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stupid to pass another bike at a light as it turns green

This topic contains 36 replies, has 17 voices, and was last updated by  Drewbacca 10 mos.

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kooklie

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Sep 27 2013 at 8:31am #

To the bicyclist that I talked with on the 31st Bridge this morning at 9:15AM: Yes, it was indeed stupid to pass me at the corner of Butler and Penn Ave. at full speed as the light turned green. The light had just turned green. You came down penn ave. going, fast with no braking at all, onto Penn well within a couple feet of me as I was about to start pedeling through the intersection. What’s the purpose? I commute EVERY day. I’ve already got trucks, buses, and cars to worry about. I don’t need to have to worry about being swiped by another bike just because you don’t want to slow down for a FIVE-way intersection. Ideally, Darwin will resolve your riding style – e.g., you then proceeded to blow the stop sign going onto Washington’s Landing. But, for now, I don’t want to be taken down in your idiot storm. So, in short, grow up, obey lights. But most importantly, don’t expect me to do anything that you can predict with enough certainty to pass within a couple feet of me at a five-way intersection like you did. I would be glad to move beyond anonymity and meet with you at your convenience.


gg

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Sep 27 2013 at 9:07am #

Was the light green? I can understand passing too close, but if the light was green, maybe the cyclist had a good view of what traffic was doing at the time he/she proceeded? Don’t know, but it seems you are stating the light was green.


Mikhail

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Sep 27 2013 at 9:22am #

kooklie wrote:The light had just turned green. You came down penn ave. going, fast with no braking at all

What is wrong with that? And if two feet of clearance on trails is enough why it’s not enough on streets? Riding two abreast (it’s OK in PA) is riding about two feet away.


kooklie

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Sep 27 2013 at 9:35am #

“… as it turns green” is the situation… So, as the light turns green, the cyclist buzzed past me at full speed, between me and a car. Had the car or me moved a bit beforehand, there would have been an accident.


JaySherman5000

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Sep 27 2013 at 9:44am #

If the cyclist in question had a clear view of traffic and knew the light was turning green (perhaps bc they ride through that intersection everyday and know the signal pattern), I can’t see too much wrong here. It’s maybe a dick move to Cat6 an idle cyclist while you’re bombing a hill at 35+ mph, but 2 feet is plenty of clearance for bike-on-bike maneuvers.

It sounds like the startling effect of having something pass you that closely and quickly was the real cause of annoyance, not necessarily an unsafe act. (Probably a stupid act though.)


WillB

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Sep 27 2013 at 9:49am #

Here’s a good rule of thumb: don’t pass another cyclist who is stopped at (or slowed by) a traffic control device. Are they stopped at a stop sign? You should also stop (or at least slow down); if you’re riding faster than they are, then pass once you are both through the intersection.

My preference is that cyclists obey traffic laws, but I understand that some riders will ignore traffic signals when they think it is safe. So be it. But if someone in front of you is obeying the signal, it’s just rude to go flying by them in close proximity.


WillB

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Sep 27 2013 at 9:52am #

JaySherman5000 wrote:2 feet is plenty of clearance for bike-on-bike maneuvers.

If cars need to give four feet, then so do other bikes. The whole point is that getting passed at close range is startling, and being startled while riding your bike in traffic is a bad thing.


jonawebb

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Sep 27 2013 at 9:53am #

It sounds pretty dangerous to me. Not just startling. The real dispute here is whether it was two feet or a bit more or less. The scenario @kooklie describes, someone moving a bit, could easily have happened, and removed any margin for error. And all the cyclist gained from this is a bit more speed in traffic. If a motorist behaved like this, we’d be all over him.


kooklie

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Sep 27 2013 at 9:56am #

I’m glad folks are discussing this. For me, being stupid is unsafe. I commute all year, including in the winter. The “sometimes” bikers are always a menace in the Spring and Fall.


reddan

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Sep 27 2013 at 9:59am #

I like @WillB’s rule of thumb. And yeah, it seems at least rude, if not categorically unsafe.

In a case like this (assuming I’m the stationary cyclist next to the car at the light), I could easily see a problem occurring if I were to signal with my left hand…zippy cyclist gets clotheslined, and I get a busted-up arm.

But, I wasn’t there, so can’t really speak to the relative safety of the situation.


edmonds59

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Sep 27 2013 at 10:01am #

On board with WillB and Jonawebb. Nothing to add, except, douchie move, un-named cyclist. Also, I guess, esp. “If a motorist behaved like this, we’d be all over him.” That.


Lou M.

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Sep 27 2013 at 10:15am #

This morning I had two people pass me as I was queued in line behind a few cars at Baum & Negley and filter up to the light. I then proceeded to pass one as I continued on Negley and watched the other not signal twice making turns while the other continued to go through stop signs on Ellsworth. These did not appear to be casual riders as I have seen this repeat offender (purple back wheel + fender) on other mornings.

Great morning for giving us a bad name.


JaySherman5000

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Sep 27 2013 at 10:36am #

@WillB: going off of kooklie’s description, the offending Cat6er passed through the intersection when the light was actually green. It sounds like they even timed their descent to match the light changing. So, in that case, they weren’t violating a traffic control device.

That said, I still agree with Mikhail: we give other cyclists less than 4′ all the time, because it is not unsafe to do so. The 4′ law is written specifically for motor vehicles overtaking cyclists, because the law takes into account the obvious difference between 200 lbs and 2000 lbs. I do think it’s a dick move to startle someone in traffic the way OP described, but it’s also not necessarily a big deal to pass someone with 24″ of clearance.


Drewbacca

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Sep 27 2013 at 11:01am #

#1 most important thing to keep in mind while riding/driving/walking/etc. BE PREDICTABLE. By the sounds of it, the cyclist in question wasn’t being predictable… maybe not reckless, but definitely unpredictable which can be just as unsafe as being reckless.


Mick

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Sep 27 2013 at 11:15am #

WillB wrote:If cars need to give four feet, then so do other bikes.

This would make sense – but it is not the law.

It would also make sense that bikes should be required to give cars 4 feet of clearance (say, when filtering), but this is not the law.


jonawebb

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Sep 27 2013 at 11:24am #

Yeah, but the OP was discussing safety, not the law. Not everything that’s legal is safe. I don’t think the four foot rule should apply to cyclists, but I sure do think whizzing between a car and a cyclist stopped at a light is unsafe.


Mikhail

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Sep 27 2013 at 9:39pm #

kooklie wrote: between me and a carAnd you forgot to mention this “small” fact.


Mikhail

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Sep 27 2013 at 9:40pm #

WillB wrote:Here’s a good rule of thumb:

And green light is not relevant to this rule.


Mikhail

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Sep 27 2013 at 9:41pm #

WillB wrote:
If cars need to give four feet, then so do other bikes.

Can you quote the law with this requirement?


Mikhail

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Sep 27 2013 at 9:58pm #

jonawebb wrote:It sounds pretty dangerous to me.

John, on any rando, or on trail watch how people pass you, and how you pass people.

My road race bike is 44 cm wide (a little bit more than 17 inches.) My shoulders are 55 cm (21.5 inches wide). My elbow to elbow is 61 cm (2 feet). My old Miyata bicycle has steering bar oner 2 feet width. Some people put mirror on end bars. Bicyclist on a bike is a little bit over two feet. Bicyclist moves usually at least two feet away from curb (pedal and legs are about 2 feet away to be exact — there is no difference on race road bike, it could be on MTB like bike). Remember that 4 feet law is in PA. It’s 3 feet on other states. And it considered to be safe. So 2 feet on a bike is plenty of space.

Two bicyclists abreast — 2(from curb)+2(bike 1)+2(distance between bikes)+2(bike 2)+2(from line)=10 feet — full blown narrow lane and just 2 feet to spare on 12 feet lane.

PS Are you riding tomorrow? We can verify all this.


edmonds59

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Sep 28 2013 at 6:25am #

I don’t think the key issue is the absolute legality of it or the physical distance, but the unpredictability of it, and the lack of a sense of general road courtesy. If I was going downhill at speed, had a green and the right-of-way, I MIGHT have gone to the LEFT of the car and not BETWEEN 2 stopped or slower vehicles. That was just amateur.
Nonetheless, even blowing through a green light that has vehicles at any of the 4 directions at high speed is stupid and amateur. Our un-named cyclist is a T-bone waiting to happen.


jonawebb

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Sep 28 2013 at 8:32am #

@mikhail, my bike needs some work and anyway I want to practice for DD. So no rando ride today. But anyway, of course it’s different riding together. You can pass with a few inches clearance, safely. Unexpectedly blasting by a cyclist who is stopped, next to a car, which could open its door or move at any time, is dangerous dangerous. But not illegal, and I don’t think it should be, either.


Ahlir

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Sep 28 2013 at 9:49am #

1. The point should not be that bikes don’t have to follow car rules, the point should that speed differentials are dangerous. I don’t care if you’re on a skateboard, if you (somehow) pass me at +35mph you are being stupid and are likely to hurt someone.

2. The strafing biker doesn’t sound like much of a biker, how else would @kooklie catch up to him/her on the bridge?


Drewbacca

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Sep 28 2013 at 2:05pm #

I look at it as an issue of available lanes. What the cyclist did would be OK if there was a wide open lane, no different than a car approaching a light that just turned green… if there are two lanes in a given direction and one car is at a full stop due to a just-changed light, the other car will change lanes (to the open lane) and maintain speed.

In the case of a single lane, the fact that there was another cyclist already stopped at the intersection is irrelevant. There was no lane available for safely passing the car, and the cyclist took it upon himself to imagine one and take it which is incredibly dangerous. Add the other cyclist, already stopped to the scenario, and the recklessness of the behavior becomes even more apparent.

I believe, legally speaking, that the appropriate thing for a cyclist to do while riding on a single lane road is to come to a full stop behind the last car stopped at the light… take the lane and wait your turn in traffic. The fact that we get away with moving forward and ahead of the line of cars at a light (albeit in the shoulder or far right) is more of a courtesy/privilege than it is a right of way. I go to the front of a group of cars for one reason when at a stop light, and that is for visibility to traffic in all directions. If traffic is going from stop to go at a light, and a cyclist is riding the road (not a designated bike path, which is sort of like a second lane), then it’s the cyclists responsibility to come to a stop behind the row of cars and wait his turn. If there is a dedicated cycle-path (with another cyclist already in it), then the rule is the same… the approaching cyclist should stop and wait his turn.

It’s not written in black&white as a cycling law, but it’s easy to transfer the rules of driving an automobile over in this case.


floggingdavy

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Sep 28 2013 at 2:09pm #

“I commute EVERY day. ”

“I commute all year, including in the winter.”

These types of comments make me wish i was the one that passed you.


kooklie

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Sep 28 2013 at 9:16pm #

“These types of comments make me wish i was the one that passed you.” mr. davy, I guess i’m more interested in staying alive than being witty 24/7… be safe.

Drewbacca… nicely said.


Mick

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Sep 30 2013 at 5:24pm #

Drewbacca wrote:I believe, legally speaking, that the appropriate thing for a cyclist to do while riding on a single lane road is to come to a full stop behind the last car stopped at the light… take the lane and wait your turn in traffic. The fact that we get away with moving forward and ahead of the line of cars at a light (albeit in the shoulder or far right) is more of a courtesy/privilege than it is a right of way.

I won’t wait in a line 150 feet long that is there because a dozen people each feel the need to haul a ton of steel around where ever they they go.

The suggestion makes me angry.

My understanding is that filtering is my legal right. If somehow it isn’t, it SHOULD be.

My “turn” is not waiting behind a car, breathing their exhaust .

I try not to antagonize drivers, but making them happy isn’t my job.


Pierce

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Sep 30 2013 at 5:27pm #

How many seconds would it take a bicycle to move over two feet diagonally? Like say if there’s a parked car ahead or I’m going to take the center of the lane, or make a upcoming left hand turn, etc, etc, I may not move straight, I may move diagonally

Does the cyclist going through the intersection everyday know what I’m doing from a dead-stop?


Drewbacca

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Sep 30 2013 at 6:19pm #

Mick wrote:

I won’t wait in a line 150 feet long that is there because a dozen people each feel the need to haul a ton of steel around where ever they they go.

The suggestion makes me angry.

My understanding is that filtering is my legal right. If somehow it isn’t, it SHOULD be.

My “turn” is not waiting behind a car, breathing their exhaust .

I try not to antagonize drivers, but making them happy isn’t my job.

You’re being self-righteous. I think this is because you misunderstand me? I’m not suggesting that you should sit back and breath exhaust. There is a safe way to filter and a reckless way to do so.

What does it matter if it is a twenty-pound bike or a two-thousand pound car? It’s a public road and you both have an equal right to it. The point of rules/laws is to create predictable circumstances that ensure everyone using the road is as safe as possible. If you want to take the lane, you are expected to follow the same rules as the person in the car. Would you just as quickly filter through if you were on a motorcycle, just because you can? Is that any different than a bicycle?

Let’s turn the table on things a bit…
Do we have a responsibility to not pass a car if there isn’t four feet available? After all, when you filter, you are essentially passing. Filtering is even more dangerous because the driver may have no idea that you are there since they are reliant on rear-view mirrors. Why should a car have to give four feet if we don’t need four feet to pass them at an intersection? I suppose it is different considering the likely speed involved… but, say you are doing ten mph, how is it any different than a car passing you at 35 when you are doing 25? We still want the four feet, right? It’s predictable and a courtesy, thus why it is the law.

That said, I’m not saying that you should wait in line behind a bunch of cars… but you certainly can’t pass them at full speed in a non-existent lane with them unaware of your presence. To do so is beyond foolish and echoes the point of the OP. If you are filtering up at what amounts to 5mph to get to the front, that’s a lot different than the canyon carving that you have me imagining right now.


helen s

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Sep 30 2013 at 8:24pm #

My thought on filtering is that if there were 25 bicycles waiting single file along the curb at a red light, I cannot imagine any cars waiting behind them all if they thought they could move up to the front of the lane.

I do think moving bicycles should give 4 feet to pass also, and blowing through the light at high speed the instant it turns green is dangerous if not discourteous.


Mick

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Sep 30 2013 at 8:48pm #

Drewbacca wrote:Why should a car have to give four feet if we don’t need four feet to pass them at an intersection?

They should give me 4 feet because the law speccifes that they give 4 feet (for good reason).

I’m not putting them in danger when I pass closely. Perhaps that’s why the law does not mandate that I give them 4 feet.

I am extremely cautious when I filter (which is often).

Not often would I be going 10 mph when I filter.

If a car passes me closely at 10 mph when I stopped, that would be a different thing from a car passing me at 35mph when I’m going 25.

To be honest, if I am stopped and car cautiously passes me at maybe 5 mph and 20 inches, it wouldn’t phase me. Illegal? Sure. But I’m OK with it. Not so, if I were moving briskly and the car was going slightly faster.

When I filter, I don’t care if the drivers see me or not: they aren’t moving. If I’m coming up next to a car and his chance to move comes, I brake.


byogman

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Sep 30 2013 at 8:57pm #

Referring to the original post, I do think a cyclist can pass another with less than 4 feet clearance, even on the road, provided relative velocities are low. Less than ok for motor vehicle to do due to heft, but there’s nothing magic about 4 feet, I more if they feel they must pass at high relative velocity.

I’ve deviated from the originally described circumstances of course, but to speaks to the question of filtering, which is where we’ve jumped the tracks to at the moment.

I don’t filter much, but I certainly do it some. Most of the time pretty slowly, how slowly depending on clearances. I don’t limit myself to 4 feet, but also, by in large I do it only before right turns, or approaching stoplights that I know from experience with the intersection and observation of light timing (I’ll never jump a light I didn’t see turn from green to red) I’ll get a clear shot to cross before the light turns for the cars.

Though it’s legal, I consider filtering more questionable in practice than crossing a clear looking intersection against the lights and by in large do the former only when I can ameliorate the danger by the latter. It sounds weird, but if you assume you’re invisible in that position, which you kinda are, it makes sense again. All it took was a couple unfun times being in the “filtered” position when the light turned to drive the point home.

In fact, let’s throw this out this there too. On roads with multiple lanes of through traffic in the light jump scenario I will filter left of right lane traffic not right in any of the following scenarios… if that’s where the filtering space is, if I see right turn signals on in the right lane, or if the last vehicle in the right lane is large and make light jumping more questionable.

At least, someone has yet to convince me it’s truly dangerous in practical terms. It is makes you more visibly annoying but visibility is a plus that outweighs the annoyance provided you’re going to get through that light, which I generally do. And the couple times when I haven’t, I find in spite of the annoyance, I tend to be let back into the right lane much more freely from the “oh g-d, what the ^&* is this idiot doing” position than from the passive hugging the right position.


HiddenVariable

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Sep 30 2013 at 9:10pm #

what i took away is not that the jumping the light is the problem, nor even passing a stopped cyclist as the light changes (though the thread title does lead you in that direction; i chose to ignore it).

rather, what is dangerous and foolish is to pass closely at high relative speeds. i do regularly pass (nearly) stopped bikes in the green bike lane as the light changes when i head down liberty inbound. i take the lane in automobile traffic to do so, and there is a lot of room there due to the size of the intersection. i very highly doubt anyone minds, and if they had the momentum i had coming through the intersection, i would imagine they would do the same thing, and i would welcome it.

but if i’m walking on a trail, or about to take those first few (wobbly?) turns of the pedal from a stopped position, i do not want people passing me at high speeds within two feet. i would give like 7-8 or slow down or both, and that’s about what i would expect from others.


Drewbacca

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Sep 30 2013 at 11:10pm #

Mick wrote:I am extremely cautious when I filter (which is often).

That being the case, I think everything else I’ve said is irrelevant as it doesn’t pertain to your riding style. :)


floggingdavy

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Oct 1 2013 at 12:39pm #

‘ mr. davy, I guess i’m more interested in staying alive than being witty 24/7… ‘

your language makes you sound like you are taking some asinine moral high ground because you “commute EVERY day.” who cares how much you ride? you can be concerned about safety without some macho “I commute EVERY day” comment. and if you think what I said was witty, you should check out Highlights for Kids, it’ll blow your mind.


Pierce

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Oct 1 2013 at 2:24pm #

I think the context lends itself to a different intent:

“What’s the purpose? I commute EVERY day. I’ve already got trucks, buses, and cars to worry about. I don’t need to have to worry about being swiped by another bike just because you don’t want to slow down for a FIVE-way intersection.”

I took it more like “I already have enough crap to deal with everyday, without having to worry about other cyclists.”

The second message was indicating that seasonal cyclists may cycle more erratically, which I tend to agree with. That being said, I’m sure there are four season bad cyclists too


Drewbacca

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Oct 1 2013 at 2:52pm #

floggingdavy wrote:
your language makes you sound like you are taking some asinine moral high ground because you “commute EVERY day.” who cares how much you ride? you can be concerned about safety without some macho “I commute EVERY day” comment. and if you think what I said was witty, you should check out Highlights for Kids, it’ll blow your mind.

I fail to see where this is being macho or on any moral high ground… it’s just your perception. No need to flame over it.

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