On Rule #59: Hold Your Line

LeTour

Anecdotal research suggests that people are being let off-leash without adequate training to perform basic activities such as walking on sidewalks or through airports and busy city centers. I’m assuming this expands to shopping malls, but I never go there so I can’t be sure. It’s easy to blame the mobile phones which apparently grow from our hands, but even when no phone appears to be involved, the same problem exists: people wander about without any apparent awareness that anyone else might be in the vicinity.

Take, for instance, the gentleman who wandered off the Plane Train at SEATAC airport the other day. As he detrained, he stopped to investigate which of the 4 identical escalators best satisfied his fancy. I’m not one to criticize someone’s escalator scrutiny – you can’t over think these sorts of things – my issue is with the choice to stop just outside the exit of the train, completely unaware that he was blocking the way for the other passengers still left on the train.

It isn’t that these are bad people. We’re a product of our society and society teaches us that being a self-absorbed asshole is the right way to go about your life; there’s no limit to what you can accomplish when you don’t give a flying fuck about how those accomplishments impact other people. Which brings me back to my original point: we’re not getting the right training in order to avoid being assholes.

Riding a bike in general and riding in a group in particular teaches you all sorts of things about external dependencies and the trickle effect that our actions have on those around us. Rule #59 extends beyond just riding in a straight line, but to riding predictably and informing those riders who are dependent on you of dangers and obstacles. Cyclists develop a situational awareness that becomes second nature with practice.

I therefore propose that we modify our free-ranging policy to include a provision that mandates all humans be required to take a bicycle racing class and spend significant time riding in a group at speed before being allowed into the wilds of society. Don’t change your line when walking on a sidewalk without peeking over your shoulder. Don’t stop dead in your tracks without checking if someone is behind you. Don’t take a right-hand turn without warning when driving in the far left lane. Don’t block doorways. Don’t knock people in the head when you’re walking with a 2×4.

And for the love of Merckx, take off your headphones.

 

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118 Replies to “On Rule #59: Hold Your Line”

  1. @Optimiste

    @frank

    @Steve-o, @Carel

    There aren’t many “bike paths” around here, and I wouldn’t use them anyway. When non-cyclists mention bike paths to me, I say that they are more correctly called multiuse paths, with joggers, walkers, runners, cyclists, dogwalkers, rollerbladers or whoever else using them and are more hazardous than riding on roads. I also feel strongly that those paths reinforce many motorists’ notion that bikes don’t belong on the road.

    In my opinion, MUPs are the most dangerous places to be. Some of the worst accidents I’ve seen happen on those things; riders hitting head-on, or hitting an old lady and killing her (happened on the Burke Gillman)…if at all feasible, I will take the road with cars over the path every time.

    That statement brought to mind an incident in 4th grade I hadn’t recalled in years. Only the 6th graders were allowed to ride bicycles to school, so on the last day of the school year, my friend and I inexplicably thought it would be a good idea to ride ours. When we arrived, the 6th graders were displeased we were encroaching on their privilege, proceeded to kick our bikes, and were about to inflict some bodily harm. The vice principal intervened and, after chiding us, escorted us into the school. We received several “just you wait” looks from the older kids.

    As school let out, my friend and I sprinted to our bikes, frantically unlocked them and took off in a different direction before the others emerged. We ended up riding along a busy road with no sidewalk and a narrow shoulder. Somehow, my mom and his mom were each driving on that same road, saw us and both pulled over. That was weird. After we detailed the events of the day, my mom asked “so you were more worried about some 6th graders than cars on a busy road?” I didn’t say it, but I distinctly remember thinking “well of course.” Epilogue: just 3 years later, that same busy road became a regular part of my rides when I discovered road bikes.

    Fantastic story.

  2. @Nate Yep, Dazed and Confused all over. Every character in that film is someone I went to school with.

    I obviously haven’t read the whole thread here, but can I assume we’ve covered people stopping as soon as they get to the top of escalators, or the second they’ve alighted from public transport, disregarding completely the masses being funnelled directly into the spot they’re occupying?  And people leaving stores and offices on busy pedestrian streets without looking left or right, just barging straight out into the stream of people?

    I also woke up in hospital a few years ago after a bike accident; best I can tell, the random commuter I was riding behind in central Berlin decided to do one of those pull-out-to-the-right-so-you-can-hook-left things right across my path without any warning, causing me to t-bone him at speed and sending me flying over the handlebars onto the road, as I assumed I could overtake on his left when he swung right at an intersection.  Considering a bus travelling in the opposite direction apparently drove over my bike (write-off), the three teeth I broke, scar on my chin and third degree concussion were probably not such a bad deal.

    Learnt my lesson, though: expect anyone you don’t know well enough to trust to do something dumb at absolutely any moment.

  3. @DeKerr

    @unversio

    @The Grande Fondue

    I’d never considered having a bell on my bike before. But these pics almost made me reconsider

    No, no, no, no, no-ooooo, no, nope. Disguise it by mounting under the top tube near the seat tube. Stuff in jersey pocket until needed.

    My opinion differs @unversio I think that is an elegant design that doesn’t appear to detract from the overall lines of the bike. However, as @frank said, you’d better be able to ride like a muthafuqa (Arabic?) to truly pull it off.

    However elegant, wouldn’t strap a Stradivarius to the bars either.

  4. @andrew

    Learnt my lesson, though: expect anyone you don’t know well enough to trust to do something dumb at absolutely any moment.

    Ride for the unexpected.

  5. Great article, had me laughing out loud.

    Although actually I think you over-estimate people. I see plenty who can’t even stand still in one place, without suddenly stepping backwards or waving their arms about as you walk or cycle past.

    Set them in motion, and it gets worse.

    Newton was a clever chap, but his first law does not seem to apply to people.

  6. @Geraint

    Newton was a clever chap, but his first law does not seem to apply to people.

    Funniest thing I’ve read this week.

    +1 badge to you for that.

    @unversio

    The bell looks like it clips on neatly with a rubber strap. I use a similar device for flashers on my rain bike. Assuming you don’t use that when not needed and that you take the fucker off before shooting a portrait of your bike, I think its well within regulation.

  7. @unversio

    @DeKerr

    @unversio

    @The Grande Fondue

    I’d never considered having a bell on my bike before. But these pics almost made me reconsider

    No, no, no, no, no-ooooo, no, nope. Disguise it by mounting under the top tube near the seat tube. Stuff in jersey pocket until needed.

    My opinion differs @unversio I think that is an elegant design that doesn’t appear to detract from the overall lines of the bike. However, as @frank said, you’d better be able to ride like a muthafuqa (Arabic?) to truly pull it off.

    However elegant, wouldn’t strap a Stradivarius to the bars either.

    Yes, but a violin, no matter how elegant, would have no purpose on a bike.  For those who regularly use a MUP I think those would be an appropriate addition.  Its a little less obnoxious than yelling out, “on your left!”That being said, in Philly we have a too popular path that can be impossible to ride at anything approaching speed, and I have heard obnoxious gents getting too aggressive with their bells.  Ping ping ping down the entire trsil.  Whenever I have had my kids walking on such paths I always feel hyper vigilant looking out for bike riders.

  8. @Puffy over calling has ruined several rides.  I tried a few group rides in Philly-where it can take a while to get out of urban riding- and it was just SO loud. There was pointing and shouting at everything- car back, clear, squirrel, whatever.  Several rides was enough, I continued riding on my own.

  9. @frank

    @Geraint

    Newton was a clever chap, but his first law does not seem to apply to people.

    Funniest thing I’ve read this week.

    +1 badge to you for that.

    I’m honoured, thank you sir.

    When I saw the jersey I wondered if I was in the maglia nera for the Giro VSP!

  10. @frank

    @unversio

    The bell looks like it clips on neatly with a rubber strap. I use a similar device for flashers on my rain bike. Assuming you don’t use that when not needed and that you take the fucker off before shooting a portrait of your bike, I think its well within regulation.

    So take it you don’t use the hand position either side of the stem? Only problem with bar furniture is that it takes up valuable real estate.

  11. Had a rather disturbing encounter in the last kilometer* of the Saturday morning ride this morning, riding along a local street with parallel parking, bike lane, then one lane of traffic in each direction.

    Urban tractor driving alongside me & I was level with her front, passenger side window when she spied a car park she wanted on the other side of me. Cue indicator & swinging in toward the parking space, through the space I was trying to ride in! Slammed the brakes on & flicked my elbow out to make contact with the window, which thankfully seemed to catch her attention & get her to stop.

    Based on her reaction of genuine apologies & horror at what very nearly happened I can only assume she had no idea I was there, which is deeply disturbing given that she’d have to basically look around me to see the parking space she was aiming at & kinda indicates she was piloting a 2 tonne metal box at speed without paying any attention.

  12. I was reminded of this important life skill last Sunday, while on my Sunday morning group ride.  We were riding 2 by 2; the road that we were traveling required that we keep a tidy and tight line along the shoulder.

    We ride on the right in Canada.  I was on the inside line, closest to the traffic.  The fella beside seemed to have two very serious afflictions that made my life miserable for upwards of an hour.  He was unwilling or unable to ride directly behind the rider in front of him.  For whatever reason, he was only comfortable when riding about a foot left of the wheel in front of him.  This of course forced me a foot left of the wheel in front of me and left my arse hanging out into traffic.  In addition to this endearing trait he had a touch of drunken sailerism when on the bike…weaving to and fro with a randomness and whimsy that I never could figure out.

    It was incredibly uncomfortable.  I found myself absolutely hating the man and feeling bad about it as I’m sure he’s actually quite a nice fellow otherwise.  I reshuffled the group at the first opportunity.  We finally got to the point where we rode 2 by 1 by 2 so that we could sit back and admire his bike handling skills from a safe distance.

  13. @Fausto Crapiz

    @kixsand Dumb question. .. but is it a new rider? I remember a time when I couldn’t draft worth a crap.

    Nope… the guy was super strong on the bike – laid down some serious V that day and was on a lovely DuraAce 9000 equipped Cervelo S5 with DA C50’s.  That bike would be a handful in a cross wind but that wasn’t what we were dealing with on that day.

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