View Full Version : Input needed on How to pass/Bicycle etiquette

04-26-2006, 05:19 PM
Fellow cyclists, so that I may prevent future incidents (like the one described below), I ask you:

1. What is the consensus for too close for comfort. The concept of "safe distance" between myself and the slower rider clearly had very different interpretations.
2. If you would, please offer input regarding the responsibility for riders who may be passed, (all of us at some point) generally I prefer the vehicle rule, "stay right unless passing."
3. Finally, what of a safe following distance? I like to be able to see what is in front of the rider who is in front of me (this is difficult if I am behind a really large rider).

Although speed may be a factor, particularly the difference in speed between two riders, I don't feel miscellaneous things need to be considered such as bells, horns, yelling, mirrors, visibility, weather, gender, rider experience (although young children on bicycles/tricycles should always be approached with great caution).

Perhaps the work has already been done, in which case please share your sources.


Today (Wednesday, April 26, 2006), while crossing the Hawthorne bridge shortly after 5PM, I came upon a slower rider while I was attempting to gather speed for the slog up the Eastside Industrial train overpass (this is just before the uncomfortable ramp where the bicycle route delivers bicyclists from sidewalk onto the road side bike lane). Before passing, I spoke loudly "passing left." I must have misread the slower bicyclist's slight movement to the right as the beginning of an acknowledgement of being passed. "Whoa," said the slower cyclist as I pulled past approximately 1 foot away from her. Foul already committed, I continued to pass.

Despite the fact that I did not wait through precious inertia gathering crank strokes for the slower rider to fully move right, the fact that she was startled (recall "whoa"), and my inability to read another's mind, I feel that the clearance between the two of us was close but acceptable.

As spring blooms into summer, and more fair weather cyclists are on wheels, these things are on my mind.

Good Cycling All,

04-27-2006, 08:41 AM
Everyone is going to have a different take on this. Here is my view.
One has to do with your ability, if you feel you can take a good line, and the other is the cyclist you are passing. Since I feel pretty confident about my riding abilities, I am comfortable riding closely to a complete stranger.
As you ride up on a person, you can usually tell how good they are. I make some of this by stereotype, are they riding a road bike, and in lycra? Yes = definately okay to get close and you won't bother them.

If they are going slow, and don't look like they ride often, I give them a lot of warning and a lot of room. The reason why the person probably said whoa was because you startled them by going by too fast and too close. On a bridge, this can cause that rider a lot of problems, because they are already nervous due to the height (and the steel grating on that bridge). This not only for the other rider, but also my own safety of them swerving in to me. The person probably swerved only because you took away their attention or startled them, not due to expectation of you to pass.

It is easy to do what you did, and I have done it when I wasn't thinking ahead. It is truly a judgement call for you to make. I try to consider that when I am riding my road bike and scare someone, I am setting a stereotype of those "roadies".

05-12-2006, 07:37 AM
It seems that everyone has a slightly different idea of what's acceptable passing etiquette...

Exhibit A: a fellow I passed yesterday as I was heading east on Hawthorne, just past Grand Avenue got a little peeved when I passed him in an empty parking area on the right.

He was towing an additional bike in his left hand, steering with his right, and thus taking up the full bike lane. It's been my experience exiting this bridge that people hoping to make the green light are really zooming. They tend to bomb past me after the light changes, so it seemed wise to not cut off those who were almost certainly coming up fast on our left. Not to mention the numerous large motorized vehicles that could make quick work of me.

But as I passed on his right, Mr. Two-Bike exclaimed "Why are you passing on the right? Gawd!" Is this a mortal bike sin I'm unaware of? Any legal reasons / other good reasons why he should be justified in his outrage?

Just wondering...

05-12-2006, 09:06 AM
This is exactly where I think a bell-ring when you're still about 20 yards away, and then the verbal cue when you're closer "does the trick."

The ring gets people aware of "friendly but fast" cyclists approaching. To have your voice heard that far ahead of time requires a stentorian voice, which is difficult to make sound friendly (in my experience).

05-13-2006, 06:04 PM
When you passed him, you did not pass him in an actual traffic lane. The guy was probably expecting people to pass on the left, but not from the parking space side. I certainly wouldn't have been expecting a right-passing bike there. My mirror is on the left, and the rules of the road in North America set us up to expect passing to happen on the left. If I had bikes passing me to the left of the bike lane and to the right, where am I supposed to go if I need to pull over? Also, have you ever had that happen to you? There is a name for the air that a faster moving vehicle (or bicycle) pushes as it is passing you. I can't remember what it's called, but to experience it from both sides can cause people to lose control of their bike.

If you are not comfortable or able to pass on the left, perhaps you should consider waiting until you feel it is safe to do so, especially when you are not using an actual traffic lane to make your pass. Just because you are faster than someone else on the road doesn't give you permission to pass them by any means possible. If you do decide to pass on the right, however ill-considered, the very least you could do is use a bell or call out.