"On your left (or right)"

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Noah Mustion
Participant
#

I’m not a slow rider but I’m also not a speed demon either. Yet, several times a week I get passed by a cyclist going faster than me — fine. Not fine is that very rarely, if ever, has the cyclist announced their presence; instead they silently zip right past within feet. Should I have to dodge a pothole or other obstacle at that same moment, the stupid scenario of bike-on-bike violence would occur.

It’s bad enough to stress about idiotic behavior behind the wheel out there without worrying also about idiotic behavior behind the handlebars. On your left/right, people. Don’t be shy. Say it loud and proud. Tell your friends, it’s the new thing.


ejwme
Participant
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on the super rare occasion that I actually am going to pass someone, and manage to remember to say it, and say it loud enough to be of any good… I get the direction wrong (I’m REALLY bad with L/R confusion, turns out there’s something about L/R brain connection that makes people more likely to have difficulty remembering the two – yes, I’m totally gonna cling to that). (and no, they both look like frigging L’s to me, and no, I write with both hands – the wedding ring has helped recently, and the lack of toilet paper helped in Mali, but it’s still an issue)

Not like I’m doing it all the time, but I do hate that moment of “ohcrapwhichdirectionisthisineedtoshoutsomethingjustpickoneok…” and then they shout the other one after me, to correct me.

So for those of us too confused to really be permitted to ride a bike in public, what should we shout? “Behind you?” “Watch?” (too short I think) “Passing?” “Excuse me?” Is there something that is more helpful than startling but does not contain R/L?


BradQ
Participant
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I generally don’t announce I’m passing someone, I just do it and leave ample room.


Pseudacris
Participant
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Though verbose, I shout “I’m passing on your L/R” and try to do it far enough in advance that there’s room for error for all parties.

I don’t mind being passed unannounced if there’s ample room, but I do hate the “silent but deadly” passers who do their thing in pothole- and door-ridden zones. Notably, the area of Forbes Ave between Wightman and Schenley park, in both directions.


brian j
Participant
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Yeah, I’m with Brad. I won’t pass unless I can safely swing out near the yellow/white line. If the rider isn’t holding a line very well, I’ll clack my brake levers before I begin to pass, too.

Of course, I rarely pass anyone, and generally am the one getting passed. And, as I’ve mentioned before, my experiences are similar to Noah’s, particularly along Ellsworth Avenue.


dmtroyer
Participant
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@bradq +1. sorry if it startles you but I’m pretty observant and cautious and will be able to avoid you if you swerve.


Pseudacris
Participant
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If I may add another Passing Peeve to this thread: its the occasional cyclist who lurks very close behind, waiting for an opportunity to pass, in a zone where it’s dangerous to turn my head and see who the heck is stalking me. Bike tailgaters! Perhaps a mirror would help.


reddan
Keymaster
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I like giving a cheery “‘Ello, mate!” or equivalent, and generally won’t pass without plenty of room.

(And I shan’t even begin my rant on those who pass silently on my right whilst I’m signaling a right turn.)


cdavey
Participant
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Noah’s point is just good common sense. Like him I have found that a surprising number of cyclists (who ought to know better but must think that being a speed demon somehow exempts them) breeze by me without announcing themselves.

I almost always announce myself, even if I’m in a group and someone in front of me has called out. I figure I can’t assume the person being passed knows I’m there just becuase someone else in the group announced our presence. About the only time I don’t is if I see the person has turned around and actually seen me — usually walkers on a trail.

Somthing else I’ve gotten in the habit of doing is that if I’m in a group and know how many riders are still behind me, I will announce that information to the person I’m passing. “On your left, I’m the last,” or “On your left, three more coming.” I often get a thank you for the extra information. If they don’t turn around to look they have no idea how much more traffic is coming from the group and may veer over because they think it’s clear for them to do so.


ieverhart
Participant
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I typically ring my bell to announce an impending pass… and to send any other messages that need sending. Is that enough notice? I feel like any spoken message gets muddled with wind and traffic noises but the bell chime is pretty clear through it all.


edmonds59
Participant
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I’m on the fence. I don’t like startling people, so many times I will just hang back, click the levers until the person notices on their own, and I definitely don’t pass until there is room to give wide berth.

On the other hand, the more people start using verbal signalling, the sooner it will become non-startling to people. So I think people should do it.

Also, as I think about it, I think the “3 feet for passing” should apply to bikes as well as cars. If there’s not adequate room to allow for bobbling, you shouldn’t be passing.

Pseuda, in your case, if someone is hanging back and making you uncomfortable, 1. wave them by or 2. if they really don’t get it, slow down and stay right momentarily until they figure it out and pass. In the case of “experienced” (in no way implyng that you’re not experienced, I just mean used to riding in groups) riders, it probably doesn’t necesarily occur to them that riding behind someone would make them uncomfortable.


Marko82
Participant
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Pseudacris
Participant
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I have noticed lever-click warnings from some people. That’s good enough for me.

+1 to the 3-ft rule


ejwme
Participant
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I just thought people’s bikes were clicky.

I’m an idiot. bell = complete escape from R/L confusion. All the bells I’ve seen have been part plastic, where do I get an all metal bell?


reddan
Keymaster
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Pseudacris
Participant
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R.E.I., Thick, Trek, online. The Incredibell is a good small one.


Pseudacris
Participant
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@reddan, those look sweet!

I wish more companies would post a sound file of the bell…

Like this: http://www.locallytoned.org/tone/93


orionz06
Participant
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I don’t announce. People do not do anything when I do and they don’t do anything when I don’t, not worth the effort. Leave enough room while passing in a safe area and there shouldn’t be an issue.


reddan
Keymaster
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(BTW, Thick is a reseller for Velo-Orange goods, if you see something you like but want to keep some of the dollars local.)


John
Participant
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What Brad said. Yelling something usually startles people and causes them to swerve into my path. It’s like a car sounding their horn before passing you.


ejwme
Participant
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*ding ding*

(rings virtual bell in thanks to reddan for the pointers, those look perfect)


Aaron S
Participant
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What Brad, and really what John said. The only time I’ve wrecked while passing someone was in Frick when I said “on your left” and they swerved to the left into me. Half the time when you say “on your ‘whatever'”, that’s the side they swerve to.


Lou M.
Participant
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^ Agree


steevo
Participant
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I was cruising home last night. I stopped at

Millvale and liberty, waiting to turn up,

left onto lib. Im sitting at redlight in a

spot that if somebody cuts the left down onto

milvalle tight, they wont kill me, as its

dark out.

Some douch comes flying past me, stops in front of me and freaking sits there. He

doesnt say anything to me, has no lights

or helmet, but has a 1k bike.

So since its still busy time we have to

wait for the green at which point pro

douche needs like 5 seconds to get into

his pedal and sits there blocking me.

I wonder why cars hate cyclists?


Vannevar
Participant
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Ref: Steevo. I’ve read that this practice is called “shoaling” but I don’t know the origin of the term. Any idea?

Re: OnYourLeft. That’s a phrase for the cognoscenti (sorry) and civilians just don’t get it. I ring the bell as a good-vibe courtesy to them and I usually say Hello, and I ride defensively as if they’ll never hear it.


salty
Participant
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@steevo – most likely the guy was planning to run the light, that’s what usually happens to me.

either that or just ignoring the white “stop” line like 99% of cars do. if i were king i would make the penalty for that immediate loss of license because if you can’t get something that f’n simple right you have no business driving.


salty
Participant
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fwiw, i usually say “on your left”. sometimes i ring the bell. if someone swerves into you, it’s probably at least partially your fault.


sew
Participant
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I call out “on your left” and add the number of riders behind me, if I am in a group and have time. I do this for walkers as well, unless I have a very wide area though the walkers/runners are often wearing headphones so that is almost useless. I think it’s rare that there are places that I can give a fellow cyclist enough room that there is no chance of collision if I am passing silently.

I use “Bike Up” when on the bike trail and an oncoming biker is riding heads down…this happens so much that it is scary.

I quadruple the distance if the person has a dog on a retractable leash. Yikes, scary getting tangled up with a dog that hates bikes.

I do not pass bikes at lights but if there is ample room between the white line and the intersection where I can pull up safely, I pull in front of the white line when riding my bike only (hoping the texting moron behind me doesn’t plow into me, I guess).

If these efforts fail, I will forgo all maintenance on my bike so it makes enough noise so that I can be heard… :)


Noah Mustion
Participant
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I should have clarified. Going by silent is cool if you leave plenty of room like Brad said. It’s the within 2 feet gang that gets me, and they tend to be the majority in my experience. I understand not wanting to announce cause of ipod zombies, confused folks, etc… in which case leave a wide berth… please.

In other news, often when I say “on your left”, I get a sincere “Thank you” in response. Which indicates that not enough people are doing this.


stefb
Participant
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I will say it usually. Or ring a bell. Or if it is dark (as in most instances of when I ride), people usually see my bright light first.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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This doesn’t happen to me that often, as I’m usually solo and usually faster than anyone I encounter, so I’m the one doing the passing. My method is to pick a side (most often, on the left), get as much that way as I can, and yell OYL/OYR off in a 45 degree angle away from the person. I figure the primordial stereo audio receptors in the crocodilian brain will pre-empt any human brain cells.


John
Participant
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Steevo, did you at least hand him a business card while he was standing there?


Tabby
Participant
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One night I was riding on the SS trail and a young man who was a Pitt student caught up with me and asked if he could ride with me since he wasn’t really sure the way back to Oakland. When we were passing some people on the Hot Metal bridge I shouted my usual “passing on your left”. At the end of our ride he said that he felt like he learned a lot about how to ride and that it had never occured to him to announce when passing. It’s totally one of my ::Great Moments in Bicycling::


steevo
Participant
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John, probably the type of dude that would involve himself in a fsbo


mr marvelous
Participant
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I don’t know why but every time someone says passing on your L/R I always wobble. When someone follows behind me without passing I wobble. It’s so embarrassing. When someone rings their bell three times it works perfectly 1st ring “what was that noise?” 2nd ring It’s a bike behind me.” 3rd ring “Their passing me.”


Swalfoort
Participant
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@Vannevar – thanks for the reference to shoaling. I had never considered this was common practice, and in fact have never really thought about it, but upon reading about it in NYC Bike Snob, I realized that it IS common practice. ALmost universal practice. How weird is that?

Here’s their “quasi definition” of shoaling:

On the other hand, during the week other riders do engage in behavior that is an affront to their fellow humans, and one such behavior is “shoaling.” As I’ve explained before, no rider, no matter how slow or diminutive, will ever come to a stop behind another rider at a red light. Instead, it is standard practice to pass that rider and stop in front of him, even if this involves doing so in the middle of the crosswalk or in the actual intersection, well ahead of the traffic signal. “Shoaling” is an incredibly rude practice, and it’s tantamount to cutting in front of someone at an ATM, supermarket checkout, or urinal line. Yet while people will speak up if someone cuts ahead of them in line, nobody ever speaks out against the equally offensive practice of shoaling.

Weird how a practice like that can be so commonplace, and yet so “invisible.”


ejwme
Participant
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Tabby, that is awesome :D


Vannevar
Participant
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I’m really intrigued at the source of the term shoaling. In bikeforums, mikewille says

shoaling=to pull up in front of someone stopped at a light rather than stop behind them. Multiple riders doing this will line up further and further out into the intersection, much like a sandbar [or shoal] building up at a bend in a creek.

Here’s a very cool YouTube on Shoaling, lots of blinky goodness too– http://youtu.be/0d_8xkv8310


dmtroyer
Participant
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I don’t think I’ve ever been shoaled. I pull up beside people all the time though.


anon123
Participant
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For those asking about the origin of the term “shoaling,” I’m pretty sure BSNYC coined this term in a similar way to how he originated the term “salmoning.” He was complaining about this behavior among NYC commuters in this post, and this is how he describes the formation that results when each bike arriving at the intersection decides to stop in front of all the others already stopped there: “On a busy day, this accumulation results in sort of a shoal of cyclists which juts out into the middle of the street like a sandbar of idiocy.”

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