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flock blocking road

This topic contains 43 replies, has 21 voices, and was last updated by  Mikhail 1 yr, 2 mos.

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andyc

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Jun 12 2013 at 8:09am #

I’m quite certain that this thread is a terrible way to introduce myself but I really must confess…

I yelled at a bunch of cyclists on Penn yesterday afternoon – from the saddle of my own bicycle.

This was on the rather short 2 way section of Penn on the east end of the Strip before Lawrenceville. The group was taking up the entire lane (think an amoeba-like mass 5 wide across the lane). In this section of road, you could probably ride neatly even two abreast leaving enough room for cars in both directions.

I understand that it is not a terribly big deal as that section is rather short and Penn soon becomes two inbound lanes where taking (over) a lane doesn’t matter. I also understand that on Butler St, there is really no way for people to pass anyway so it doesn’t matter there.

In response to my (admittedly obnoxious) hail, I was met with “driver’s won’t care anyway” and “we’re just trying to flock bro.”

I think it is this attitude that agitated me enough to come and say hello on this message board (that I read very frequently.)

Riding en masse should not be an excuse to exercise power over the entire roadway but should instead be the time when cyclists are the most courteous. The group with the greatest visibility is going to have the greatest effect on the opinions of the motoring public. A driver will pass 30 cyclists plodding along like me and another 30 bravely riding at speed in a lane on 5th (by Shady – whoever that was, be safe out there!) and one group taking over a lane and proceeding through a red light. (Stopping first but I will admit that that is a pet peeve of mine.) When that person gets home for the night, their opinion of cyclists will not be that they are responsible fellow road users but instead will be that cyclists are all a menace. That person may then proceed to “like” articles like the incredibly misinformed letter to the editor that was in yesterday’s Post-Gazette. The pervasive attitude generated will lead to the commuting cyclist on 5th being harassed or, in that area of 5th, something much worse.

To paraphrase Chris Rock, “I love people who bicycle but I hate cyclists.” Telling people that I enjoy bicycling is a bit like telling people I go to a Baptist church. People think “You’re with that Westboro group!?”

I implore everyone: flock respectfully and maybe drivers will care. Berate impolite cyclists and motorist alike – and not just on the internet.


jonawebb

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Jun 12 2013 at 8:20am #

I don’t issue corrections to cyclists I see misbehaving, as these guys were — but it does bother me. The same when I was riding into Conneaut Sunday and stopped at a red light at a T-intersection. There was a truck beside me and we were waiting. Another MS150 cyclist blew past me, looked, shouted “clear”, and rode on. To me, that’s just rude. There were all sorts of Conneaut folks out applauding us. We can take a minute and stop for their traffic lights. And we can leave space on wide roads so cars can pass.


Drewbacca

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Jun 12 2013 at 8:37am #

“cyclists” come in all shapes, sizes, and attitudes which are dependent both on the reality of the cyclists as well as the eye of the observer… if someone wants to see bad behavior, they’ll find it. That said, I don’t hesitate to call it out when I see it.

Bro… I actually expect bad behavior from someone that calls a stranger bro. LOL

I don’t think there’s ever a reason to ride more than two abreast in the city (for more than very short intervals) except for very large group rides. It’s bad form, especially when it becomes a rolling road block. People who don’t care about how the inconvenience others, whether it be a cyclist or that car that refuses to get out of the passing lane… are self-righteous.

I think that visibly trying to ride safely and to say thanks when appropriate is the best kind of bike advocacy. After that, the best kind of advocacy is helping new cyclists when the opportunity presents itself (for example, I helped a women the other day who was trying to put a trunk mounted rack on her car. I doubt she’ll ride much further than her own driveway). Lead by example.


StuInMcCandless

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Jun 12 2013 at 11:19am #

I’m trying to understand what difference it makes whether cyclists are a 5-across amoeba, two abreast, or a solo rider taking the lane, so long as we are all in one lane.


jonawebb

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Jun 12 2013 at 11:30am #

@stu, on a two-lane road with wide lanes, that can make the difference between a motorist being able to pass safely and legally, or not being able to pass at all.
Edit, @stu, I see your point now. A single cyclist taking the lane can effectively block passing as well. Yes. But I don’t think a cyclist riding on a two lane road with wide lanes should take the lane in most situations (nor is it legal, as I read the law), and I don’t think a group of cyclists should do that either. (Of course that depends on road surface conditions, evaluation of safety, etc.)


Vannevar

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Jun 12 2013 at 11:37am #

AndyC, I think it’s a great discussion and a whopper of a first-post, very nicely done.

If there’s two lanes moving in the same direction, and a group of Cyclists occupies (oops – that’s a term with baggage) utilizes one lane and leaves the other lane open to Automobilists, what is the functional difference whether the bikes are 2-abeam or 3-abeam?

In that situation (two lanes in same direction) I would suggest: it’s bad form for the cyclists to block two lanes. I really don’t like it when larger groups do that, I think it’s way counter-productive.

Once one cyclist takes and owns one lane, I don’t see an incremental negative effect with three-abeam if they remain in that single lane- but I’m open to illumination.

There is a group in Pgh called Flock of Cycles. I really enjoy riding with them. I’m not sure we should conflate one person’s “we’re trying to flock bro” shoutout with Flock of Cycles, which (imo) is an honorable, reasonable, responsible group of cyclists.

Peace out and welcome aboard, V.


Benzo

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Jun 12 2013 at 12:22pm #

It’s tough wrangling 30+ people in to a cohesive group. I don’t really see much of a problem if everyone packs in to a single lane.

Even on 2 way street with traffic going both ways, it’s not safe for a car to even attempt to pass the group (in an urban situation), so what does it really matter if they are 2 or 5 abreast? In general, this can keep the footprint of the ride smaller, so it doesn’t impact as many other road users compared to if they spread out more. However, blocking 2 full lanes, unless merging the group from one to another, is generally uncool.

In a more rural setting, it can be totally safe to pass a larger group of cyclists like this, and riders should be expected to ride no more than 2 abreast (and should likely narrow up for cars back). More often than not, rural riders are going to be more road cyclist types who are more experienced in club ride etiquette. There are different social norms for cyclists when it comes to purely city riders vs rural riders vs trail riders.


jonawebb

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Jun 12 2013 at 12:28pm #

@benzo, can see your point when the ride gets that big. The OP just said a “bunch” of cyclists (later he says 30), I was thinking 5 or so. With five cyclists I think taking the lane is rude and unnecessary in most situations.


Benzo

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Jun 12 2013 at 12:37pm #

jonawebb wrote:@benzo, can see your point when the ride gets that big. The OP just said a “bunch” of cyclists (later he says 30), I was thinking 5 or so. With five cyclists I think taking the lane is rude and unnecessary in most situations.

Yeah, a small ride of 5 cyclists is self manageable and should pretty much ride 2 abreast at most and probably narrow up for cars to pass. More than 10 or so riders, especially when you’ve got stop lights every block or two, is just going to take up the whole road, and there really isn’t much you can do about it. It’s almost like you reach ‘critical mass’ or something like that.


andyc

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Jun 12 2013 at 1:15pm #

I would estimate around 15 people.

The 30 people I referred to later was a hypothetical 30 different people that a motorist might pass over the course of their commute – as a contrast to a group of riders in one place.

In this case, the group could have easily formed an orderly 2 wide mass on one side of the lane leaving plenty of room for vehicles to pass safely.

This was between 34th and 31st on Penn where it is bidirectional. It is an interesting place in the context of this discussion as that location has all the attributes of a share-able road. (In other words, probably the last place in which a bicyclist needs to take the lane.)

- Wide
- Fairly light and slow traffic (inbound around 6 PM)
- Good road condition from side to side
- Generally no parked cars on the side of the road
- No off ramps or Y type intersections where you might need to be explicit in actions.

—–

Any more people in the group and it would become difficult to keep the group together I think.

If anyone needs a thought experiment, I suggest the following: I often like to think about the very extreme ends of a given thought or problem in order to arrive at an opinion or solution. In this case, the ends seem to be 0 bicyclists on the road and every person in the city is on the road on bicycles at the same time. Plot this in your mind 2 dimensionally against the types of roads in the city ranging from bike trails to 376. My data point is a group of 15 on Penn. What might happen with a group of 300 on Grant? 30,000 on Canton? Thinking is fun!


Vannevar

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Jun 12 2013 at 1:29pm #

Ah, whether to think and model based on the extremes or the middle.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_mean_(philosophy)

vs, among others, the categorical imperative (what if everybody did that)

I think truth and beauty are generally in the middle,
but in a confused time, sometimes truth is at the extreme.
(see: Edward Snowden)


edmonds59

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Jun 12 2013 at 1:34pm #

I don’t know.


cburch

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Jun 12 2013 at 1:41pm #

if the road was pretty much empty of motor vehicles, but had 15 or so cyclists on it, wouldn’t that make their pace the overall flow of traffic? you know, because they form a critical mass of road users.


rsprake

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Jun 12 2013 at 2:20pm #

cburch wrote:if the road was pretty much empty of motor vehicles, but had 15 or so cyclists on it, wouldn’t that make their pace the overall flow of traffic? you know, because they form a critical mass of road users.

This. Plus you mention, “Generally no parked cars on the side of the road.” What happens when the riders are side by side and a parked car is coming up just as a driver is starting to pass?

I understand your POV but I don’t think it matters in the end. The people who are going to get upset over this situation get upset when it’s just one person in their way.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe

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Jun 12 2013 at 3:48pm #

I may be mistaken, but I believe Penn inbound has sharrows.

Also, is it possible the OP was seeing Team Decaf riders?


Drewbacca

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Jun 12 2013 at 4:02pm #

StuInMcCandless wrote:I’m trying to understand what difference it makes whether cyclists are a 5-across amoeba, two abreast, or a solo rider taking the lane, so long as we are all in one lane.

@Stu, I don’t see a problem with this either IF the riders can maintain a reasonable speed. If on the other hand they become a moving road-block… then it’s both inconsiderate to others using the road and in my judgement it is illegal; it is not staying as far right as reasonably possible. I don’t personally see it as a problem so long as cyclists are aware of traffic and thin out the group when someone wants to pass. If we disagree on this, I think that it’s most likely that we have two very different scenarios painted in our respective minds.


StuInMcCandless

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Jun 12 2013 at 4:35pm #

We’re in that fluid area between the rock-hard intractability of statute law, and the variability of each road segment, with more than one variable not controlled. Yes, on that specific couple of blocks of inbound Penn, conditions are ideal, as stated in the OP. True, no need for a group of cyclists to block all inbound traffic. It would be hard to justify needing to do that in that particular spot.

From where I stand, this is one of those Deuteronomy-vs-Matthew arguments, where you can get all fire and brimstone over what the law requires, as opposed to a more flexible approach of yes, follow the law, but be flexible, go along to get along, try not to be a jerk about anything, whether you are atop two wheels or have one in your hands. In short, the law is a good guideline to follow but you don’t need to be hard-nosed about it.


Mikhail

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Jun 12 2013 at 4:40pm #

Benzo wrote:More than 10 or so riders, especially when you’ve got stop lights every block or two, is just going to take up the whole road,

On a club ride PMTCC did around 20 without any problem. Ride leader usually calls if it’s single file, two abreast taking whole line and all gathering points to get people together if they got separates. If there is turn in question usually one person stays at this turn and waits others and continues with them.


Mikhail

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Jun 12 2013 at 4:54pm #

AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe wrote:I may be mistaken, but I believe Penn inbound has sharrows.

Also, is it possible the OP was seeing Team Decaf riders?

Possible. :) But 34th has a traffic light and Y intersection. 31st as well as 32nd have traffic lights and there were quite a few parked cars there yesterday. So it covers only distance from 34th to 32nd. I believe this road has limit 25mph and fast group was going with around 20-22 while mid one was doing around 17.


mr marvelous

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Jun 12 2013 at 4:59pm #

Title of this thread is deceiving I thought it was saying Flock or myself did something wrong.
I feel you are going to encounter good cyclist and bad ones. I just think correcting someone every time they do something wrong and posting it would be exhausting. I can’t imagine anyone yelling at bad drivers then posting on car-pgh every time, then yelling at pedestrians and posting on walk-pgh.
The best anyone can do is lead by example.


bikeygirl

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Jun 12 2013 at 5:12pm #

Agreed with Mr Marvelous…….

I would have to add to this thread that mentioning “flock blocking road” is deceiving. No Flock Of Cycles rides occurred yesterday, and to label it as such without proper identification could lead to other/further confusion…..

Cheers,


stefb

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Jun 12 2013 at 5:42pm #

It was team decaf and I believe I was in the group when you passed. That section is too dangerous to not take up the whole lane. Sorry you were trying to get through, but you we not vocal about it (if you were in fact the person on a fixie.. Around 630-645pm).


Pierce

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Jun 12 2013 at 6:38pm #

Perhaps the OP doesn’t realize there’s an organization that’s called Flock of Cycles; also apparently somebody used the word”flock” during the exchange, so it makes sense for him to reuse it in the title


Marko82

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Jun 12 2013 at 9:43pm #

I was with the slow group of Team Decaf yesterday and we sat behind traffic the whole way in Butler Street when we “legally” could have filtered at each red light we encountered. I’m sure we were more than two abreast most of the time, but we were being held up by the long line of cars in front of us so it really didn’t matter & bunching kept us all together. Funny I don’t remember anyone in our group yelling because the cars were holding us up. And the only automobilist who yelled was because a cyclist (not in our group) filtered up the left hand side into oncoming traffic which was just plain stupid.

OP, welcome to the message board; great discussion.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe

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Jun 12 2013 at 9:47pm #

I think I get the title now.

This is nothing to do with FOC.

It’s just a pun.

“Flock block” as a play on “c*ck block.”

Verrry clever…


Steven

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Jun 12 2013 at 10:52pm #

I thought the reference might have been to something like


stefb

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Jun 13 2013 at 3:45am #

The almost lead group stayed in traffic also without filtering.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe

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Jun 13 2013 at 6:19am #

@Steven: Hm. You may be right.

Plus, none of those sheep have helmets…


andyc

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Jun 13 2013 at 7:32am #

Looks like the south island of New Zealand there. I’m told in a car you just drive through the flock. (Really! You just drive through slowly and the sheep move out of the way.) No undertones here – just commenting on driving in NZ.

On the original topic, I figured the group was just stretching out a bit after the Butler St section that can be a bit tedious. I’m probably just disturbed this week for some reason.

Back to NZ though, it’s a very beautiful country and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I was mostly hiking up and down mountains but bicycling there would be spectacular as well. Helmets are mandatory for all riders. (Did I just open another can of worms?) And remember to keep to the left!


helen s

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Jun 13 2013 at 11:40am #

“I don’t issue corrections to cyclists I see misbehaving, as these guys were — but it does bother me. ”

To respond to Jon- I disagree. I feel I should sometimes take the opportunity to educate people who are “misbehaving” be it cars or cyclists running red lights or driving dangerously. Is silence acceptance?
I am not usually talking about shouting some comment, but rather an attempt at a thoughtful interchange. My partner likes to ask people what color traffic light they do stop for.


Pierce

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Jun 13 2013 at 1:17pm #

“My partner likes to ask people what color traffic light they do stop for.”

Ugh… I had a driver tell me a few weeks ago at a three-way stop sign “It says stop!”

Like, no shit. I would have stopped if only I were literate! My response was (and not very eloquent) “I can see you moron!” Meaning that, I was going north, him south, and there was no cars coming from the other direction with a clear line of sight. What is the point of coming to a complete stop at that point?

If cyclists are breaking the law so much and running so many red lights, there seem to be hardly any accidents for that amount of law breaking. Outside of the guy that got hit by the bus, I’m not aware of any accidents caused by running a red light.

The thing is, I’m smarter than a light bulb and a hexagonal sheet of metal. I’m also a multi-tasker. I can coast at a slow speed AND check to make sure an intersection is clear.


Mikhail

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Jun 13 2013 at 5:49pm #

Pierce wrote:What is the point of coming to a complete stop at that point?

yeah. Exactly. Just ask yourselve nex t time why car should stop completely at that point?


Pierce

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Jun 13 2013 at 5:58pm #

If a car slows down enough to see what’s going on and the intersection is open and clear and has good sight lines, I don’t care if a car doesn’t come to a complete stop either.

There are points throughout the city where there is hardly ever any traffic that crosses through the intersection and it wastes a lot of time/energy for every car to stop when there’s clearly nobody else around

I think a lot of stop signs have been put in place as a speed control measure, rather than because there’s a need to handle intersection traffic. Morningside has a bunch of them and Second Ave in Hazlewood has red lights that do the same thing. It doesn’t work because people just speed from sign to sign or light to light and people like me who are actually paying attention/driving cautiously just get caught in every light.


byogman

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Jun 13 2013 at 5:58pm #

Laws are enforced selectively, not generally against cyclists rolling slowly through a red, but a motorist would get ticketed. That’s OK, the most appropriate role of law enforcement is to contain the harm we do to others. Two tons of steel matter in this equation. Otherwise jaywalkers should be getting arrested left and right.


HiddenVariable

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Jun 13 2013 at 7:53pm #

Mikhail wrote:yeah. Exactly. Just ask yourselve nex t time why car should stop completely at that point?

i have asked myself this in the past, but this isn’t a difficult question to answer. automobiles, as they move on the street, are categorically different from bicycles as they move on the street. the laws that govern how they are allowed to move, and how they should behave, should be entirely different.


mr marvelous

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Jun 13 2013 at 8:01pm #

helen s wrote:“I don’t issue corrections to cyclists I see misbehaving, as these guys were — but it does bother me. ”

To respond to Jon- I disagree. I feel I should sometimes take the opportunity to educate people who are “misbehaving” be it cars or cyclists running red lights or driving dangerously. Is silence acceptance?
I am not usually talking about shouting some comment, but rather an attempt at a thoughtful interchange. My partner likes to ask people what color traffic light they do stop for.

The problem with that is if a cyclist is “misbehaving” running red lights or a driver is driving dangerously and you attempt a thoughtful interchange you are not educating them. Anyone who is running lights or driving dangerously fully understands they are breaking the law. That isn’t educating that is confronting them. If you confront someone who is doing something illegal then you must be prepared for their response positive or negative. That is why I do not confront people who I see breaking the law because there is no way to know what you are getting into.


helen s

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Jun 13 2013 at 8:51pm #

“We can all remind all our friends to properly lock our bikes ”

I would tell a stranger they could do a better job of locking their bike – in a non-confrontational manner.


Mikhail

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Jun 13 2013 at 8:57pm #

HiddenVariable wrote:

i have asked myself this in the past, but this isn’t a difficult question to answer. automobiles, as they move on the street, are categorically different from bicycles as they move on the street. the laws that govern how they are allowed to move, and how they should behave, should be entirely different.

But law is the same for now. And moving at speed 3-5mph — what a level of danger do you see? Especially on the intersection with no traffic.


joeframbach

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Jun 13 2013 at 9:09pm #

To anyone new to the boards, I want to make this clear at this point:

Pierce does not speak for all of us.


Mikhail

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Jun 13 2013 at 9:33pm #

byogman wrote:Laws are enforced selectively, not generally against cyclists rolling slowly through a red, but a motorist would get ticketed. That’s OK,

Ben, selective enforcement is one of the worst thing that could happen to law.

”All People Are Equal Before the Law”

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