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Ass Clown Driver (or Rider?) Your Opinions…

This topic contains 92 replies, has 21 voices, and was last updated by  Val 1 yr, 8 mos.

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Val

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Mar 17 2013 at 11:53am #

I know this thread will get some attention because I’m giving you guys the chance to sit in judgement! Be as harsh and opinionated, or as loving and tender as you want to be, here’s the scenario:

I’m zooming down Federal St., having descended from Riverview Park, and go straight across at the bottom of the hill toward the river. I’m making my way around the West Commons section where it crosses Ridge Avenue; as you all know, there are two Right Turn lanes that vector into that intersection. To go straight, you have to be basically in the center of the road. I of course always base my actions off of traffic but as a rule, do NOT favor riding in the center of the road. So I always stay in the right lane and after checking over my shoulder, will proceed straight through the intersection. I’d done my customary check and was almost in the intersection when a white SUV came tearing-ass by me and swung it Right -right in front of me- and hit the gas. I nailed the brake one-handed and did a really cool-looking power slide and managed to not go under his vehicle or lay it down. A Miracle. So now I’d love to hear, who’s the Ass Clown? My instinctive answer is of course, the Driver. But I’d like to hear from anyone that negotiates that intersection on a regular basis, what your thoughts are. Rules are Rules but I feel like that intersection is a special hazard for Cyclists and as such, justifies adapting to the situation. Thank you.


helen s

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Mar 17 2013 at 12:22pm #

Having just read Forester’s “Effective Cycling” but not being that familiar with the interesction in question, my thought is if you were in a right turn lane, there was no reason for the van to think you were going to do anything but turn right.
If there is a lane for going straight, use it. However if the right turn lanes were marked for either turning or continuing straight, then the
van was in the wrong. Take your lane if you need to.


jonawebb

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Mar 17 2013 at 12:33pm #

Don’t really care who’s the asshole here, but I would take the center lane in that case. There’s no reason not to, and you can easily keep up with traffic there. The driver may still not have seen you though, so it’s good you can execute the impressive power slide.


cburch

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Mar 17 2013 at 2:43pm #

sounds like everyone was at least a little at fault. the driver for speeding (what a fucking shock in this city) the cyclist for not changing lanes until the last possible second when it would have been safe to do so earlier.

since there are four lanes there (for those unfamiliar its two right hand only lanes and two straight lanes with two lanes merging from the right after the light. think giant traffic circle. here’s a link) my approach is generally to move over to the second lane after i go around the corner by the school (from north commons) and then switch over to the third lane about halfway to the intersection. this gives me plenty of time to check for speeding jackasses coming from behind me, but still allow them to flow around me (since there is always a lane to the right or left of me). when i ride that area i also make sure i stay right in the middle of the lane, since its mine and the cars can use the other three to pass.


Drewbacca

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Mar 17 2013 at 5:19pm #

I’d take the lane, but then with this ass-clown I’d probably be dead. What matters is that you lived to tell the tale.


Mikhail

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Mar 17 2013 at 5:24pm #

Well, when we ride as a ride we always take the whole lane, the one that is appropriate by driving code. I do the same when I ride alone.


StuInMcCandless

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Mar 17 2013 at 5:47pm #

I do come through there on a regular basis. If I had to lay blame, I would say 50% driver, 25% cyclist, 25% street design.

As cburch pointed out, this is four lanes, one way, prior to the intersection, and the two right lanes both turn right, but the right-most lane *must* turn right. Being in that lane and intending to go straight, is asking for trouble. Hence that 25%.

The driver is driving too fast as well as recklessly. Oh, did anyone point out that that is also a school zone, so not only is it 25 mph at best, but often 15? At any rate, he was also asking for far more trouble by driving like that. He gets no less than 50%.

But I also fault street design. If you want people to speed and make an area hostile to anything but the car, make it wide. People speed where it’s wide, even for a short stretch. The city needs to thin this down to two lanes, at most, maybe with a parking lane for school buses. That whole wide boulevard thing is a vestige of the stupidity of the 1960think that built that thing in the first place.

Moral of the story: Get in one non-right-most lane, take the lane, and be visible. I never have a problem here.


stefb

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Mar 17 2013 at 6:00pm #

I ride through that intersection almost daily and it is your fault. You are the ass clown. Why would you stay in the right hand lane to go straight when it and the lane to the left are both right turn lanes? That is stupid.


salty

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Mar 17 2013 at 6:04pm #

driver was probably being the typical speeding/entitled asshole driver but you should get into the straight lane before the intersection instead of trying to cut across (presumably a solid white line at that point).


stefb

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Mar 17 2013 at 6:39pm #

Most people do speed there, as they do elsewhere in the city. But that is predictable. It is a cyclist’s job to be predictable and follow road markings, especially because when it comes to a vehicle vs cyclist, the vehicle always wins.


Val

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Mar 17 2013 at 7:06pm #

This is all great input, thanks. To answer as to why I ride right, instead of out in the middle, there; it’s because if something goes wrong, I always have one safe bail direction. I’d seen this guy coming back at the school corner when I looked back but what I so obviously failed to accurately assess, was his sense of purpose. That guy turned that corner as I was looking back, and in literally a few seconds, had passed me. I know it’s hard to recreate but in attempt to illustrate, he had to turn right pretty much as he passed me. It was that close and I credit a lucky reaction and new brake pads to the fact that I didn’t get creamed. I will probably never ride in the middle of that thoroughfare for several reasons, some of which have already been mentioned in this thread. But my overwhelming reason is that when you’re out in the middle of several lanes, the chance of being in someone’s blind spot, rockets. And as you may well expect, there are also drivers who at the last second realize they need to jerk their wheel left, so as to avoid my ‘mistake’. Any rider out in the middle when that starts happening is in a considerable amount of danger. For what it’s worth, my take-away from this is to dedicate extra caution to situations where as Stu mentioned, traffic patterns collide with bad road design. I’ll also pay extra attention to drivers closing from the rear when I conduct a check, too. Thanks again to all.


stefb

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Mar 17 2013 at 7:26pm #

I don’t understand how this is poor design. If maybe there was a blind turn and you couldn’t see traffic over your shoulder until the last second because of said blind turn it would be one thing. While i do Agree that multiple wide lanes encourage speeding, it is really failure of enforcement of speed limits in places Like this. but It is a traffic circle that has good sight lines. It even has traffic lights because people in Pittsburgh are too stupid to know how to yield and drive in a traffic circle without traffic lights.


salty

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Mar 17 2013 at 7:44pm #

Anywhere they plop down the equivalent of freeway on/off ramps in the middle of a city it is complete shit design.


Val

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Mar 17 2013 at 7:46pm #

@Stefb, you must be thinking of some other place because there is most definitely not a traffic circle there. It’s a four-way cross-shape intersection. I think it’s bad design because based on the flow of traffic in that area, posted limits, etc., they don’t need two lanes turning right. And if they channeled everyone into the right lane for turning onto that other side street, you wouldn’t have yahoos like Mr. SUV Stud railing through the middle, maybe turning and maybe not. Additionally, as I mentioned previously, people routinely do exactly what I did, which is to go straight even when they’re in a Turn lane. Thirdly, I have also seen them jink left just before the light, to be in a ‘correct’ lane for turning. Those are three things I have observed, just as a result of poor design at this particular four-way intersection.


Val

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Mar 17 2013 at 7:58pm #

And speaking strictly as an Outlander, I have never assessed that people in Pittsburgh are too stupid to follow any particular rule, they’re just very free spirited. That attitude has its drawbacks such as lawlessness but overall, I tend to like it. Vive la ‘Burgh.


byogman

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Mar 17 2013 at 7:58pm #

“But my overwhelming reason is that when you’re out in the middle of several lanes, the chance of being in someone’s blind spot, rockets”

All other things being equal, when you’re in the middle, you’re maximizing your chances of being visible (well, actually aligned with the driver position in the middle lane, but close enough). That’s just geometry.

I’m not sure what factor you’re thinking of as skewing this in this particular situation, but I urge you not to think so hard and just act like a car any time you can keep up. Makes cars have the feeling they know what you’re doing and bonus for the fact that this lane positioning makes you painfully visible to the driver behind. Even a moronic speeder has plenty of time to react.

Haven’t even gotten into the bit about being in a turn lane trying to go straight. Man, that’s just stupid. You mentioned other drivers doing that, they sound stupid to me too. Lane choice in intersection is your signal to others where you’re going. Don’t surprise anyone and you won’t have to go power sliding to avoid becoming roadkill.


stefb

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Mar 17 2013 at 8:04pm #

No I am talking about the same Intersection. The entire thing is a traffic circle.. It circles around allegheny center and other buildings.


Mikhail

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Mar 17 2013 at 8:07pm #

Val wrote:But my overwhelming reason is that when you’re out in the middle of several lanes, the chance of being in someone’s blind spot, rockets.

Could you explain why you think it’s going to rocket?


Mikhail

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Mar 17 2013 at 8:11pm #

Val wrote:Additionally, as I mentioned previously, people routinely do exactly what I did, which is to go straight even when they’re in a Turn lane.

And drivers do routenly what this one did. I don’t understan how in one case it’s good and in other case is bad. I agree with Stef that traffic enforcement is a must, design is OK.


Val

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Mar 17 2013 at 8:26pm #

Mikhail, it’s simple math. If you’ve got cars on both sides of you, that’s double the number of drivers that have a chance to miss you in a blind spot. Make it two lanes on either side of you, essentially, and you get the picture. Surely you can appreciate that. And I am not trying to convince or persuade you that it’s good or bad, feel free. From a basic Logic standpoint however, I do think a pretty good argument can be made for making only the far right lane a turn lane. It’s all academic because it will stay like it is but if it was just one lane, it would/could be more easily controlled. I hear what you guys are saying about enforcement but aside from special situations, I don’t ever see traffic enforcement as something that’s going to happen like it should. I probably don’t even want it that way, I break too many rules and would probably lose my license to ride… Rules of traffic are just guidelines for any cyclist, anyway. Sometimes following the rules only increases the danger.


Val

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Mar 17 2013 at 8:30pm #

@stefb, I guess it depends on your definition of circle, and traffic circle. I’ve been in lots of countries with traffic circles but none of them were shaped like large rectangles, with cross streets coming through the middle of them…


Marko82

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Mar 17 2013 at 8:37pm #

As others have stated, I think you need to be in the proper lane, and be in the middle of said lane. In other words act like the vehicle that you are! You are not a second-class vehicle; you are a vehicle with all the privileges and responsibilities of “regular” vehicles. And there is NO requirement to have to maintain their speed to be treated as such.

Also, blind spots are when someone can’t see an object in their rear view or side mirrors and has nothing to do with where on the roadway you are, nor how big your vehicle is.

Be seen, be predictable.


Mikhail

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Mar 17 2013 at 8:39pm #

Val wrote:Mikhail, it’s simple math.

This is not true. And you have to be very careful with probability. Simple addition (and multiplying like you did is a simple addition multiple time). Probabiliity cannot exceed 1. So if one driver will hit you with probability 0.6 it does not mean that two of them will hit you with probability 1.2. Moreover it would not be 1.0, it would be less than 1.


StuInMcCandless

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Mar 17 2013 at 8:59pm #

I was on McKnight Road on a bicycle today, both inbound and outbound. Inbound, fully three miles, I took an entire lane. I did not have a problem. This is on a road posted 40 where traffic speeds often exceed 50. Despite this, I do not think I was in danger.

West Commons is posted 25, and every once in a while, you get some jerk doing 40+. That said, I contend that even in the 2nd-from-left, or even the very left, lane, you are not in danger along here. The only place you could be in any significant danger is to try to do exactly what you did do — try to go straight from the one of four lanes where it is specifically disallowed.


Val

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Mar 17 2013 at 10:08pm #

It’s amazing that you can define ‘blind spot’ properly but argue that position doesn’t affect it. Maybe you should ask a Driver’s Ed. teacher about that. And Mikhail, if you don’t think an increase in the number of vehicles increases your chances of getting hit, let me buy you lunch and then I’ll drop you off out on I-79, on your bicycle. Let’s be sure to do lunch beforehand, in case you don’t survive the experiment, but I DO want to make a video of the whole thing. I bet you might see it my way, before the end. Likewise, if I have a pistol with twenty rounds versus a single shot, your probability of being ventilated just got multiplied by twenty. 1 x 20 = 20. And cars can be deadlier than bullets.


byogman

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Mar 17 2013 at 10:14pm #

“If you’ve got cars on both sides of you, that’s double the number of drivers that have a chance to miss you in a blind spot.”

OK, so most of the road surface, most of the time is open space. That brings you right back to reducing angles to maximize visibility. Worrying about having a close following vehicle hiding you from the traffic in either adjacent lane is a little weird.

Drivers don’t ride up close behind bicyclists and stay in their lane for fun. In fact, overwhelmingly, they’ll try to avoid being in your lane at all. They’ll only slot in behind you if they don’t care about how fast they’re going (in which case they won’t be following closely enough to hide you). It takes an unusual combination of an impatient driver and even more impatient drivers in the alternate lane not letting him merge in to get to a situation where an impatient driver (that might follow closely) is behind you at all. And they’ll only be there as long as they have to. And it’s only a problem if you’re not going straight anyway (which you were doing then and would be most of the time).

And finally, unlikely as it is, it’s not an overwhelmingly bad problem because it’s still possible to be visible and predictable, you just have to plan a bit more. Start your maneuvering first by adjusting your position in lane toward the lane you’re going to, improving their view angles of you and yours of them. Then with that link established and signaling, make your merge from the correct lane, to the correct lane, just like a car would.


Val

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Mar 17 2013 at 10:16pm #

Stu, I know from reading that you always try to contribute well thought-out, constructed and logical answers. I figured you’d have good input and I was right. I’ve heard about everything I expected to hear from various people but still not a strong enough reason to ride down the middle. Like I said, I’ll be checking more thoroughly in the future, through there. I think it’s easy to get lulled into complacency through there because it’s relatively quiet compared to the surrounding area. And I can’t think of any other place where I go through any intersections quite like that one… thanks again.


Val

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Mar 17 2013 at 10:21pm #

@byogman, I don’t understand the hypothetical you constructed. Who was discussing cars following them and hiding them from other cars? I would like to answer but I’m not even sure you were addressing anything I said…


cburch

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Mar 17 2013 at 10:21pm #

also, you can always make a right and then an almost immediate left there and cut over to the pedestrian bridge by the stadium and avoid the whole mess. or make the right onto north and go around the park and then a right under the railroad and over to the stadiums.

but honestly, were you looking for validation or just to pass the time by arguing? it doesn’t seem like you are actually as open to input as you claimed in the initial post, since you have basically said “well those are good points, but i don’t really care.”


Val

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Mar 17 2013 at 10:30pm #

I like the suggestion about turning right, I try all the time to tweak my various little routes, to make them safer and more fun. I modify my route through Brighton occasionally and it gets better every time. I will check that out, for sure.

And yes, I wanted input but as I stated in my msg to Stu, I just didn’t find the overpowering rationale I was looking for, to convince me to change my technique. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask. I’m pretty sure you don’t just go taking every suggestion that’s offered, do you? Lastly, I always appreciate input more, when it’s valuable. I tend to sift through lots of input and discard most of it. This entire thread has now officially been worth it, because of this one suggestion that you just made. Next time I go through there, I’m turning Right and going to that bridge.


Steven

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Mar 17 2013 at 11:47pm #

In a way, it’s like riding on the sidewalk. Some people may insist that it’s safer since cars won’t be driving there (just like Val is worried that cars might not see her and merge into her lane). But the real danger is from cars turning in front of you. When they’re turning right, they don’t expect anyone going straight to be to their right, whether the cyclist is in a right-turn lane like Val or on the sidewalk.

Val, have you been in an actual collision or near-miss where you were in a car’s blind spot?

I ask because there’s such variability in what cyclists think is the safest technique. I wonder how much of it is merely differing guesstimations of relative danger, and how much is people substituting personal experience for statistics. (I’m also thinking of the cyclists who run red lights because they see a greater danger in being rear-ended.)


Val

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Mar 18 2013 at 1:12am #

@Steven, yeah, as a matter of fact, several. And probably more near misses than I’ll ever be able to count. The most notable ones that come to mind occurred right outside The Strip in Las Vegas, in Miami, once in Puerto Rico and I could keep going. Those all three happened in broad daylight with no impairment to vision. I think the most common error is that drivers fail to realize how fast cyclists are sometimes traveling. The old Right Turn Cutoff is the one I dread the most!

Incidentally, I don’t hesitate to grab some sidewalk unless it’s a crowded one, and am never hesitant to simply stop and take a short breather, if the concentration of cars and people get too thick. I’ll sit and let it thin back out if need be.

FYI, I base my riding on having ridden in a bunch of different places but the more places I go, the more drivers everywhere seem to be the same: oblivious to cyclists.


stefb

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Mar 18 2013 at 3:42am #

There is almost no situation where you would be in a “blind spot” on that road. When school is in session, either drivers are going 15 or faster, and it is your job to go 15. It is easy to go 20+mph there. Most drivers are coming up behind you and passing. Not once have I gone to pass a car or even caught up to a car. As long as drivers are coming up behind you and you are in the correct lane, they know where you are going. You really don’t want any advice. Not one person seems to have told you that you were right. Everyone has told you what the law says. This is one instance where breaking the law and trying to be “more visible” doesn’t even make logical sense at all. Like I said, I ride this 3-4 days a week, and even when there are busses and cars parked near the school, this is one stretch that I have never had a problem with because I am not a moron.


Mikhail

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Mar 18 2013 at 6:44am #

Val wrote:I’ll drop you off out on I-79

First of all, I’ve been on I-79 on my bicycle. Still alive. And I rode and bunch of other people rode 65 on multiple ocasions and not just on Sandays. And yet again you are proposing to something where drivers are not expect to see and is illegal in general. My expirience is to cross Ohio River to get to Neville Isaland and this is a very specific stretch of I-79 where bicyclist are allowed.

Second, you switched statement from “skyrocketing and multiply” to “increase”. Very significant difference. And what I am trying to that human inttuition does not work well when you are talking about probability. And probability in your case would decrease since you should act predictably and you did not.


Mikhail

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Mar 18 2013 at 6:45am #

Val, you should state what are good arguments for you. Without it the whole thread is pointless.


byogman

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Mar 18 2013 at 7:30am #

@byogman, I don’t understand the hypothetical you constructed. Who was discussing cars following them and hiding them from other cars? I would like to answer but I’m not even sure you were addressing anything I said…”

I was doing my best to understand the blind spot problem. Normally when I think of a blind spot, it’s between the field of view of the side mirror and center mirror caused primarily by a pillar. But 1: you don’t typically stay in those on the road very long because of some relative velocity, 2: if you do find yourself in those for any extended period it’s easy to get out of them by temporarily changing speed yourself. So I assumed you had to mean something that wasn’t obviously and easily under your control since your whole justification for riding the way you do is for more perceived control.

Since you are talking traditional blind spots, let me ask, how the hell are you better off doing surprise lane changes than occasionally temporarily having to modulate your speed slightly to make sure people see you? By your own statement, riding the way you do now, you’ve been nearly nailed countless times in broad daylight, dread the right hook, and attribute it largely to going faster than cars expect. All of these point to the same thing, you should be claiming the lane so cars see you and be in the correct lane so they know what to expect.


rsprake

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Mar 18 2013 at 7:32am #

I don’t know this intersection and I didn’t read the entire thread but this is exactly how just about every person on a bike, including myself, treats the intersection of Liberty @ 40th St and it is now marked and signed to reflect that behavior. Carry on.


Marko82

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Mar 18 2013 at 7:36am #

Val, I’m not trying to argue with you. But the driver’s blind spot is a function of BOTH drivers’ positions & the spot changes as both vehicles move in relation to each other. So there is no way to ever eliminate the blind spot unless you have multiple mirrors arranged to give a wide field of view, and even this doesn’t always work (see video). If you want to be seen, I think it is best to position yourself on the roadway where cars expect to see other cars and obstacles, which is in the middle of the travel lane, not off to the side.


Marko82

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Mar 18 2013 at 7:59am #

Everyone please watch this whole 4 minute video. Then comment on why you would do it any differently.


salty

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Mar 18 2013 at 8:03am #

@rsprake not really the same since there are 2 turning lanes. If we were talking about going straight from the next lane over it would be more similar but in this case you’d have to cut across the path of someone legally turning right to go straight. FWIW, every other intersection on Allegheny Commons has a concrete barrier preventing you from going straight from the turn lanes, not sure why this one doesn’t.

Almost getting hit by someone who was driving legally (perhaps aside from speeding) while you yourself were making an illegal maneuver is a pretty good argument against doing that. If you’re determined to put yourself in that situation again despite what happened and the overwhelming chorus of people here advising you otherwise, then I’m not sure what exactly would convince you.

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