Unsafe cyclists: what do you say?

I can’t stand it when other bicyclists pass me on the right. It’s unsafe. Unfortunately, it happens often because there are so many bicyclists and cars in Chicago. I spend a lot of energy trying to ride outside of the door zone (not always successfully); the last thing I need is for a bicyclist to pop up next to me in that dangerous space and take me down with her.

My fancy door zone collage

Yesterday as a woman did this, I said, “please don’t pass me on the right.” She said, “sorry,” and continued on. I have made the same statement to several bicyclists in the past and she was the first to respond. I kinda felt like a jerk. Irrational?

Generally, I feel like I should speak up when someone’s action directly affects my safety. Now I am wondering: should I bother saying anything at all when someone passes me on the right? I don’t want to be overly pedantic or annoying and I don’t want to tarnish anyone’s bike ride. Plus, my speaking up probably has little practical effect, except to raise my stress level. (Do people really not know this is dangerous?)

I’d love to hear what others think on this matter. Do you ever speak up? If so, has anyone ever responded to you? Do you think it does any good?

p.s. For a full discussion on why bicyclists should not pass other bicyclists on the right (or the left for Brits), check out Adrienne’s excellent post on Change Your Life. Ride a Bike!

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99 thoughts on “Unsafe cyclists: what do you say?

  1. Cecily Walker says:

    I don’t think it’s my job to police other cyclists. If they want to pass me on the right, run red lights, or ride through city streets with no hands on the handlebars, that’s up to them.

    • LGRAB says:

      I mostly agree – I don’t care about policing cyclists and never say anything when someone runs red lights or rides with no hands. But passing on the right is different because that behavior directly puts me in danger, don’t you think? People open car doors into traffic without looking for bicyclists *all the time* in Chicago. If that happened while a bicyclist was passing me on the right, which necessarily puts that person in the door zone, I would be fucked, especially as the person closest to moving traffic. So I don’t think that’s the same as policing cyclists for various infractions. What I’m wondering this morning is whether saying something does anything to improve my safety or if I should not bother.

      • Cecily Walker says:

        If the cyclist is shrugging it off and giving you little more than a non-committal “sorry”, then I don’t think you’re really doing anything to improve your safety. That’s why I mentioned maybe telling them why passing on the right is bad, instead of just asking them not to do it to you.

        • FDG says:

          Cecily, how do you propose to explain the issue to someone who will be out of earshot within 2 seconds?

          • Cecily Walker says:

            Saying “If you ride there, you’ll get doored” takes about as long to say as “please don’t pass me on the right.”

  2. Anonymous says:

    You are not the jerk. Passing on the right is unsafe, and endangers every one, including you. It’s legitimate to speak up.

    That said, I’m still looking for the best way to do that. I’m working on: “Call it out, and pass on the left, please” might do it . . . It also drives me nuts when people don’t use their bells or otherwise let you know they they are passing, or wait until they are right next to you do to do so. It’s not OK to endanger others that way. Even if you turn to look before moving, it’s too easy to get beaned by these inconsiderate riders.

    http://on-your-left.tumblr.com/

    @BornAgainBikist

  3. Tia says:

    I tend towards saying that it’s always your right to call out for safety. If someone is opening their door, you yell “watch out”, whether or not they hit you…I don’t see how another cyclist passing you unsafely is any different.

    On the other hand, I tend to be more forgiving if they actually give me notice that they’re passing on the right, because it gives me the opportunity to move. Also, because it happens so rarely here in Chicago. -_-

    • Bill - Iowa City says:

      I “try” not to pass on the right. But, sorry, but it isn’t always an option. When I do, I always give a verbal warning (not shouting) and apologize for passing on the right.

      Never, say never.

  4. Everett says:

    To build on Cecily’s idea, you might try saying “Watch out for that door” instead.

    Passing on the right is a bad habit hold-over that people have from driving cars. My guess is that these same people are also bad drivers; the world is much safer with them on bikes instead. That said, most bike lanes are designed to be wide enough so that if you ride along the left side in the lane, you can avoid most car doors (even in your picture).

  5. Dukiebiddle says:

    Tough call. Usually, I don’t say anything. I will admit that I’ve had people do it in a particularly douchey way – race bike types intentionally buzzing me on my right, to express their displeasure with my transportation speed getting in the way of their cardio workout, and in those cases, I don’t *politely* ask them to pass in a different way. There is cursing, yelling and name calling interspersed with my instructions on how to pass properly.

  6. CC Thompson says:

    I think you have to speak up. Some people may just be ignorant and not know the danger they are in.

    And the more we all speak up, the safer the road gets. I’m constantly in the dilemma of people riding in the wrong direction. So as I mosey down the correct side of the road, other bikers are coming at me at high speeds and causing me to swerve into traffic to avoid a collision. I risk looking like a bitch by yelling every time- otherwise I feel like no one will get the memo that they’re creating a dangerous situation for everyone involved!

  7. Mark Muller says:

    I rarely say anything for a simple reason – I doubt they will be able to understand what I am saying. A number of times I have heard people say something to me, either from a car, another cyclist, or a pedestrian nearby, and I have rarely been able to understand what they said- due to the distance, the wind noise, other ambient noise, etc, etc.

    That said, I would love to be able to clearly inform unsafe cyclists they are being unsafe. If I had a nickel for every time I have seen a cyclist pass a car on the right at a stop sign when the car is signally to turn righ, or riding after dark with no lights, or…

    • LGRAB says:

      Funny. I was in a focus group on a share the road ad campaign this morning and the so-called scofflaw cyclists were a topic of discussion. As was the fact that the majority of road users of all sorts do not, in fact, know the rules of the road. Maybe I’m too nice but I usually give people the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re just ignorant (which really, given my location is probably true in most cases). Unless they’re the types Dukiebiddle mentioned and then I feel free to get angry. :) Anyway, if there’s a chance to inform them of the rules of the road I feel free to do it, but as Mark mentions it often just isn’t practical.

      ~T

      • Mark Muller says:

        In fairness, I wouldn’t mind a nickel for every car that doesn’t know how to yield at the circle/roundabout in their own neighbourhood, or who feels stopping and looking both ways before going through a stop sign is optional, or can’t seem to read signs that say “no right turn on red” or “no left turn”, or…

  8. Anonymous says:

    As others have already noted, I think cyclists that do things like pass on the right fall into two camps: those who know better and just don’t give a shit, and those who don’t know better because they’re new or inexperienced on the road. While saying something will likely have no effect on the self-absorbed rider that already knows better (besides letting you blow off some steam, which is a valid enough reason itself), saying something could help educate the inexperienced rider that they are doing something dangerous on the road. So, I’m firmly in the say something camp and have done so myself on occasion.

  9. Stephen Hodges says:

    I’m of two minds on saying something to bicyclists. My first thought is: Absolutely. Far too many bicyclists (and pedestrians) have no clue about how to behave in traffic, and those who do and yet don’t make excuses along the lines of “They’re all trying to kill us, and we have to do whatever we can to survive.”

    However, trying to save the world one doofus at a time is a fool’s errand. There are simply far too many of them. Maybe the trick is to ride just inside the left line of the bike lane so that it makes that much harder for someone to pass on the right.Or carry a pannier on the left side of your bike rack. Of course, that may increase the chances of a collision, but it’s perhaps a bit like driving the speed limit in the left lane of a four-lane divided highway. People are gonna pass you on the right no matter how law-abiding they think they are.

    I dunno, good luck with that one. There are so few commuting cyclists in this provincial capital that I can’t imagine this being an issue for some time.

    • LGRAB says:

      “However, trying to save the world one doofus at a time is a fool’s errand.”
      Ha ha, that’s pretty much was I was thinking when I wrote this. :)

    • Cecily Walker says:

      I usually ride to the centre-right of the bike lane (because I’m slow), and I carry a pannier on the right side of my bike, and doofuses (doofi?) still pass me on the right. Just this morning, someone *took to the sidewalk* to pass me on the right, just to prove they could, I guess.

  10. Pdxrunner says:

    I commute four days a weeek, 24 mi round trip for about 10m years. I respect your decision to bike out of the “door zone” and to the left of the bike lane. I also respect your right to go at the pace that is comfortable for you. Looking at the placement of your bicycle, to pass you I only have 2 choices, to move out into the lane or pass on the right. You have made your biking choice & that’s fine. I would hope you could respect the choice of other cyclists to choose to stay in the bike lane and with a polite on your right, pass you. Otherwise you have become the “DRIVER” who decides where bikes belong. You feel safer to the left of the bike lane. If there is automobile traffic, I feel safer to the far left in the bike lane. How would you pass a bicyclist who is taking the lane in the middle of the lane? Stay where you are, move a bit to the right, or have their pace dicatate how fast you travel? That is how most cyclists view someone to the left of the bike lane, where do I pass? Passing on the right, with a well timed, not last minute, “on the right” is a legitamite choice. If, you feel that there is a risk from the right, you could slow, speed up, check to the left and take the lane, or even check behind and move to your right, you have many choices, give the passing cyclist equal respect in their choices.

    • LGRAB says:

      Perhaps this specific situation is exclusive to huge cities like Chicago, but passing on the right is almost never a legitimate choice from a safety perspectve. 99% of the time, the right side of the street is completely filled with parked cars and people getting in and out of them. Also, the photo I used is actually the widest bike lane in the city – most are much more narrow and I usually ride just inside the white line. So if a rider is uncomfortable with leaving the bike lane, she should wait to pass at a stoplight or other safe opportunity.

      It occurs to me now that I’m writing this that in Chicago someone who does not want to leave the bike lane would not get very far. During rush hour, I’m forced to leave the bike lane every block to pass a car blocking it or, yes, a slower cyclist.

      • Pdxrunner says:

        It’s not that I will not leave the bike lane, do it all the time when apprpriate. If someone is in the bike lane, I will check traffic and pass on the left. However if a cyclist chooses to ride to the left of the lane, that would leave a full “bike lane” to the right to pass, again with verbal warning. You are uncomfortable riding in the bike lane, acceptable, others perfer to travel in the bike lane, acceptable

        • Missy says:

          To LGRABs point, by passing her on the right, you are putting yourself - and her - in danger by riding in the door zone. If someone opens a car door into your path, you will take her out with you. You should ALWAYS pass on the left. That may mean you have to slow down and check for traffic, but that is what a car would do and you should follow the same rules.

  11. GRJim says:

    On my road bike I’m going faster than everyone, literally, and try not to pass on the right. Almost always I’ll pass on the left, taking the lane. There are plenty of times when the cyclist won’t move over if the lane is wall to wall cars, so I am stuck. The other rider and my speeds don’t work well together.

    I’ll pass on the right fast if the traffic is really heavy and the rider in front is slow. Fast enough so that he/she doesn’t have time to swerve.

    The most important thing a rider can do is hold his/her line. Just go straight, don’t be startled by doors or cyclists on the right, don’t swerve and you’ll be ok.

    • GRJim says:

      One more thing: from reading your blog it seems like the situation is Chicago is fucked up beyond all reason. You could spend all day “telling” people what to do – the guy who passed to close in a car, the gal who opened the door, various cyclists and peds.
      There’s no such thing as “safe” on the road.
      Enjoy your ride and have no neurosis.

  12. Mamavee says:

    interesting.

    Seeing that there isn’t much room to pass you on the left and if I was wishing to pass you ( I have NEVER been in this situation except for in a triathlon and barely even there…) I would likely come up behind you and shout out nicely ” coming up slowly behind you” adding a bell ring. My hope would be that you would move over so I would not have to be in traffic because I don’t feel comfortable there. I would ideally be right on the white line…. so I would be coming slowly and hoping you’d move over watching for door and I’d pass you and you’d move back over to the white line.

    not knowing and not ever having to pass someone in traffic like that- that is what I would do. I prob would not go on the right b/c you might swerve into me. I always say Howdy when passing a person.

    • LGRAB says:

      I always appreciate it when a cyclist lets me know that she is passing me, but if I am riding in city traffic, I do not move to the right. There is too much going on inside and between parked cars. I may be able to see that the car next to me is empty, but what about the one after that and after that and after that? I am not willing to put myself in danger to expidite someone else’s trip, whether its a driver or a cyclist who wants to sqeeze by.

      Like I mentioned earlier in the comments, the photo I used to illustrate this post is not the best, in hindsight, because most bike lanes in Chicago are much narrower than the one shown and I usually ride just on the inside of the white line.

      • Illiniwu says:

        i don’t move either when people warn me. i usually say “okay” and keep going straight. this is what i expect other people to do when i ring my bell. This is my expectation for cyclists and pedestrians alike, unless it’s someone about to step off the sidewalk then what i really mean is stop and look before crossing!

      • Mamavee says:

        yeah I hear you. like I said- I honestly have not had to deal with this at all. No bike lanes ( near me that is- I am dying to try the new ones a few miles away) and the numbers of cyclists out there are low. And I ride on roads that are fairly chill and quiet so the one time I passed someone ( IN MY ELECTRIC TRIKE FILLED WITH TWO KIDS) I obviously went farther out to the left in the road and called out. It happened to be a person I met years ago with an empty trailer so we paced each other for a bit chatting and then I throttled off. :-)

        And in the Tri well you shout out to make sure they just don’t swerve left. I always add “coming slowly by” b/c I don’t want them to think I’m all speedy. It takes me a bit of time to actually get there and I call out a bit ahead just in case….

  13. SalinaLivingActive says:

    I see that passing you on the right is the only semi-safe option according to the picture. As a passing cyclist, I would look at that picture and think ….. hmm… do I want to pass on the right and risk attack by parked car, or do I want to pass on the left (in the middle of the road) and risk attack by moving vehicle(s). I vote parked car. Chances are that everyone passing you knows the rules of the road and don’t necessarily need the lesson in motion. Why not just try to let the pet peeve go and enjoy your bike ride. :)

    • LGRAB says:

      Interesting. Sounds like from your comment and others, some people think passing in the main car lane is dangerous. I do not feel that way and I often have to move into the main car lane to pass other cyclists and go around obstacles. I wonder if the difference is between city riding and suburban/country riding? Because in Chicago car traffic moves pretty slowly and the roads are straight, so it’s clear to see whether a car coming up from behind or not. And if I’m going so fast that I must pass another cyclists, it should not take me more than a few seconds of being in the main car lane to do so.

      Regardless, an issue I have with that kind of reasonsing is that someone deciding that they’d rather risk getting doored is including me in that risk, as they would certainly take me down with them.

    • Uptown Biker says:

      But why is it necessary to pass immediately? How about watching traffic, slowing down, and passing on the left when it becomes safe to do so? We are biking for transportation, we are not in a race.

    • Uptown Biker says:

      But why is it necessary to pass immediately? How about watching traffic, slowing down, and passing on the left when it becomes safe to do so? We are biking for transportation, we are not in a race.

  14. Jen F says:

    There was a pretty good video a while back about politely passing other cyclists and it showed that if you are passing someone, you have to leave the bike lane completely. I know some people don’t feel comfortable in car traffic and if that’s the case, then slow down and ride behind that person until the road is clear. You cannot see the road ahead for that cyclist and you have to assume that they might need the whole lane. Not to mention the average bike handling skills of a new cyclist on the road, I give them as much room as possible!

    • Ken C. says:

      I think that this is the intent in California… Under the CA Vehicle Code [Section 21208a], it’s perfectly fine to “leave” the bike lane to pass another bicycle, if you cannot overtake/pass safely within the bike lane. The overtaking bike has to wait until “it is reasonably safe” to pass.

      Where I live, almost every bike lane is striped for a single bike [that is, the bike lanes are narrow]. So, if you want to pass another cyclist, and give them a couple of feet of clearance, you’d have to take the lane to do so.

  15. Roy Schultz says:

    That happened to me once except I was about to turn right when another cyclist passed me on the right. What came out of my mouth without thinking about it was “duuuuude…” To which his reply was telling me that I should have signaled.

    I think it’s like honking your horn at a driver who blows through a stop sign. They know what they’re doing is wrong and they’re certainly not going to magically turn their life around because some stranger told them they’re being unsafe.

    We just have to be defensive and lead by example. Annoying, but reality.

  16. Tad Salyards says:

    One should not pass on the right. Wait until car traffic is clear and then move out of the bike lane and pass. Letting them know that this is the correct way is ok if done in a civil manner.

    My pet peeve is cyclists without bells. Whenever I hear “on you’re left” which is common as I ride a slow ass bike like you, I am tempted to respond “get a bell.” :)

    • April says:

      I’d rather hear “on your left” than nothing.

    • bikinggal says:

      Which is so strange because I hate bells and would much rather hear an “On Your Left.”

    • Sarah says:

      I ride on bike paths with dog walkers a lot and I have found that people and especially the dogs are less startled by someone saying “on your left” than a bell. Also I think it at least gives people a chance to move in the right direction right away (although it sometimes causes people to move to the left, sigh) – with a bell they don’t know what to do.

      • LGRAB says:

        I like using my bell because it sounds happy. :) But I’m not sure how helpful it is a practical means of communication, especially since most people on the trail have headphones on.

        • Mamavee says:

          I swear whenever I ring my bell, no one know what the hell I mean. I always have to follow up with verbal comfirmation. Even then people don’t hear me. grrr

        • Scott says:

          I use both a bell and my voice, the bell because it’s better at cutting through whatever folks are listening to on their headphones and my voice because it somehow seems friendlier.

          I start with the Suzu Crane bell, which is much louder than most other bells and has a great sustained ring. (You can hear different bells at

          http://www.calhouncycle.com/shopcast/wp-content/uploads/bells/album/index.html.)

          As I get closer, I now say “passing” instead of “on your left” because I’ve seen online articles about two deaths on multi-use trails where a bicyclist called out “on your left” and a pedestrian got confused and turned to the left.

      • nk says:

        Ha! I once said “on your left” and the startled walker jumped to her left, right in front of my bike. Needless to say, I “took her out”, but had a hard time feeling bad about it.

        • April says:

          This is why I use a bell most of the time. Before I was a cyclist, someone would be wanting to pass me on a MUP, and say, “On your left” and all my brain seemed to hear was the “Left” part, and so that’s where I’d go.

        • V1pro says:

          nj saild: “Ha! I once said “on your left” and the startled walker jumped to her left,” I live in NJ and this happens all of the time! A lot of people on the multi-use lanes, even if it has been around for over 25 years, still do not get it. I have a bell and this seems to work better but every now and then when they do not respond, I end up saying “On Your Left!”

        • Mandy B. says:

          I think the problem here is that pedestrians often aren’t expecting a bike to come up behind them, and it takes a second to process what’s going on. I walk on the right of paths, and if I hear something behind me my instinct is to turn to the left (and in the process moving to the left a little) to see what is going on.

          I know it’s a pain to slow down when you’re biking (I regularly commute 11 miles to work and back, so I do have a bikers perspective), but I think it really is necessary to slow down when pedestrians are near – ring the bell or verbally announce you’re there, and make sure they’ve heard and have had a chance to process what you just said.

        • Mandy B. says:

          I think the problem here is that pedestrians often aren’t expecting a bike to come up behind them, and it takes a second to process what’s going on. I walk on the right of paths, and if I hear something behind me my instinct is to turn to the left (and in the process moving to the left a little) to see what is going on.

          I know it’s a pain to slow down when you’re biking (I regularly commute 11 miles to work and back, so I do have a bikers perspective), but I think it really is necessary to slow down when pedestrians are near – ring the bell or verbally announce you’re there, and make sure they’ve heard and have had a chance to process what you just said.

      • maco says:

        I never realized the person being-signalled-to was *meant* to respond. I always took such things as a warning-to-not-be-startled-as-you’re-passed.

      • maco says:

        I never realized the person being-signalled-to was *meant* to respond. I always took such things as a warning-to-not-be-startled-as-you’re-passed.

  17. Cycler says:

    While admittedly your collage is a bit misleading, because it shows you to the left of the lane, I am somewhat mystified by all the people who think that passing to the right is the only “safe” choice in this scenario. I think in this case a bike needs to behave just like a car- if someone in the lane ahead of you is going slower than you’d like to be, you check for traffic in the adj. lane, merge left when there’s a safe opportunity, and pass. Passing on the right would be like a car whipping into the parking lane to pass, which even on the mean streets of Boston I rarely see (except behind left turning vehicles at intersections).

    That said I think that a lot of otherwise experienced bikers (including my husband) are a bit cavalier about the possibility of being doored, and ride a lot closer to parked cars than I’m comfortable doing. Although the prospect of hitting a door and faceplanting is daunting enough I don’t think they think through the potential to be literally thrown under the bus, which can easily be the result of dooring.

    I come down firmly in the camp of reprimanding scofflaws. I wouldn’t say nothing if someone was beating a child on the sidewalk, even though it isn’t directly hurting me. It’s wrong, and the societal pressure not to do things that are wrong is enforced by people speaking up when people cross the line. While I don’t think you can explain the rationale behind the rule in a 5 second interaction, I think a good “Hey!” or a “Duude” or “Don’t Do that!” is pretty easy to understand.

    I fully understand the futility of changing the world “one doofus” at a time- GREAT line BTW. But I constitutionally can’t stand by and let people put me in danger by being stupid.

  18. April says:

    One of the days we were in Chicago, we happened to be riding from downtown to Whitaker (sp?), which we were told was the “hipster highway,” and I was passed (on the left) no less than a dozen times, sometimes within inches, and not a SINGLE PERSON rang a bell or said “On your left.”

    Is it just a Chicago thing or what?!

    • LGRAB says:

      Ah, you must be talking about Milwaukee Avenue to the Wicker Park neighborhood. That is the hipster highway and they show no mercy. I think in general everyone on the streets of Chicago are ruder than other cities, save NYC.

  19. bikinggal says:

    If you are so far left you are essentially on the far right of the car lane, then it’s totally fine for people to pass you on the right. Maybe this collage is misleading because it looks to me like this hypothetical collage-bike lady is trying to hog the whole bike lane and the edge of the car lane.

    Note: I do not pass on the right. But if I came up behind you and you were left of the lane, I would indeed pass you on the right.

    I do appreciate cyclists who, when there is space to the right, perhaps because no cars are parked, shift to the right to allow people to pass on the left.

    • LGRAB says:

      You’re right that the collage (which I threw together a couple of years ago to illustrate a post about the door zone) is misleading because it shows the widest bike lane in the city that I rarely use – most are much more narrow – and I usually ride inside of the white line. That said – even as shown in the collage, a bicyclist passing a safe distance from me on the right would be in the door zone. Therefore, it would not be perfectly fine. The door zone is a big deal in Chicago. I remember recently reading somewhere that doorings are *the most common type* of car/bike crash in Chicago.

      I am surprised to hear the opinion that a bike riding at the outer edge of a bike lane would be considered “hogging” the bike lane. A car does not hog the car lane by using the entire width. To me it is a given that a bicyclist needs to use all of the bike lane in order to maintain a safe distance from parked cars.

      This issue brings to mind a problem I often experienced while driving, especially on the highway. I would always try to leave a safe distance between my car and the car in front of me, which is several car lengths when traveling 65 mph; meanwhile, lots of drivers would cut into that space I intentionally created – jeopardizing my own safety along with theirs – simply to get where they were going faster. That always pissed me off because it directly affected my safety. It’s the same situation now with other bicyclists invading the safe space I intentionally create between
      myself and parked cars by passing me on the right.

  20. The Riding Dutchman. says:

    Hi Dottie.
    I’m not sure if my advice will be of any use to you, as my advice comes from the land of bycicles, The Netherlands, where riding a bike is whole different … well … bikeride.
    I don’t know if you have ever been on a bike in Holland but I can tell you bike-traffic can be hectic sometimes. Ofcourse riding is in our genes so we have that advantage. (plus that cardrivers sort of expect us to be there).
    The funny thing is that you recommend drivers to get on a bike to see what it’s like and to get better understanding of bike-riders. After having done almost everything by bike for close to 35 years I recently got my drivers-license. Now this was an eye-opener for me as a bikerider. I did not know how unsafe I was riding my bike until I got in a car. Not signalling when changing course, how badly visible you are when riding without front- or taillights even when it’s just getting dark, the little time and space a car has to take evasive action. Like I said, it really was an eye-opener.

    I think the best thing to do is to focus on your own safety, after all you are the weakest one in traffic. Save your energy for keeping yourself safe and set an example through your actions.

    One more thing about helmets/girls/boys and safety.
    A study has shown that cars pass you closer when you are wearing a helmet. On the other hand cars keep greater distance when passing women then when passing men. So for all you bikeriding men out there, next time you ride, go to the garage to dig up that old blonde wig and leave that helmet at home.

    That only leaves me with congratulating you on a great website it’s a lot of fun to see and read about other bike-cultures.

    Ring-ring, from Delft, The Netherlands

  21. Nicole S. says:

    I frequently harp at cyclists that are practicing unsafe cycling – riding on the sidewalk (biggest pet peeve), going the wrong way in the bike lane, passing too close, cornering me into a dangerous spot, etc.

    • maco says:

      I’m still confused by people complaining about sidewalk riding. I’ve seen some go so far as to claim it’s always illegal. There’s a small area in the business district of my city where it’s illegal. Otherwise, it’s perfectly legal, and really, it’s exactly what any kid was taught when they learned to ride a bike at age 5: stay off the road.

      • Dottie says:

        Bicycling on the sidewalk is illegal in all of Chicago, unless you are 12 years or younger. I know this is not the case in other areas, icluding some of the suburbs, though.

    • maco says:

      I’m still confused by people complaining about sidewalk riding. I’ve seen some go so far as to claim it’s always illegal. There’s a small area in the business district of my city where it’s illegal. Otherwise, it’s perfectly legal, and really, it’s exactly what any kid was taught when they learned to ride a bike at age 5: stay off the road.

  22. martha williams says:

    I sometimes say something, but was absolutely berated by a woman, for almost a mile, for telling a her that she was passing too close (i.e. I could smell her breath), and not announcing herself.

    Now, I don’t always say something, but I definitely dirt-eye them ; )

    • LGRAB says:

      Wow, that’s nuts. That’s a good reason to hold back – you never know who is crazy out there.

    • Illiniwu says:

      i frequently see this lady in the neighborhood going the wrong direction in the bike lane. i’ve shouted wrong way at her a bunch of times, but i’m never sure if she hears me. i’ve also seen her yell at a car in the bike lane waiting to make a right turn even though she was in the wrong. it doesn’t make any sense!!

  23. Anonymous says:

    I don’t usually say anything anymore because it isn’t a teachable situation. Fortunately, there are few door zone situations on my commute where this might happen. Mostly, I encounter wrong way, sidewalk types, and people completely ignoring light law and traffic controls.

  24. Tom says:

    I speak up all the time. I doesn’t do any good. I have trained myself to not respond to the response.

  25. Rebecca says:

    This is something I worry about also. A major problem is that our bike lanes are only 5 feet (at least in Boston they are). In the Netherlands the bike lanes are 8 ft. 2”. With their 2 1/2 meter bike lanes you can easily pass another cyclist. In fact their whole bike lane is usable whereas only a small part of our bike lane is. The white line on our bike lanes is the safest distance to ride from a parked car. A cyclist riding through a red light doesn’t affect my safety but it is disturbing to me to have a cyclist pass me on the right because if they get doored it would cause me to crash and fall into traffic. If I have a chance, I’ll say something as they ride past. Cyclists need to be educated about the dangers of riding close to parked cars, need to learn how to look behind themselves and wait for a break in the traffic lane & pass on the left. City planners need to build safer bike lanes that can accommodate bikes passing one another in a bike lane safely.

  26. Missssarahchan says:

    I don’t think you’re wrong at all to find fault in right passing! When Don and I first rode together (years ago) he said there is an unspoken rule that the left sided rider (presumably when two friends are riding together) leads. So if people have to go single file, the left rider decides whether they are going up and ahead or slowing down and allowing the right sided rider to take the lead. Otherwise the bikes might float into each other, since nobody knows what is going on!

  27. Anne in Geneva says:

    Hmmm….
    Seems the cycling community as a whole still needs education along with a dose of etiquette. Also there is the trap of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” in saying something. If we do speak out, there’s the risk of pegging oneself as a self-righteous know-it-all (this was recently discussed in another popular forum with some negative comments–I was rather surprised at this). If we do not speak up, the community remains uneducated, unchanged and still viewed by others with much antagonism.

    So what do we do in situations like these …
    If I ring my somewhat Loud Bell by Bell ($4 at WalMart), I’m obnoxious. The Loud Bell is the only bell to get attention. Calling out and using my ping-bell are largely ignored. If I do nothing, then I’m being rude and scaring people.

    I recently attempted to correct 2 cyclists who were riding *tandem* in *traffic* taking the lane at 12 mph. They yelled back using the “share the road” argument. This incident could have been simply avoided by the cyclists being considerate and riding single file, as is the custom here. Our city is very bike friendly and our new roads are more than wide enough to accomodate cars and single file cyclists.

    The new law in Illinois allowing motorcycles and cyclists to go through red lights that do not change “after a reasonable time” (usually early mornings, weekends) is being broadly misinterpreted as a license to run red lights and stop signs with wild abandon at any time of day. If I correct them, they reference the law.

    And, of course, there’s the salmoning, riding at dark in dark clothes sans lights of any type, and kids riding no-hands, earbuds in and texting. At least he was in the bike lane. Yay.

    I’ll read the rest of the comments for suggestions, and I welcome specifics. ::thumb up:: Ride happy my friends! :D

  28. Kelly says:

    I definitely advocate speaking up. I sometimes do but usually restrain myself because in many cases I would probably yell 4-letter words (I’m not as even-tempered as it sounds like you are! – and yet, when someone is being a jackass, I feel compelled to call a spade a spade, as it were). I have been known to bitch someone out very loudly and publicly when I thought they were being unsafe. Sure, most people will probably not actually listen, but if they don’t know they are being unsafe because no one ever tells them, there is zero chance they will ever correct their behaviour.

  29. Stephen Hodges says:

    Not to beat the proverbial horse, but what’s interesting to me about this issue is that, if we are successful in changing the urban transportation paradigm in the U.S. towards more bicycle usage (the trend indicates this, but we’re generally not “there” yet), the behavior of cyclists in urban areas will become more of an issue that will require some degree of resolution.

    Part of this resolution will happen organically; you don’t want to be the rider who takes down six commuting cyclists, two of whom may be attorneys, because of your stupidity or ignorance. But part of this may be a function of how we design our bicycle facilities (e.g., moving away from bike lanes w/o buffer zones, widening bike lanes to allow two or more bicycles abreast, providing bicycle-only traffic control devices at intersections, etc.), and part of it will require much more bicycle education than we currently provide. For instance, school children in Denmark and the Netherlands get specific bicycle instruction at home and at school, whereas the only formal transportation education most American school children get is Driver’s Ed.

    So, Dottie’s problem is more a symptom of increased bicycle use in urban areas, which is a good thing, but we as a society (sorry, I’m a professional city planner and that’s just the way I roll) have to address the externalities much as we’ve tried to address those inherent in the expanded use of the automobile.

    And yes, I have and use a bell. Works like a charm most of the time.

  30. oscar cedano says:

    Many people that pass me only do it because they get the impression that I am going slow just because I ride a Linus 8 bike, which has a retro look. The thing is that when we get to the stop light, I end up catching up to them. This means that all that unsafe passing on the left or on the right is completely unneccessary and puts two people at risk.

  31. John Wirtz says:

    I know your drawing isn’t to scale or anything, but as an FYI, the door zone is only about 2.5 feet wide, so in your photo it should extend about 1.5 feet into what looks like a 5-foot bike lane. You can ride at within the bike lane, but at the left edge, and still avoid doors.

    • Dukiebiddle says:

      “the door zone is only about 2.5 feet wide”

      No it isn’t. The door zone is 4 feet wide. 2 door cars have very long doors, and drivers sometimes kick their doors out with their feet all the way. To stay out of the door zone a cyclist must stay outside the farthest zone even the largest door may swing into at full extension. Granted, when there is a 5 foot bike lane, parallel parked cars are typically recessed about a foot and a half beyond the bike lane, meaning within the bike lane at the extreme right side is typically far enough, as long as the cars are parked properly; but the safe rule of thumb is to keep a line where your tires are at a minimum 5 feet from car doors. Presuming handlebars are 24 inches wide (as swept-back bars typically are) that gives the cyclist the bare minimum 4 feet of clearance with no inches to spare.

    • Rebecca says:

      Actually the door on a four door car sticks out 3 feet and on a 2 door car sticks out 4 feet. The standard handlebar width is 12 inches. On my bike it’s 14 inches. So for a 4 door car there is 3 feet for the door, 1 foot for half the width of the handlebar and about a foot for the distance one would ride next to a car and should the car door open not instinctively swerve & be hit by a passing car. That comes to 5 feet clearance needed for a 4 door car or six feet clearance for a 2 door car to remove the risk of being doored. Here is an excellent you tube video on how far you need to ride from parked cars. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TQ7aID1jHs
      Not to want a person ride between you and a parked car should not be dismissed as a pet peeve that should just be let go and to go ahead & enjoy your ride. Should the bicyclist passing on the right be doored they put the other bicyclist at extreme danger of falling into traffic or on top of the bicyclist passing on the right. The only solution is to let the designers of bike infrastructure know that you want wider bike lanes where bicycles can pass one another safely and that are five feet from parked cars out of the door zone. It doesn’t seem to do any good to say something to the cyclist passing on the right. By the time you react they are too far away to comprehend what you are saying, they may have ear buds in their ears & can’t hear and wouldn’t connect a bell or even an Airzound air horn as being a warning against them as they are unaware that they are doing a dangerous maneuver.

  32. Nick........ says:

    Dottie, et al.:
    Passing on the right is wrong and dangerous. When someone does it to me I usually say something in a friendly tone. The way I see it is that while I don’t want to preach for the safety of others, I will speak up for mine.

    Nick……………….

  33. RobW says:

    ok,,, to be a sexist pig for a second… If i was behind a lady on a bike, I’d just relax and enjoy the view… Ok, yes, audibles should be called, a bell only signals they want to pass, but which side? and if the person in front lacks stereoscopic hearing, they might still move the wrong way. I also have a mirror on my left side of my bikes,, mirrors are good to use, as long as they dont distract from the forward obstacles. Correcting others is always touchy, both in will it be recieved as knowledge or just as a rebuke, and then the intent is lost as they sulk away. So many good points in this discussion too. :-)

  34. RobW says:

    ok,,, to be a sexist pig for a second… If i was behind a lady on a bike, I’d just relax and enjoy the view… Ok, yes, audibles should be called, a bell only signals they want to pass, but which side? and if the person in front lacks stereoscopic hearing, they might still move the wrong way. I also have a mirror on my left side of my bikes,, mirrors are good to use, as long as they dont distract from the forward obstacles. Correcting others is always touchy, both in will it be recieved as knowledge or just as a rebuke, and then the intent is lost as they sulk away. So many good points in this discussion too. :-)

  35. Inspiredcyclist.wordpress.com says:

    The entire issue of passing, and informing others has been on my mind for a few weeks. It seems that so many people have earbuds in their ears while listening to music(cyclists, joggers, rollerbladers, etc), or are chatting on phones (walkers) that I don’t know if they even hear my bell or warning. It is concerning.

  36. [...] was a sarcastic, ‘Thank you.’ • Let’s Go Ride a Bike’s question about speaking up when cyclists do unsafe things. • More on passing on the left! • If you are a self-professed bad cyclist, you can join what [...]

  37. [...] work without enforcement from educated traffic officers. Do you — or even should you — say something to dangerous cyclists? A great photo series on classic biking celebrities. In an amazing comeback, triathlete Jordan Rapp [...]

  38. LA rider says:

    If you’re not in the bike lane, the person going faster than you in the bike lane isn’t “passing” on the right.

    You’re crying wolf on this one.

    • LGRAB says:

      I’ve said many, many times in this thread that I ride *inside *the white line of the bike lane. I was in the bike lane when the woman I talk about above passed me on the right.

      • LA rider says:

        Sorry I missed that (I tried reading more of the responses this time). I think it’s a dilemma without an obvious right choice: your desire for other riders to avoid putting you at risk, vs. other riders’ desire to avoid having to move into the car lane.

        As to the question about speaking to dangerous riders — how much bigger is the other rider? Seriously, I’ve done it a few times, from the guy who blows through a 4-way intersection (with waiting cars) while wearing earbuds, to the guy who rides outside the bike lane in a rural area where cars are passing at 50mph. Especially in group rides, problem riders don’t take little hints, and often need a direct confrontation before their light bulb turns on.

  39. Belgian cycler says:

    I’m sorry, I didn’t have time to read all the comments. Somebody may have said this.
    Actually the problem isn’t that you drive on the left, or that other bikers pass you on the right. The problem is the people in the cars. In an ideal biker-world (Belgium-Holland-scandinavia…) you can fairly safely drive on the right side of the bike pad without the fear of being “doored”. (I only learned about the concept of dooring when reading american cycle blogs…). In fact, when I took my driving lessons i was thought to look for bikers when I got out of the car. This was even checked on my driving test!

    So all you need to do is teach all the car people to watch out when opening their door… I know this will never work.

    So my advice: in stead of telling people not to pass on your right, tell them to watch the doors…

    Greetings from Belgium

  40. Belgian cycler says:

    I’m sorry, I didn’t have time to read all the comments. Somebody may have said this.
    Actually the problem isn’t that you drive on the left, or that other bikers pass you on the right. The problem is the people in the cars. In an ideal biker-world (Belgium-Holland-scandinavia…) you can fairly safely drive on the right side of the bike pad without the fear of being “doored”. (I only learned about the concept of dooring when reading american cycle blogs…). In fact, when I took my driving lessons i was thought to look for bikers when I got out of the car. This was even checked on my driving test!

    So all you need to do is teach all the car people to watch out when opening their door… I know this will never work.

    So my advice: in stead of telling people not to pass on your right, tell them to watch the doors…

    Greetings from Belgium

  41. Karen says:

    Sometimes I speak up but mostly I just keep it to myself because I want to just get past it and not raise my stress level, which is often pretty high. Keeping my stress level down is one the benefits of transportation cycling so I don’t want to lose that benefit.

    My biggest grievance with other cyclists is biking against traffic or going in the wrong direction in the bike lane. I’m trying to train myself to just stop and force the other cyclist to do get out of the lane rather than me having to put myself outside the lane. I don’t think I need to help anyone break the rules of the road.

  42. krista says:

    I’m a slow biker to begin with, and my bike weighs 40 lbs which doesn’t help. I’ve had a couple of people pass me on the right and it does totally annoy me. No bell, no nothing. I know I’m slow, but I’m still a biker just like other bikers…show me some love!

  43. krista says:

    I’m a slow biker to begin with, and my bike weighs 40 lbs which doesn’t help. I’ve had a couple of people pass me on the right and it does totally annoy me. No bell, no nothing. I know I’m slow, but I’m still a biker just like other bikers…show me some love!

  44. Andrew Potts says:

    This is just people for you, they cut corners, break rules, It happens in cars , at work everywhere I,m afraid you will just have to live with it. Annoying but breath deep

  45. Andrew Potts says:

    Strategy for not getting doored; you have to keep looking for threats or hazards, in this case looking into the cars to see if there are people sitting in them a auto with some body in it is more likely to be a problem then a empty auto.
    There is this mental management process you can go through for cycling or driving. 1 identify a hazard. 2 correct position on the road for the hazard 3 clear the hazard at the correct speed.
    So there is this constant looking to far distance, mid distance and just in front of you. Then it’s threat analysis and anticipation as to what is likely to happen. Sounds complicated but it’s not and it becomes habit that you do on auto pilot and your focus changes as needs. It’s a little like show jumping going to the fence, jump it, next fence, jump it.
    The safest cycling is when you get from A to B with no surprises, it’s also rewarding when something does happen but you just knew that plonker in that car was going to open the door but you had already positioned your bike to clear it, and you do without flinching. Maybe the hardest thing to do.
    At the moment I am teaching the kids to cycle and cycling the bike is easy it’s these oft skills that are tricky to teach, find myself asking them questions when we are out about junctions, road surface, hand signals, road surface etc. Of course kids being kids there is no talking to them I just hope that getting some class of reply out of them will provoke some awareness of hazards etc

  46. Andrew Potts says:

    Often think a bell is the most underestimated bit of kit on a bike. It’s so polite too, the sound is so excuse me!

  47. Blueberry says:

    I completely agree. Not only women. Guys are passing me on the right all the time without any warning! Common courtesy would at least be to say “on your right” but most of the time they don’t say anything, not even sorry or excuse me. They also ride in the dark with no lights, dark clothing and no reflectors either. Why is it mandatory to have a bell but not mandatory to ride with lights at night? I’m sure some lives would be saved.
    Bike fashionista in Toronto

  48. Blueberry says:

    I completely agree. Not only women. Guys are passing me on the right all the time without any warning! Common courtesy would at least be to say “on your right” but most of the time they don’t say anything, not even sorry or excuse me. They also ride in the dark with no lights, dark clothing and no reflectors either. Why is it mandatory to have a bell but not mandatory to ride with lights at night? I’m sure some lives would be saved.
    Bike fashionista in Toronto

  49. Guest says:

    You know what? Don’t correct others’ street behavior. Invariably the response is, “f–k you!” People — especially lazy, ignorant, self-important 21st Century Americans — don’t care. Ride defensively, and assume that morons await at every turn. More often than not you’ll be correct.

  50. Guest says:

    You know what? Don’t correct others’ street behavior. Invariably the response is, “f–k you!” People — especially lazy, ignorant, self-important 21st Century Americans — don’t care. Ride defensively, and assume that morons await at every turn. More often than not you’ll be correct.

  51. Imaginary Means says:

    Cyclists need to always call out when passing on the left or right of another cyclist or pedestrian.  Today, two Lance Armstrong wannabes blew right past me on my left and I didn’t know they were there until I saw them in my side vision.  Even though I have mirrors, I don’t look at them all the freakin time.  If I had drifted off 6 inches to the left we all would have crashed badly–they were going extremely fast.  I somehow had the presence of mind to immediately yell out “Thanks for telling me you were passing!”  One of the goofs stupidly looked back at me.  Too bad I wasn’t fast enough to catch up to them and tell them off.

  52. Andrew Potts says:

    Strategy for not getting doored; you have to keep looking for threats or hazards, in this case looking into the cars to see if there are people sitting in them a auto with some body in it is more likely to be a problem then a empty auto.
    There is this mental management process you can go through for cycling or driving. 1 identify a hazard. 2 correct position on the road for the hazard 3 clear the hazard at the correct speed.
    So there is this constant looking to far distance, mid distance and just in front of you. Then it’s threat analysis and anticipation as to what is likely to happen. Sounds complicated but it’s not and it becomes habit that you do on auto pilot and your focus changes as needs. It’s a little like show jumping going to the fence, jump it, next fence, jump it.
    The safest cycling is when you get from A to B with no surprises, it’s also rewarding when something does happen but you just knew that plonker in that car was going to open the door but you had already positioned your bike to clear it, and you do without flinching. Maybe the hardest thing to do.
    At the moment I am teaching the kids to cycle and cycling the bike is easy it’s these oft skills that are tricky to teach, find myself asking them questions when we are out about junctions, road surface, hand signals, road surface etc. Of course kids being kids there is no talking to them I just hope that getting some class of reply out of them will provoke some awareness of hazards etc

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