What Makes a Good Ride Leader

Over the last few weeks a group of people that I ride with as well as do advocacy work with has had this ongoing ebb and flow discussing the idea of what makes a good ride leader. It turns out, this is a really hard thing to nail down, because the definition of a good ride, and how to achieve that is largely dependent upon the goals of the person evaluating it.

Perspective is a strange thing, because when you evaluate anything, your own perspective ultimately colors your evaluation. For example to a driver approaching a ride group, they might evaluate the ability of the ride lead based entirely upon how that encounter works for the driver. To them, a good lead would have the group single file, as far right as possible, and actively working to get the driver around the group as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, evaluated by a rider in the same group who is entirely safety focused, they would view these actions as elevating rider risks and thus be a bad leader. To a rider whose goal is to go as fast as possible on the ride a lead concerned about keeping a group together might be a bad ride lead.

It is a complex discussion, but one that is important to people who are out there organizing rides, working with communities on bike related advocacy, as well as being engaged in the communities themselves. Despite that, these discussions have kind of led me back to a single concept that seems to work well in almost all of the contexts:

_ Pride in the Product _

Conceptually, this single idea anchors everything else in the ‘what makes a good ride lead’ discussion. How you go about that, well, that evolves based upon the goals of the group and is based entirely upon preexisting expectations. When a ride lead sets and expectation, manages the group to meet or exceed the expectation, and engages with the group to get them to those expectations, they are taking pride and ownership of the end result, or in terms of the concept, the product.

In Practice – Some Practical Examples

Case: A Group – Speed, Drop Ride, Pace Line

  1. Set the Expectation: “This is a drop ride, and will have an average speed above 20 mph. Riders in the group will be expected to take their turns on the front, and we will utilize a rotating pace line”
  2. Manage the Group: “Start the ride with a nominal neutral warm up” by controlling the pace and letting riders get organized into the pace lines, communicating when the pace will start coming up. Once the warmup is complete, elevate the pace, and start the rotation by moving into the rotation yourself.
  3. Communicate: “Call out your intentions, when needed engage with riders in the group to encourage them to do their part”.
  4. Engage: “Check with riders as you rotate to ensure that the group is hitting expectations, and adjust based upon that feedback”
  5. Post Ride: “Follow up, check on riders that might have struggled or seem to need a bit of encouragement, even it that encouragement is to join a slower group for a few weeks to get stronger and rejoin”

Case: B Group – Pacing, No Drop

  1. Set the Expectation: “This is a no-drop ride, and will have an average effort equal to a ?? mph ride. Please make sure to communicate if a rider is struggling. We will have regroup points. ”
  2. Manage the Group: “Start the ride with a nominal neutral warm up” by controlling the pace and letting riders get organized into the group, communicating when the pace will start coming up. Once the warmup is complete, set the pace and identify riders in the group capable of pacesetting so that you can engage within the group.
  3. Communicate: “Call out your intentions, when needed engage with riders in the group to encourage them to do their part”.
  4. Engage: “Check with riders as you ride to ensure that the group is hitting expectations, and adjust based upon that feedback”
  5. Post Ride: “Follow up, check on riders that might have struggled or seem to need a bit of encouragement, even it that encouragement is to join a slower group for a few weeks to get stronger and rejoin, or to move up to a more pace appropriate group”

While these two examples exist, the pattern remains. Set the Expectation, Communicate, Adjust, Engage and Follow Up. Or more simply “Take Pride in the Product”

Real Conversations With Drivers

From todays local community group.

Does anyone know why it’s constantly soaked on the southbound 400 exit next to Texas roadhouse? I lose traction headed to work in that spot almost every morning

To which the polite and sane response ( this wet spot is the result of a natural spring / upwelling near the roadway ).

If you are spinning the tires, and your tires are not bald, then the odds are you are driving a little heavy footed, because that really is not enough water to a serious issue to someone driving sensibly.That said, on cold mornings, that can become a bit slick from icing, but the patch is so small that there may be some wheel slip, it should not be enough to cause any loss of control ( except maybe your bowels or bladder if you are prone to panic while driving )

At which point the original poster follows up with this gem of sensibility:

it hasn’t been an issue since its warmed up, but I saw it this morning full stream, so was curious. when it was cold outside I went in second and still went sideways right there.

A Few Thoughts:

  • You know it is a problem area of the road, and you still spin the tires every day? *
  • You drive a rear wheel drive, apparently manual transmission and do not understand the relationship of power to traction?
  • You see the water on the roadway, and still elect to drive through with a heavy throttle foot ( while turning the front wheels )?

Conclusion

Please turn in your keys, you are too stupid to drive.

What Are You Thinking?

This remains one of the questions that runs through my mind while I ride. There are so many decisions I see made that are firmly in the WTF category that I honestly have to resist the urge to knock on the window and ask these drivers what the thought process was that led them to a given choice.Today, between driving, and cycling for about 3.5 hours on the roads, I witnessed enough WTFery, that I am pretty sure I spent most of that time shaking my head in pure wonder, asking the same question over and over. What were you thinking?
## Jumping the Red Light to Turn Left
A red Honda Civic sitting opposite me at a red light. Left turn blinker on, but no left turn lane or signal. As soon as the light turns green, stomps on the gas and tries to get through the intersection before oncoming traffic. Almost gets hit by the Ford F-150 in front of me that sees green and gasses it too. The Honda is the angry one honking and shouting. What is the thought process here? All I can come up with is this…

  • Running Late and felt the risk was worth the 15-30 seconds saved.
  • Failed to understand that the left turn does not have the right of way.
  • Believed that the oncoming traffic would see the left turn and give way.
  • Was too busy on the phone to realize the risk being taken.

Passing into the Roundabout

This one I see way too often, but I still cannot figure out the thought process that leads to it. Every roundabout in this area has curbed splitters, ‘road furniture’ to guide traffic flow and the ingress / egress from them. Now, I was on the bicycle, so I assume the thought process is something along the lines of must pass the bicycle, because it is slow. The problem here is that no car, not even the highest end sports cars are going to traverse the direction changes of a roundabout as fast as a bike. We all know that the shortest distance is a straight line. A 1” wide tire can go a LOT straighter and faster than a 9’ wide car.

Sadly, over and over again, I see this. Pass at speed, jam the brakes, then freak out because the bike you just passed is suddenly closing hard and fast and within inches of your bumper.

I’ve got nothing. I’d love to hear what other think…


Passing into Traffic Calming Devices

In a city setting, particularly a pedestrian dense area, the use of traffic ‘calming’ islands has become pretty standard, especially in areas with parallel parking. These stretches of road tend to be narrow, and low speed. In this particular instance, 25mph zone, high density pedestrian in an entertainment district. Driver decides to pass a bike at a high rate of speed, into a traffic calming island. Misjudges the distance and space, and has to brake hard to not hit the traffic island, dodging in well within 3’ of the bike, placing everyone at risk, for no gain.
## Turning Left, into oncoming traffic, into a left turn lane 100’ up the road
This one pretty much sums itself up, and honestly, I have no real thoughts other than ‘my time is important and the 10 seconds saved have more value than lives, including my own’.

Pedestrians Have The Right of Way

… or do they?

I often have discussions with people regarding road use, and who has the right of way. Not always in the context of bikes though, as I and many OGRE’s are also runners, walkers, and generally like to get out of the car from time to time. One of the common themes in these conversations is the concept that a pedestrian ALWAYS has the right of way.

What if I told you that in Georgia, this is not only not true, but arguably, based upon the law as written, the pedestrian on Georgia roads almost never has the right of way?

I must be crazy right? Well, let us take a look at Georgia’s Pedestrian Law, 40-6-96.

2020 Georgia Code Title 40 – Motor Vehicles and Traffic Chapter 6 – Uniform Rules of the Road Article 5 – Rights and Duties of Pedestrians

§ 40-6-96. Pedestrians on or Along Roadway

The original version of this law dates back to 1953, and while it has been altered in small ways over the years, it really has not materially changed in that time.

So, with that in mind, let us dive right into the content.

a. As used in this Code section, the term "pedestrian" means any person afoot and shall include, without limitation, persons standing, walking, jogging, running, or otherwise on foot.

So, a pedestrian is someone on foot, and does not include bikes, electric scooters or other ‘personal mobility devices’. Those items find themselves in other categories, and are not covered by this law.

b. Where a sidewalk is provided, it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to stand or stride along and upon an adjacent roadway unless there is no motor vehicle traveling within 1,000 feet of such pedestrian on such roadway or the available sidewalk presents an imminent threat of bodily injury to such pedestrian.

Well, this seems pretty clear and straightforward. If there is a sidewalk, a pedestrian must use it, unless it is in such poor condition that using can be established to have an immediate risk of injury, with the exception that there is no motor vehicle within 1000 feet, you can move off the sidewalk, but must return if a motor vehicle enters that space.

In short, if there is a car nearby and a sidewalk, you have to be on the sidewalk.

c. Where a sidewalk is not provided but a shoulder is available, any pedestrian standing or striding along and upon a highway shall stand or stride only on the shoulder, as far as practicable from the edge of the roadway.

And, if there isn’t a sidewalk, but there is a shoulder, you can use that, but not the roadway, and you have to stay as far from the road as you reasonably can.

Or, in more direct wording: There is no sidewalk, but still stay out of the way of a motor vehicle.

d. Where neither a sidewalk nor a shoulder is available, any pedestrian standing or striding along and upon a highway shall stand or stride as near as practicable to an outside edge of the roadway, and, if on a two-lane roadway, shall stand or stride only on the left side of the roadway.

Also, absent a shoulder, you need to travel facing traffic ( on the left ), as far to the edge as reasonable.

Or, yeah, you have no facilities, but still, stay out of the way.

e. Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, any pedestrian upon a roadway shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

But, no, seriously, you do not have the right of way, and since this passage use the generic vehicles instead of the specific motor vehicles, that means even a bicycle has the right of way over a pedestrian on the roadway.

f. No pedestrian shall enter or remain upon any bridge or approach thereto beyond the bridge signal, gate, or barrier after a bridge operation signal indication has been given.

Well, this seems reasonable right? Wouldn’t want to be walking on a bridge that is closed for a reason..

g. No pedestrian shall pass through, around, over, or under any crossing gate or barrier at a railroad grade crossing or bridge while such gate or barrier is closed or is being opened or closed

Again, seems reasonable, pedestrians and trains rarely mix well.

So, when DOES a pedestrian have the right of way in Georgia?

Well, 40-6-91 tells us that when in a crosswalk they have the right of way, unless of course they enter the crosswalk at a point when it is “is impractical for the driver to yield.” Which is pretty subjective, and witnessing driver behavior on the roads, the wording impractical is applied in a rather generous manner.

Then of course, there is 40-6-92, which tells us that if a pedestrian is crossing the road without a crosswalk do not have the right of way, and if they are crossing a road where there are crosswalks provided outside the crosswalk, they do not have the right to cross the road at all outside of those crosswalks.

It seems that, NO, Pedestrians do not have the right of way in Georgia

No, they certainly do not, nor are there any real protections for them on Georgia’s roads. However, a couple of cities have taken the first steps in addressing that. Dunwoody being there first to enact a Vulnerable Road User Ordinance. Brookhaven being the second. Hopefully more cities will get these passed soon, and apply pressure upon the state to address its broken pedestrian laws as well as adopt a strong Vulnerable Road User Law itself.

This is not enough though

While these laws being addressed are a great step, they do not address the core problem. They create punishments for those that fail to be safe around other road users, but, the core issue remains the complacency of drivers and the assumption that they have the right to travel at high speeds without due regard for other road users, not just the vulnerable ones.

This is a cultural problem that has to be addressed as well, and no amount of VRU law is going to fix that. That has to be fixed by people like us, every time we see people driving irresponsibly, we have to call it out, point it out and help get it corrected. Only then will our roads begin to be safe for all users.

A Car is Necessary, or is it?

For years I have heard that “You cannot live here without a car” any time the subject of bike and pedestrian infrastructure is discussed, including the concept that a road is in fact bike and pedestrian infrastructure, much to the typical drivers consternation. With “here” being a dynamic thing that generally applies to wherever the discussion is taking place, be it urban, suburban, rural, or no mans land. It is an idea that I as someone that believes in non-car infrastructure usually reject out of hand, but, is my objection really supportable?

In order to understand my objection, we really need to understand the reasons that support the idea that a car is necessary.

  • Every place we need to go is too far away
  • This is not Europe where everything is close
  • We need to carry passengers
  • There is no public transportation
  • It would take too long without a car
  • The weather makes it impractical

While there are many other reasons that get thrown out there, these are the core arguments that we hear used most often. Reading through that list, it seems to be reasonable right? but do they hold up to scrutiny? Before going point by point, let us take a moment to look at some hard data numbers that are relevant.

Commuting

Arguably the easiest metric to evaluate is the commute time and distances that exist today. These distances and times represent what the average person has deemed acceptable, and as such would seem to offer a good reference point.

Time

The United States on average accepts a 26 minute 36 second commute time, each direction. Dedicating nearly an hour a day to the process of getting to and from a job. Since much of my personal advocacy is in the state of Georgia where that number is 28 minutes 24 seconds, the evidence is that here, an even longer number is acceptable.

Distance

While the time is probably more relevant, the distance has some value as well. In the United States, the average commute distance is 16 miles each way. Interestingly, one of the common argument, about how things are more spread apart than Europe, where bike and pedestrian commuting is more widely accepted would lead you to expect shorter commute distances, and yet the average in Europe is 28.5 km, or 17.7 miles in Imperial measurement.

Going Other Places

But what about other important places, like a grocery store? According the the national association of grocers, the average distance to a grocery store is just 4 miles. Schools tend to vary by age group, but even at the high school level the national average trip is just over 6 miles. In fact, the average distance of all combined trips, like errands, meals, entertainment, et cetera is just 9.4 miles.

Occupancy

In theory, the biggest advantage to a car is that it can carry more than a single passenger, and yet 85% of the cars on the roads are single occupancy. That said, this statistic is a little skewed, because what it fails to account for are trips that have more than one occupant for part of a trip. However, these partial trips of multiple occupancy could be offset by non-car transportation, or public transportation if it was offered.

Public Transportation

Sadly, yes, public transportation is severely limited in availability and coverage in the US. So much so that it currently accounts for about 5% of all commuting. To put that into perspective, the bicycle accounts for 6% of all commuting in the United States. This lack absolutely factors into the perception that a car is required.

Speed

Speeds are really where the differences start to show up. While a car is capable of much higher speeds than almost any alternative, the realities of traffic, and the start and stop nature of most of our trips, the real average speed is about 32 mph. Compared to that of an e-bike at 20 mph, or a casual bike at 12 mph, or walking at just 3 mph, the speed certainly does make it easy to think of a car as a requirement.

But is it a requirement?

This is the crux of the issue though. There is nothing in the above data that conclusively supports the car as a requirement. The data presents a case that no, a car is NOT a requirement. We accept a nearly 30 minute transit time. Meaning that for anything less than 6 miles, a bike is acceptable in terms of speed. We do not need to carry passengers 85% of the time, so the car is not needed for those trips. So, really, where is the need? why is it a requirement? The answer is: it is not a requirement.

Convenience

This is the real answer, and this is completely supportable. A car is not a requirement, but it is a convenience. A car makes it easier to go places quickly, and easier to go places further away. Less planning is required, and of course, it removes many concerns about the weather conditions. But these things are all about convenience, and not about requirement.

Exceptions

As per almost any discussion, there are exceptions, outliers that change the equation. There are people for whom the alternatives are simply physically prohibitive. Be it walking or cycling, or even public transportation, there are simply some people that have enough physical challenges that these simply are not options. There also people who would benefit from getting out of the car and engaging alternatives, but who simply cannot consider it due to the fears implicit in the idea that roads are for cars, and that a car is a requirement to live here.

Conclusions

So yes, my objection is fully supportable, and arguably, for the vast majority of the population, the assertion that a car is a requirement really is not supportable from a data perspective. This does not mean that I think we should take away cars, or even restrict them. What it means is that we need to reassess how we as a culture view alternatives, and our infrastructure, and do away with the entire presumption that a car is a requirement, or that a car has a primary right of use to our roadways. We need to return the idea that our roads are pedestrians first, bikes and other lightweight, low speed vehicles second with motor vehicles a distant third in terms of right of way, and right of use.

A Bike Lane is not a response to bike transportation issues

Bike Lane proposals are not about making bicyle throughput better on a road. Bike Lane proposals are about creating space outside of the travel lanes for bikes. It is not a request by cyclists, for cyclists.

Depending upon perception, a Bike Lane is a request to create a safe space for bikes away from motor vehicless, or it is a way to push bikes out of motor vehicle lanes. Either way, it is entirely about making it easier for motor vehicles to operate on a road, and has nothing to do with improving bike transportation and everything about to do with motor vehicles.

If we are honest about this, a bike lane is a placebo to placate drivers, and riders who fear drivers. The real solution to our transportation issues remains, fewer cars, not more, nor automation of them. However, we still need bike lanes. Why? because in order to achieve, fewer cars to make the travel lanes safe and sane to share, we need more bikes, and to get more bikes, we need the placebo that is bike lanes.

So, when the question of bike lanes comes up, everyone needs to get on board because they benefit every road user in some manner or form.

Things People Say

I swear. Whoever changed the law to where bikes are to be on streets were crazy and still crazy as hell. They are asking to be hit everyday. Stay on sidewalks. Or do not ride bikes on city streets at all.

In a recent online conversation regarding the use of bikes and how Georgia law applies to bikes on the sidewalks.

Now, there is a lot to unpack in these 5 short sentences, but it is probably worth it, because based upon the rest of the thread, quite a few people actually believe this stuff.

Whoever changed the law…

Well, this is fairly easy. No one changed the law. Bikes on the roads predates the advent of cars on the roads, and the law reflects that simple fact. Bikes were there first, and they retain the rights of use. In fact, paved roads actually came to be because of bikes and their riders, not because of cars and their drivers. Sadly, this tidbit is very lost on many drivers today, who firmly believe that, “Roads are for cars”.

They are asking to be hit…

No, they are using the roads they help pay for, as is their right. They are asking drivers to honor the laws and not hit them. This argument is like saying that the pretty young lady “asked to be raped by dressing too ‘sexy'”.

Stay on the sidewalks…

The sidewalks that are for pedestrians ( who were exiled there by the automotive lobbies that had to do something to prevent being exiled from cities in the 1910’s and 1920’s because too many non-car users were being killed by cars ). The sidewalks that are illegal in Georgia for cyclists over the age of 12 to use. This would seem to be a non-starter under current laws. For what it is worth, in the states where riding on the sidewalks is legal? they have not been any safer than riding on the roads. Florida for example is both sidewalk legal, and amongst the most deadly states to ride a bike in the US.

Or do not ride bikes on city streets at all.

“Get off of my lawn”. Thank you for your thoughts, but I will exercise my right to use the roads. I pay for them through property, income and sales taxes ( as well as owning a car, and a motorcycle ). Oh yeah, and with rising gas prices, I suspect I will not be alone.

All For One 100 – Please, register or donate

For this I am stepping out of character, and posting this not as OGRE Dru, rabid bike advocate, but instead as Dru, cyclist, spouse, parent, neighbor and friend.

Every big charity ride we do has a benefactor. Many of race for charities as well. Most of us also give in some manner through other venues. Sometimes we choose events based upon a charity organization, but as often as not, our choices are made based upon the course, the sag stops, or just convenience. Because of this, I generally choose NOT to promote most of the big events personally. All of us will find causes that are near and dear to us individually. I encourage everyone to support their cause.

My cause is us. This community of cyclists. You are all dear to me, and that means that I wish to donate and promote a cause that is directly supportive of us, and this community. This is the why of what I choose to do as OGRE Dru, rabid bike advocate, but also how I wish to donate and promote, as Dru, cyclist, spouse, parent, neighbor, and friend.

Which brings my to the All For One 100 and specifically the Van Purser Foundaton. A non-profit ( 501(c)3 ) that exists solely to provide assistance to other cyclists in times of need. In other words, it is a cause that is entirely about us, one supported by us. The All For One 100 is the primary fund raising opportunity the foundation has.

So…

Please register or donate to this event

The ride is October 2, 2021 which is typically a good time to ride in Atlanta. The route(s) are all enjoyable, and since this is an event for us, and by us, they are local, often on roads we ride frequently.

The announcement from the Van Purser Foundation is below, and I just want to reiterate just how important I think this event is to me. Sign up, show up, donate, ride bikes, and enjoy the day. Know that in so doing you are helping all of us in your community of cyclists.

The board of the Van Purser Foundation is delighted to announce that its application for the ALL FOR ONE 100 charity ride has been approved by the city of Alpharetta and North Point Community Church. Starting at 7:30 A.M. on Saturday, October 2, 2021, from North Point Community Church, it will be a fully organized and supported event, drawing on the approach from its inaugural year of 2019.
Your participation in this worthy event and your generosity in supporting the Van Purser Foundation are greatly appreciated.

Register Now

Should Bicycles be Tagged and Taxed

Also filed under “They don’t pay fuel taxes”

Since the subject of bicycles is in the public eye again due to upcoming law changes, many of the old anti-bike arguments are also raising their heads again. To the point that there are at least two concerned citizens that have decided to push the bicycle tag and tax issue with the state legislature. While it is unlikely that those minds of the people behind those efforts will be changed, it is probably still worth discussing the realities of this idea and proposal.

Why Do People Think This Matters

There are two very different and divergent reasons that are presented in this context. Both are arguably suspect and despite the logical foundations in both, they both struggle to hold up under analysis.

Tags Would Allow For Reporting and Enforcement

As any person that has ever filed a non-contact/non-crash related motor vehicle moving violation other than speed police report can tell you, even with a completely clear license plate, there are several additional issues that prevent prosecution in most cases. Any report also needs to include video of the vehicle operator at the time of the incident.

Even with these bits of information, it is a low percentage of incidents that are pursued by law enforcement, and most of those result in little more than a verbal warning. Making this a very low value in terms of enforcement or altering behaviors.

Tag and Tag Taxes (ad valorem fees) Would Fund Bike Infrastructure

Or, would it? In Georgia for example, new cars no longer pay traditional annual ad valorem taxes. They pay sales tax. So, really, this is about the annual tag fees, and perhaps include the licensing fees., since bikes are also taxed at the point of sale ( at least new, there might be some value to second hand bike sales, but there is no infrastructure to track this ).

Either way, a bit of math can give an idea of just how much this idea might mean. Auto tags are $20 / year. Licenses are $32 every 8 years. That works out to $24 per year, per bicycle and licensed operator. Most estimates of the number of active bicycle users pegs the number at about 34% total. However, for adults, that number is typically 29%, and this type of approach is generally targeted at adult cyclists.

Georgia’s adult population is roughly 8.2 million. 29% of that is 2.4 million. At $24 per year, that would be just $57 million per year in revenue. For perspective, the state budget for transportation ( including non-car transportation ), and bear in mind, this is state roads only. It has low impact upon either federal highways, and cite/county transportation budgets, is just 7.27% of a $28.1 billion budget. Meaning 2 billion in state level transportation projects.

Needless to say, the revenue would not even cover the administrative costs of collection and enforcement, all while being an unfair usury tax upon the people that use a bike because they cannot afford a car, a number consistently demonstrated to be about 66% of bicycle users. A group of users that are also disproportionately at risk from car/bike crashes.

Neither Reason Is Justifiable

Then we get to the Fuel Tax complaint. This one holds up marginally better, right up until the discussion embraces the idea of wear and tear, and paying proportional the wear and tear created. Once this is factored in, it quickly becomes evident that there are entire classes of road users that are dramatically underpaying and being subsidized by all tax payers, and these users are not bicycles.

Roads require maintenance because of mother nature and road use. Moisture and temperature fluctuations are primary factors in the side of mother nature. Vehicular use compounds these factors, with weight and speed have direct impacts upon accelerating the break down of the roadways. The heavier, and faster the vehicles, the more damage they cause.

If you consider the ‘Average’ motor vehicle weight to by ~4000 lbs, and use that as a base line for a predicted wear value as the normal, then looking at vehicle weights and how the weight impacts wear and tear, the heaviest rider on the heaviest bike would have a wear factor of 0.00006. Meanwhile a Tesla Model S would be about a 1.3. What about a Chevy Tahoe at 3.6, or a BMW X5 at a factor of 17, or an Amazon Prime Mercedes Sprinter at a factor 21 when empty?

What this means is that every road user in a vehicle over 4000 lbs is underpaying compared to the damage they are causing, no matter how much gas they buy, and the electric vehicles are not even paying fuel taxes.

In fact, when you look more closely at all of this, it quickly becomes evident that the bicycle riders cannot produce enough wear and tear on a paved roadway to cause it to need repairs before mother nature does the work without them. Or more to the point, they are more than covering their fair share through other taxes.

Conclusion

So while, it all sounds good as a sound bite, and an emotional response, the idea of tag and taxes on bicycles boils down to little more than creating an artificial barrier to using bikes on the roads, and one that would be unable to fund adding bike specific infrastructure. But, making matters worse is the reality of the sport and recreational cyclists that these ideas are really trying to target.

Between the income levels of those riders, and the culture within those communities, if there was any plausible reason to believe that these tags and taxes would alter driver behaviors when there are bike/car encounters, then most would pay it, happily. Of course, it would not change drivers behaviors. This is known, because it has been tried, and failed.

Can Bicycles Pass Cars on the Right?

This is a surprisingly common question from drivers any time the discussion of bicycles on the roads comes up. Unfortunately, while the law is fairly clear on this, it seems to confuse a lot of drivers (and cyclists too). So, let us delve into this in detail and evaluate just what the law means and intends. There are several parts to this discussion, and a couple of different laws that come into play here, so we will need to deal with a few different situations to illustrate the issues.

There are really 3 scenarios that exist and raise this question.

Road with a Bike Lane

When there is a bike lane, there should be no doubt here. If a bike is using a bike lane, it is no different than a car in a seperate lane. It should move as far forward as the traffic in that lane allows.

That said, just because there is a bike lane present, a cyclist is NOT required to use it.

Road with a Shoulder

This is where the confusion begins. If there is not a bike lane, does that change things? Well, looking to the law we get a clear answer from 40-6-291.

40-6-291

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of Code Section 40-6-50, any person operating a bicycle may ride upon a paved shoulder; provided, however, that such person shall not be required to ride upon a paved shoulder.

Meaning that where there is a shoulder a bicycle may use it, but they may not be required to use it in the same way as they are given the option regarding the use of a bike lane when it is present. Given that, yes, they absolutely can pass on the right using a shoulder as if it is a bike lane.

Road without a Shoulder

This case is the one where things become a little less clear. Part of the confusion stems, oddly enough, from the very same 3′ law designed to protect cyclists on the roads. For the purpose of this discussion we are going to use the version of the the 3′ law that becomes effective July 1st.

40-6-56. Safe distance defined; application to bicyclist.

(a) The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a bicycle shall approach the bicycle with due caution and shall proceed as follows:

(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the bicycle if possible in the existing road and traffic conditions; or

(2) If a lane change under paragraph (1) of this subsection would be impossible, prohibited by law, or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be at least ten miles per hour less than the posted speed limit or 25 miles per hour, whichever is more, and proceed around the bicycle with at least three feet between such vehicle and the bicycle at all times.

(b) Any violation of this Code section shall be a misdemeanor punished by a fine of not more than $250.00.

When people hear and relate to the 3′ law, the common perception is that it applies to cyclists as well, and that a bicycle must also give a car ot truck that same 3′. The wording of the law however is quite clear. The explicit use of the “motor vehicle” designation as well as specifically addressing as a motor vehicle passing a bicycle and never in the reverse context.

So, no a bike does not have to give a car 3′ feet, and as there is an expectation of shared space, there is no prohibiton from a bike passing a car in the shared lane, any more than there is for a car to pass a bike, given that it can be done safely, and without leaving the roadway or paved portion of the shoulder, something that is a common occurence with cars going around left turning cars, which is, I might add, also illegal.

Things a Bike Cannot Do

All of that said, there are things that a bicycle cannot do to pass traffic at a stop control.

  • A cyclist cannot leave the road and ride down the grass/dirt area next to the roadway.
  • A cyclist (over the age of 12) cannot use a parallel sidewalk ( unless it is a designated multi-use path ).
  • A cyclist may not hold onto a vehicle in the roadway for stability or to be pulled along.
  • A cyclist may not create an impact with a vehicle ( ‘flip the miror’ ) in order to get past.
  • A cyclist may not use a right hand turn lane to filter forward.

Things a Car Cannot Do

There are a couple of common behaviors that are also not legal to be aware of.

  • A driver cannot move over to block a bike lane to prevent filtering.
  • A driver cannot move over to block a shoulder to prevent filtering.
  • A driver cannot allow a passenger to ‘door’ a filtering cyclist.
  • A driver cannot through things out the window at a filtering cyclist.

Conclusion

The reality is, there are few situations where a cyclist cannot legally filter forward, and in truth, statistically speaking filtering forward is the safest and least disruptive model for cyclists to follow. However, there are caveats to this. Large groups generally do not filter. Many cyclists will elect not to filter when they know that the far side of an intersection presents a pinch point that places them at an elevated risk for a crash.