Monday, August 18, 2008

Yes, herd the beasts.

I really like the analogy drawn by cafiend on the Citizen Rider blog comparing a cyclist managing larger/faster traffic to a border collie herding a flock of larger beasts. Here's an excerpt that reminds me of what often happens when I'm riding in similar situations:

When traffic volume permits it, herd the beasts. Yesterday I swung into the traffic lane as soon as I saw how things were shaping up. This blocked the drivers behind me, forcing them to slow down sufficiently to let the oncoming motorists come through. The instant the oncoming motorists had cleared, I snapped back to the right to release the overtaking set.

No one honked. No one yelled. No one stomped the gas pedal and made a big fuss about resuming their speed. They all got it. I thought so they didn't have to.
I do have a few points of clarification, however. Instead of swinging into the traffic lane, it's often more expedient to already be there, taking the lane by default, a method I will expound and promote in this blog, and then moving aside only when it's safe and reasonable to do so. Also, "swung into the traffic lane" brings to mind a cyclist swerving into traffic unpredictably. It's important to always look back to make sure you have the right of way and won't be swerving into anyone's path before "swinging" over, and to negotiate for right of way when necessary.

But yes, many drivers are often confused and nervous about overtaking cyclists, and direction from the cyclist, offered clearly and assertively, including by taking the lane, is often helpful and appreciated.


cafiend said...

When I referred to swinging into the lane, it stemmed from my preferred riding position, about a quarter to a third of the way into the lane. From that position I'm far enough aside not to elicit too many assaults from incorrigible A-holes, but with enough buffer to have fade room to the right as well as an option on the left. The swing was more a military maneuver than an impromptu swerve. The decisive release move to the right further demonstrated the temporary and reasoned nature of my incursion into the lane.

At age 52 I can't put out the wattage day after day like I used to. Taking center lane position at some of the speeds I now find comfortable seems a bit too dog in the manger, to cop another canine analogy.

If you keep fading to the right and coming back to the left to maintain a semblance of lane-center position, your course will end up undulating right to left, left to right in a pattern hard to distinguish from a wave form based on resting at the right end of the cycle versus the left.

Serge said...

cafiend, thanks for the clarification.

In my cycling, I adjust my lateral lane position fairly often for various reasons, among which the presence of faster same direction traffic behind me is only one. If the undulating does resembles a wave form, what matters is the period of the wave. Obviously a high frequency is unmanageable, but given how traffic tends to travel in platoons separated by fairly long stretches of no traffic, especially in suburban and rural areas, the periods of no other same direction traffic can be significantly long, certainly long enough to make it reasonable to take the lane, at least until the arrival of the next platoon, for which you are already appropriately positioned to get the lead driver's focus and attention.

cafiend said...