Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Share the road...

We have quite a few "SHARE THE ROAD" signs out here in West Marin. There seems to be some confusion as to who that sign is directed. Is it a request for cars to share the road with cyclists or is it a request for cyclists to share the road with cars? Hopefully, it is seen as a request to both users of the road. However, it seems that many cyclists see it as their right to take the road and then cars have to figure out how to share the road with a group of cyclists riding two-abreast down a narrow road.
The sign above is on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. as is winds through Inverness. This is one of the rare spots in West Marin where there is a fairly substantial shoulder for cyclists to ride on. Most sections of road out here gives about a foot or less to the right of the fog line. Single file is hard enough for both cars and cyclists to share the road when combined with on-coming traffic. Riding two-abreast becomes just plain rude on sections of road like this - especially when the cyclists don't or won't revert to single-file when cars/trucks come up on them.

I've been wanting to write this for about a year. A recent post by Dave Moulton gave me the kick in the butt to put this up. About a year ago, a customer of mine came in and asked me what it is about cyclists that make them think they can take up the whole road and block traffic. Now this particular gentleman is in his 70's, rides his bike on the roads here for exercise, so he understands what it is like to be a cyclist on the road here. He came in on that particular day and asked me that question. I knew exactly what he was referring to. He told me as he was driving along a section of road where there was no more than one foot of road way to the right of the fog line, a group of cyclists were all riding 2 abreast, effectively blocking the road to cars coming up on them. Pretty rude actions. And actions that I just can't comprehend. Knowingly blocking traffic where you have the opportunity to be courteous, move into single-file and let cars pass. The act of being courteous is a noble act and a powerful act.

Riding two abreast on country roads is fine as long as you aren't holding up a line of traffic, letting drivers steam behind the wheel. Riding with your buddies and chatting it up while riding is great fun as long as your aren't an impediment to traffic behind you. Why knowingly make drivers get angry at cyclists? When I'm driving and cyclists block me and aren't courteous enough to allow room for me to pass safely, I get mad, thinking to myself, "what are they thinking?"

In Dave Moulton's blog post, he noted a revision to the Share The Road signs that instead of a sign that suggest an action, some states are passing a 3 foot law. This law mandates vehicles give at least 3 feet of space to cyclists as they pass. This would also only work if the cyclist provides the opportunity for the vehicle to give the cyclist 3 feet.

I also propose a new concept for roads that don't have an adequate shoulder. This shouldn't be a sign on the road, but an image that bicycle groups use to educate riders when riding on narrow, shoulder-less roads. After all, cars still aren't allowed to share one lane. It's also interesting that in order to operate a vehicle on the road, one needs to take a test and have a license. A cyclist can simply pull their bike out and hit the road. I think there has to be more education for the cyclist to understand their rights and privilege to use the roads.

This whole topic is a very slippery slope. The whole thing wouldn't even be necessary if there were more folks in the world who were just simply courteous and compassionate to others.

(What's playing: Hank Williams III Country Heroes)


Jim G said...

Great post and great idea!

Greg said...

For the most part I agree with you, but...

There are sections of single lane roads in Marin where it's too curvy for a car to safely pass a (single) bike. In that case, I feel better taking the whole lane to discourage passing (which could endanger the cyclist as well as the passing car and oncoming vehicle). I suppose if I were riding with someone else I'd be okay with riding two abreast in the "too dangerous to pass" sections, like just before a blind curve. In either case (single or partnered) I can't always trust the driver behind me to wait until it's safe to pass.

blackmountaincycles said...

@ Greg: True, and to be honest, I only ride on the road during the week when there is very little traffic anyway. I can see how weekends would bring a different set of tools into play. SFD is notorious through the park so I always take the Cross Marin Trail because I like riding on the dirt with my road bike.