Thoughts From The Saddle: Driving is Hard

When you ride a bike a lot, you get a very different view of the road, and drivers. Early in learning to ride on the roads, it is easy to conclude that drivers are actively trying to hurt you. It is only after many miles, many hours, and time to contemplate their actions that you begin to understand that the issue is not that they are out to get you, but instead that complacency, convenience and comfort have led drivers to forget one simple thing.

Driving is Hard.

The act of driving a car is a complex task that engages many skills into a single act. Just consider the skills required to control a car. Steering, controlling the speed via 2 pedals (maybe a third). Many people cannot rub their stomach and pat their head at the same time, but we are asking them to steer and control a throttle and brake at the same time. But no, it is more than that, because now that they are moving, the task also means monitoring multiple outside factors, like lane markings, road signage, road conditions, other road users, things that are not in the roadway that MAY constitute a problem. Still we aren’t done, because all of this has to be done while still maintaining the operation within a set of rules that we have applied to road usage, and avoiding other drivers that have momentary lapses.

All of that is a lot to manage. That is an enormous amount of bandwidth and compute power. These are the reasons that computers and automated cars are not yet viable, the sensors, machine learning, bandwidth and compute power just have not reached that level yet, and it may be years before we see true automation that can replace a human outside of controlled environments.

Yet, somewhere along the way we forgot that driving is a complex task, one that requires our full attention. Somehow, we have convinced ourselves that we can drive while doing other things. Somehow, we have forgotten that the faster we travel the less time we have to process and make decisions.

Maybe, it is time to change the message. It is not drunk driving, it is not texting while driving, it is not distracted driving that increase the risks. It is just the act of driving itself, and everything else just makes a hard job that much harder.

How do you make a hard job easier? slow down, pay attention to details, and don’t let the distractions place you at greater risk.

Ride Guides: When to Filter on the Right

A common question in the cycling world is when is appropriate to filter to the front of a line of traffic.

As with so many things there are multiple approaches to the question, but let us provide a guide to work with here. 

First things first, what is the legality of filtering on a bicycle in Georgia?

The relevant law in Georgia is 40-6-43

O.C.G.A. Sec. 40-6-43:

(a) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle only under the following circumstances:

1) When the vehicle being overtaken is making or about to make a left turn; or

2) Upon a street or highway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lanes of moving vehicles in the direction being traveled by the overtaking vehicle.

(b)  If otherwise authorized, the driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety.  Such movement shall not be made by driving off the roadway.

With that in mind, if there is enough road space to the right to pass, a bike may legally pass on the right, particularly in light the ta bike MAY use a shoulder, while a car cannot.

Establishing that bikes CAN pass on the right, and when that is appropriate is fairly easy.  The secondary and perhaps more important question becomes SHOULD they pass on the right, and when is it appropriate.

The question of should boils down to road knowledge and awareness. If you do not know the road, then it is not a good choice to filter forward until you do know the road or can see the other side of the intersection. More important to the decision of if it is appropriate to filter forward is not a question of do you have space on the near side of the intersection, but does that space continue to the far side of the intersection? If the space exists on the far side of the intersection, and allows for a reasonable and safe space to merge into traffic if needed on the far side of the intersection, then for a single rider, or up to about 4 riders it is usually appropriate to filter. There are exceptions, like if the light signal is about to turn green, then holding your place in line is probably the better choice.

For groups though, once there are more than 4 riders together, it is rarely appropriate to filter forward. With a couple of exceptions, the one that seems to crop up the most often is the stop on a steep uphill.  Lights are usually placed on plateaus in hills, and since bikes are at MUCH higher risk of falling during starts on steep uphills, if there is space, a group should slide to the flatter space to reduce the risk of a crash or fall on the hill.

When filtering though, it is never appropriate to ‘swarm’ cars.  Filter along the right, but do not give in to the urge to also flood up the left.

Like most things, this will require situational awareness, and individual ride leaders may opt for slightly different approaches, so please allow them the leeway to dictate how their rides will be run.

Giving Thanks: Mr Mercedes

Todays commute featured a moment worthy of praise. Many drivers do not remember their hand signals from the drivers exams, so while I use them, I am always leery of someone thinking that a left arm extended is an invitation to pass ( it is not, it is a left turn signal ). Needing to get into the left turn lane, I signaled, and this fine driver respected the signal, gave me space and then passed safely after I merged into the left turn lane.

#repsect #thanks.

Wednesday Night W’intervals


Days are shorter.  The time change makes long after work rides difficult, particularly on open road routes. Our hard earned summer fitness is not something we want to lose, and being totally honest, we really want to make gains for our early season events next year. There is only so much indoor training we can stand, and even then while the benefits are there, it is just too easy to not put that work in.

Group rides are just more fun and interesting.

With the end of the summer riding season, most rides shut down until the spring time change.  During that off period, we like to change it up a bit. Instead of 20+ mile tempo rides, we are going to return to our winter interval training. 

Starting on October  16th ( yes, we are going to spin this up immediately after the regular WNR shuts down instead of taking a couple of weeks off this year ), we will start up our ‘W’Interval’ program. 

Wheels down at 6:45 PM. We will ride about 2 miles of ‘warm up’, and then start our intervals.  8x.25mile intervals, with .25 mile recovery in between, with a 1 mile cool down before hitting it hard for one last .25 mile all out sprint, then sit up, cool down and return to the cars.  Should be about 15 miles, and it WILL be a hard effort. 

Route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/28829619

Start: 5530 Windward Parkway Alpharetta, GA 30004.

Speed Limit Sign

Drivers, please note the wording of a speed sign. It is a speed limit right? 

consider the operational word: limit

limit
[ˈlimit]
NOUN
a point or level beyond which something does not or may not extend or pass.
“the limits of presidential power” · [more]
a restriction on the size or amount of something permissible or possible.
“an age limit” · [more]
synonyms:
maximum · ceiling · limitation · upper limit · restriction · curb · check · [more]
mathematics
a point or value that a sequence, function, or sum of a series can be made to approach progressively, until it is as close to the point or value as desired.
VERB
set or serve as a limit to.
“try to limit the amount you drink” · [more]

Is it a ‘speed recommendation’?

Is it a ‘speed requirement’?

Is it a ‘speed minimum’?

No. It is a limit. max, and unless otherwise posted, there is no minimum, and no legal expectation that it is an expected speed of travel either.

Irreconcilable Actions

There are so many things about anti-cycling aggression that I simply cannot reconcile. Obviously, I spend an enormous amount of time in advocacy efforts both online and in person.  I also ride, a lot. As I ride, I get to see a great number of behaviors from people that range from respectful to frustrated to aggressive, all the way to potentially deadly.

For the past week I was on vacation.  I took one of my bikes with me, and I rode at least 30 miles every day, using a mix of road, bike lane, road attached bike path and even some off road trail. Some miles in cycling kit, some not, some even without a helmet *gasp*, which is not something I normally advocate, but I was testing a theory.

The week was spent in a beach destination location, Destin, FL in the panhandle, where bikes and pedestrians are a prominent fixture within the infrastructure, though the infrastructure is incomplete, and in many ways, VERY broken.  Still largely a car centric beach town, there are bike lanes, bike paths, sidewalks, and lots of infrastructure elements that should make cycling fairly attractive. In addition to the infrastructure, the roads are completely and utterly overwhelmed by automotive traffic. One would think that in this environment, all kinds of non-car options would be popular and desired. The reality is far worse than it should be.

If you do not know the area, it is a peninsula of land between the ocean and bay about 25 miles long. At its widest it MIGHT be 4.5 miles.  For most of the way, there is one main road, US-98, and at various points, 1 or 2 alternate routes stretching from the Okaloosa Island bridge to the end of the bay north of Grayton Beach off of 30A.  There is a bunch of residential and visitor lodging along here, and that translates to a very high number of cars.

To combat this, many visitors get to their destinations and rent bicycles or golf carts to get around for the duration of their visit. Bikes are everywhere. People of all ages are riding them.  Barefoot, flip-flops, swimwear, no helmets, no safety equipment.  They are traversing bike lanes and bike paths, often on sidewalks. They use bike racks. In short, they treat bikes like transportation.  They have fun on them, and respect them while they ride them, all while getting frustrated with drivers that do not give the right of way to the bike paths or the walkers blocking the paths walking 5-7 wide.  Then they park the bikes.  They walk or jog on the same paths and sidewalks and get angry at the bikes crowding them, while railing at the cars that fail to respect the bike paths and sidewalks.  Then it is time for lunch, dinner or a grocery run so they hop in the car, and immediately disrespect the bike paths, sidewalks and bike lanes that they just enjoyed.

And even with all of this, when they go home, they cannot see a bike as anything but a toy.

In 7 days of bike rides along this corridor, I lost count of the number of drivers who pulled in front of cyclists and pedestrians alike at the various intersection conflict points, realized the error and shouted ‘sorry’. The drivers did not take anything from those conflicts, since I saw several do it several times in a single drive ( the joy of riding a bike when car traffic is stop and go and averaging just 6-10mph ). These same drivers fail, consistently to respect the bike and pedestrian spaces, even while they enjoy using them, complete with complaints towards the cars that do not respect them.

Then of course there is the same level of disconnected infrastructure that plagues most of the country.  Bike Lanes that begin and end with little to no warning.  Bike Lanes on roads with 65mph speed limits. Sidewalks that stop and start at random intervals. Bike Paths that are multi-use paths, where bikes really aren’t welcome. Poor signage indicating what is and is not legal. For example Florida is one of just a handful of states in which bikes may indeed use the sidewalks.  It is also a state that requires the use of a bike lane if it is present, unless it is unsafe to use ( which is sadly the case for most of them, but local law enforcement seemed determined to stick to the first part of that while ignoring the later and they really do not like non residents pointing that out to them ). Helmets are not required, and only the serious cyclists will be seen wearing them with any regularity.

It is a beautiful thing to see so many bikes, pedestrians, skateboards, scooters and runners out an about without their cars. Lots of smiles.  People waving, chatting, enjoying the outdoors.  It only marred by the disconnect that occurs as soon as we get behind the wheel of a car.

While riding on the same roads as the rented mopeds and golf carts, having the occupants cheer as a bike rides past them, moving over to make space for the bike, and then mixing with cars who go out of their way to block the same bikes from passing. This is a behavior that I have seen for years away from bike friendly infrastructure when dealing with cars. 

The only conclusion that I keep circling back to is this:

Something about the operation of a car has a fundamental psychologic impact upon us.  When we get behind the wheel of a car, we become almost pathologically selfish and isolated, with a must get ahead of *that* person, as all costs.  We take obscene risks with other peoples lives in the interests of getting somewhere just a few seconds faster.

When it comes to advocacy of anything that is not a car, that is the one thing we have to change.  Everything else is slapping a bandaid patch onto that problem. 

Because really, it might just be the car that is the problem.

Test Ride: Possible Route for New Weekly…

With Halcyon getting close to opening, it is time to start testing possible routes for events from there. Looking at a possible test loop this Thursday or Friday afternoon if interested.

Beware, with test rides like this, we may loop through sections multiple times, or try multiple variations of sections during the ride, so this will not be either a smooth pace type group, and there may well be some longish stops mid ride to dissect options.