine), so I watch for them. Unfortunately, there are some faster-paced sport cyclists that provoke drivers (I said *some*, not all) and give everyone a bad rap. When I’m on one of my bikes, there are drivers and peds that I’d also like to smack, and for those times I’m thinking of ordering a Delta Airzound Bike Horn. Link: http://www.amazon.com/Delta-Airzound-Bike-Horn/dp/B000ACAMJC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316549109&sr=8-1

    Ride happy my friends! :D

  13. Amy says:

    When I lived in Richmond it seemed to be common knowledge that drivers stop IN the crosswalk. Never before, and forget stopping for a pedestrian. Once, in my angsty youth, I was about to cross at a crosswalk and a car pulled into it and stopped with the hood dead in the lane. So I walked up to it, hopped up on the hood, and stomped my way across and carried on. I think that the driver was too dumbfounded to do anything about it! Stop in my crosswalk and you become the crosswalk.

  14. Lizzie says:

    Craziest – When I was a kid, my dad was backing the car out of our driveway when all of a sudden, WHAM! This young man on a bike who was riding fast along the sidewalk slammed into the side of our car. The crazy thing was that the kid flew over the trunk but landed on his feet and managed to keep running when he landed. His bike, however, completely fell apart. I mean it looked like it was disassembled and scattered all over the ground. It was the darnedest thing. After my dad made sure the kid was alright, he the bike parts into the trunk and gave him a ride home. It’s a miracle I was not sworn off from cycling right then and there.

  15. Victoria See says:

    eep sorry duplicate!

  16. Victoria See says:

    Ugh, is there an option for citizens arrest? Alternately, snap pictures of license plates and drivers and keep a blog dedicated to the egregious actions of people whose licenses aren’t worth the plastic they’re printed on.

    Mostly the worst I’ve seen happen is drivers try to cut my right-of-way at a 4-way stop. Like, I waited, now it’s my turn, and now they’re going instead. And there was this one time I saw a motorcycle on a foot/bike trail that is clearly marked NO MOTOR VEHICLES. Also, a cop on a Segway.

  17. john busteed says:

    I see this behavior all the time. I once counted 40 cars that drove straight through the sign without slowing. These signs being non-standard are useless. No one pays them any attention in Maryland in my town.

  18. john busteed says:

    I see this behavior all the time. I once counted 40 cars that drove straight through the sign without slowing. These signs being non-standard are useless. No one pays them any attention in Maryland in my town.

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