How can I be a considerate driver behind bicyclists?
April 10, 2012 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Specifics, please: how can I be a model considerate driver when I'm behind a bicyclist - especially in a park?

I often find myself driving behind a bicyclist, especially in parks, where there are a lot of blind curves and double-yellow lines.

Foremost in my mind is being considerate and safe, so I keep a good distance and don't pass until I can fully see the road ahead and get past the double-yellows.

I often worry, though, that they might PREFER that I pass rather than have me behind them for several minutes. I also wonder, generally, if there's anything else I should be doing.

So, aside from the obvious - keeping an extra-safe distance, and only passing when it's safe and legal - is there anything else I can be doing to be a considerate driver around bikes, especially (but not only) in parks?

And do you, as a cyclist, get annoyed at having a car behind you for minutes on end?

posted by kristi to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
And do you, as a cyclist, get annoyed at having a car behind you for minutes on end?

Yes. It's pretty distracting. But it doesn't make sense to try and fly by when you can't see the road ahead, either. A lot of times I'll use my vantage point to try and wave the driver by if the road ahead is clear.

Have you considered creeping by slowly? It sounds like you don't have many other options.
posted by Chutzler at 10:49 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I both bike and drive. When I'm riding a bike, I would prefer that a driver pass me (safely) than just sit on my tail. However (and, as a biker, thanks!) it sounds like you're cool about sharing the road--and I'm more concerned about people who are going to tail me and then start honking, or get really close. If everyone were more like you, I think there would be a lot more harmony on the road, and I'd be less eager to see the cars pass me.

I'm not sure what to say about your drive, though--if there are blind curves you really should be passing.

Aside: this is why cars need to have TWO horns. One would go "honk honk" like normal, and the other would make a sound like "Doodley-do! Hi there!" I really hate getting honked at, but if there were a car behind be going "Doodley-do!" as a low-stress way of saying, "Hey buddy, can you scoot over for a sec, I want to pass, and, BTW, nice rims" that would be great.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:54 AM on April 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

It sounds like you're already being a considerate driver when it comes to bikes. I ride in a lot of situations and while I have some anxiety about a car behind me, it's really just what has to happen in some cases, especially windy roads with blind curves. My anxiety is almost completely due to thinking that the driver is getting so fed up that they're going to due something unsafe or retaliatory. We cyclists try to be flexible, too, pulling over to let cars pass when it's safe or we think it's just the polite thing to do. Alternately, if I think I need to send a clearer message, I will sometimes take up the whole lane. If a car or RV is oncoming and I know you can't pass me, I may pull out to prevent you from getting hit.

Things to avoid:
- Honking
- Revving
- Being wimpy about passing. If you want to pass, choose to do it safely and confidently. It's knuckle-biting to have a car try multiple times only to chicken out and pull back.
- Yelling at the cyclist as you pass (even a good spirited shout can be hard to decipher as you pass)
posted by cocoagirl at 10:55 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

"do something"
posted by cocoagirl at 10:56 AM on April 10, 2012

I've had drivers follow me slowly for a long time when it was safe to pass and it kind of creeps me out. I mean, I know that likely they're just nervous and overly cautious, but I sort of worry that they're waiting until nobody is around to run me down or something. I usually try to wave people on in those situations but you can't be certain other cyclists would do that.

So I would say, get past me as soon as you can, but make sure you give me a wide berth (at least 3 feet!).
posted by ghharr at 11:00 AM on April 10, 2012

Your intentions and precautions already go a long way, kudos.

On topic, I don't mind being trailed for extended periods but my fiance does. I think that part of this discussion is going to be pretty hit or miss. If you are trailing just be sure to trail far enough behind and be alert enough to stop in time if the rider wipes out or is taken down by a rogue child/dog/obstacle. Pretty scary to think of how that *could* play out.

Oh, and sign me up for a "Doodly-Do horn" whenever they come off the assembly line. Oh wait, my old school beetle already solicits that reaction regardless of intent...
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:01 AM on April 10, 2012

I'm a cyclist and a motorist. As a cyclist, I hate being tailed by a car. As a motorist, I generally slow down and leave at least 2 car lengths between me and the cyclist before passing.

When I pass, if I can, I change lanes entirely. If I can't I wait until it's safe to do so.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:22 AM on April 10, 2012

I ride on urban streets, not so much in parks. It bothers me to have a car following me, but that's because I'm on roads that I know are wide enough for the car to pass me safely, and I usually do my best to get as far to the right as possible to let the driver know that I want them to go around me. If it goes on for too long, I'll usually pull to the side at an intersection and let them pass me so I can shake the creepy feeling of being followed by a driver who is (in my mind, anyway) getting increasingly fed up with me.

On curving roads with narrow/nonexistent shoulders, pass when you can do it safely. If the cyclist is way off to the side of the road, they're probably trying to send the message that they are sharing the road and expect cars to pass them. If the cyclist feels really nervous about safety on that particular stretch of road, they will probably (but not always) ride closer to the center of the lane to make it harder for a car to try to pass in the dangerous stretch.

It sounds like you're already doing a great job! Keep doing what you're doing!
posted by jessypie at 11:25 AM on April 10, 2012

A lot of times I'll use my vantage point to try and wave the driver by if the road ahead is clear.

Yeah, I've had cyclists do that before as well. But if *I* can't see that it's safe to go around you, I'm not going to go around you.

When I am on my bike I too get uncomfortable when a driver is behind me for more than a minute or two, but that's part of the deal we sign up for when we share the road.

Leave plenty of space between you and the cyclist when you're behind one, and pass when *you* feel safe passing.
posted by headnsouth at 11:37 AM on April 10, 2012

So I both drive and ride.

On a ride this weekend I was tailed for a while, not uncomfortably but I cut into a turnout and let the car pass. I've also waved the people to pass ahead if I've got a vantage point.

Here's the deal though. When you're passing you're putting yourself as the driver at risk more then the bicyclist (generally since you're the one who'd be in a head on collision) so don't disregard your own safety in order to be respectful of the bicyclist. If a bicyclist prefer you pass then its upon them to get out of your way or signal to you to go ahead.

One other note, and maybe this is just me, but you can likely pass the bicyclist a bit closer then you think. I frequently will be on the shoulder and I'm kind of amazed when cars go fully across the divider line to pass me. A good 3-4 feet clearance is fine.
posted by bitdamaged at 11:43 AM on April 10, 2012

I get into this situation on my bike a lot on Mercer Island. You're right that hanging out behind a cyclist for too long can be really unnerving. It sounds like you're doing the right things already. Sometimes in this situation I'll intentionally move into the 'gutter' area and hold a very steady line to try to get the car to pass; generally if it looks like the cyclist is in control of their bike and is making a conscious effort to let you pass safely, do take them up on it. I second what earlier people said about being decisive when you pass - the shorter amount of time I have a car on my immediate left, the better (subject to the speed differential being sane).
posted by 0xFCAF at 12:20 PM on April 10, 2012

Best answer: Foremost in my mind is being considerate and safe, so I keep a good distance and don't pass until I can fully see the road ahead and get past the double-yellows.

This is the best (and in my state, the legal) thing to do. When it's safe to pass, go for it assertively. Until then, hang back at a consistent speed a car length or two back. I certainly don't mind being followed when I know a car is just waiting for an opening.
posted by mikepop at 12:22 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're doing exactly the right things. If the weather is nice, maybe, once you're safely past the cyclist, give them a nice slow wave or a fingers-up wave like we have here in the south.

When someone gets stuck behind me on a twisty or otherwise hard-to-pass-on road but is obviously being really nice about the whole deal, I'll almost always just pull way off onto the (here, gravel) shoulder and come to a stop so they can safely go by. (It's also what I do when driving slow old cars and nice people come up behind me.) We're both vehicles, so we should cooperate as much as we can!

P.S. as mentioned above, I think you shouldn't trust the cyclist giving you the "waving you around" motion, nor do I think cyclists should generally wave people around. I've seen a lot of cyclists get it wrong, thinking there's enough distance to the next blind curve/hill, under-estimating how long it will take to accelerate past. Then, suddenly, oncoming car.
posted by introp at 12:55 PM on April 10, 2012

The preference of the cyclist is not an issue. You operate your vehicle safely at all times and that means staying behind until it is safe to pass. This is on a par with the instruction in the UK highway code not to take notice of people waving you on.
posted by biffa at 1:18 PM on April 10, 2012

I'm a cyclist. The truth? It makes me SUPER ANTSY to have a driver behind me, unable to pass - but this is 100% because I'm always convinced the driver hates me for being slow and is going to get fed up and try to pass in an unsafe manner eventually. If there's no easy way to pass, I always pull over and let the car go. I'm just not gutsy enough to wait.

Honestly though, don't worry about how the bicyclist feels; it won't help. Just worry about being safe. And don't pass at 100 mph just to passive-aggressively indicate to the bicyclist how irritated you were about driving slowly. Sounds like you would never do that anyway.
posted by Cygnet at 2:00 PM on April 10, 2012

One thing to keep in mind is that I can't see your taillights until after you've passed me. So if you pass and then immediately turn right, I won't have any time to notice your turn signal and I'll be surprised and terrified when you suddenly cut across my line.

Another thing: bicycles accelerate more slowly than cars in both directions. So please don't pass me right before a stop sign or red light, because once you hit the brakes you'll decelerate much faster than I can and I may rear-end you.

Other than that, if it's safe, go ahead and pass me. Just pop over three feet or so (that's enough room, both in practice and in court) and go by at your normal cruising speed. No need to wave or honk or wait ages.

There's actually a neat trick for honking quietly, which I have seen demonstrated on a Nissan Quest. From the outside it looks like the driver raised his clenched fist and dramatically smashed it into the steering wheel, but instead of the usual loud blaring sound I heard a soft little "boop!". Maybe he kept his wrist loose and gently bounced his hand off the horn? I don't know. In any case, if you don't know how to do this, please don't honk before you pass or (worse) as you pass. The horn is so loud I may very well flinch, and then I would swerve unpredictably.
posted by d. z. wang at 2:34 PM on April 10, 2012

Please don't honk at me. If you need to "doodly-do" just roll down your window and say something -- I'll hear you.
posted by Rash at 2:40 PM on April 10, 2012

There's actually a neat trick for honking quietly, which I have seen demonstrated on a Nissan Quest. From the outside it looks like the driver raised his clenched fist and dramatically smashed it into the steering wheel, but instead of the usual loud blaring sound I heard a soft little "boop!".

Yes you can do this. You make a fist and punch the steering wheel and let it bounce off, like hitting a large drum. Sounds like the car just had a hiccup, it's basically the first 0.3 seconds of the horn sound before it gets loud.

I do this at the traffic lights when the driver in front of me is texting or searching for something in his glovebox and the lights have just turned green for us and I know for sure they don't know and I don't want to be the asshole that slams on the horn the moment the guy in front of them is 1 second slow off the lights.
posted by xdvesper at 5:12 PM on April 10, 2012

Best answer: you shouldn't trust the cyclist giving you the "waving you around" motion,
You shouldn't trust anyone on the road doing that. My daughter was in a serious head-on accident because she trusted someone who waved her across an intersection. Someone who hadn't checked his mirrors and didn't see the 4WD speeding in the outside lane, hidden by the lane of stopped vehicles waiting to turn.

I often come across cyclists on the twisty roads around my place and am rarely on the bike end of the equation. I'm very nervous on a bike being followed by a car, so act accordingly when driving. I hang well back and pass as soon as possible, though I pay less attention to double lines than I do to safety, because I need much less distance to pass the average cyclist than a car due to the speed differential. Hanging further back actually makes passing quicker and safer, because you can accelerate before pulling out, minimising the time you are on the wrong side of the road.
posted by dg at 6:50 PM on April 10, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the great answers and reassurance. I love the idea of a "doodley-do" horn, although I'd probably want it to say, "Hey, I'm fine back here, no hurry, I'll slide on past you as soon as it's safe."
posted by kristi at 12:18 PM on April 14, 2012

« Older Help! I lost most of my Chrome bookmarks   |   How to Display Images Correctly Using Cargo Theme? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.