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Thread: what to do about aggressive vehicle passes

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    Default what to do about aggressive vehicle passes

    Each year, I get a little angrier about the following scenario which has happened to me many times on roads like Columbia Pike. I'm riding on the right side of the lane. I guess I could take the lane, but I'm usually going enough slower than cars and there is enough traffic that I don't like to do that. 84% of cars pass me reasonably, 15% pass me too closely, and 1% are real jerks.

    Sunday, I was riding on the Pike heading west around George Mason. There was a large bump in the pavement on the right side so I rode a few inches to the left. I don't think it was a sudden veer. A woman beeped aggressively and then passed me within inches. (She then sped up to the light where she was many seconds slow on the green - such that I was worried she also wanted to have a "conversation" with me.) I feel so violated and angry when people do that. I got her information and wanted to call the non-emergency line. On the other hand, I knew I was angry, and she hadn't actually hit me or thrown something at me or violated a law that is even enforced.

    I think it would be great if ACPD cited or warned people for close passing. When I asked them about this, they told me that they would never be able to measure the distance accurately and thus could not. If they rode bicycles (other than in very limited circumstances), they could do this pretty easily, perhaps with a laser light. At the same meeting where they told me that they would not issue citations for close passing, they also described the extensive resources that they applied to their undercover efforts to ascertain whether a massage parlor was providing more than massages. Illegal, yes, but also indicative that they would find a way to enforce laws if they deemed it a priority.

    I guess my two questions are: do people think we should call in the passers above? what can we do to get police to enhance our protection or is it nothing?

    Another reason why this is important is that we all see the tragic cyclist deaths caused by irresponsible drivers like the ones in Bethesda and the tandem couple. I would argue that while the drivers responsible should be punished, in terms of deterrence, the most effective resources are best applied up front with citations/warning/enforcement for a lack of attentive and appropriate driving.

    Ok, I've said my peace and will steel myself for the forum smackdown. I know police have a lot of laws to enforce.

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    Quote Originally Posted by elbows View Post
    Each year, I get a little angrier about the following scenario which has happened to me many times on roads like Columbia Pike. I'm riding on the right side of the lane. I guess I could take the lane, but I'm usually going enough slower than cars and there is enough traffic that I don't like to do that.
    I am not judging how you ride, just answering, but I do not do the above. If I am not comfortable taking the lane (with occasional releases, but sounds like that is not a safe strategy on Col Pike) I do not ride in a standard width lane. Period. I will take a sidewalk in preference if no other route is available (I realize the level of pedestrian traffic makes that difficult as well, on Col Pike)

    I still get nasty passes from time to time though. I do not know what to do. I think this is one benefit of striped bike lanes, as they are probably at least in theory easier to enforce than the 3 ft rule. The state and localities can do more in terms of education (maryland has a campaign including billboards, swag, etc on the 3 ft theme - I have yet to see that in Va) You could also use a camera - while the police may not enforce the 3 ft rule anyway, it would help in a civil suit.

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    Two things: 1) ACPD has told the ABAC that they have issued citations for violations of the 3-foot rule. I don't know the details.

    2) Personally, I want you to call it in. I call egregious behavior in. I talk to the Police about this often. I often get the impression that the police think I'm the only one complaining. I'm pretty sure that's not true, but the more voices we have calling the non-emergency number, and tweeting about the issues (twitter is better, because then I can point to it), the better.

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    Two things here:

    Reporting - I'd go with dasgeh's advice and also add that a recording device of some kind could help, but only at the margin.

    Avoiding - Adding to lotm. I ride on Lee Highway in Fairfax. It is 4-6 lanes with a speed limit of 40mph. I ride on it for one mile. There are five stop lights in that one mile. I would not really ride on it otherwise. I ALWAYS take the lane. Your life isn't worth their convenience. video (skipping to 3:30 for the action) is a quick example of how drivers react differently just between lane control and right tire track on roads like that.

    If you aren't comfortable taking the lane, I'd encourage sidewalk riding only where you don't feel comfortable taking the full lane.

    As with almost all cycling issues, its very scenario specific. I don't know where on Columbia Pike you are or what traffic is like there. Just my general thoughts on lane sharing on high speed roads. Namely, I don't share them.


    Ahhhh video inserted as more than just a link... do not like!!
    Last edited by dplasters; 11-23-2015 at 11:35 AM.

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    That's an awesome video dplasters. Thanks to the folks who put it together and the brave cyclist.

    I think the cyclist in the video should have been using a bright flashy light along with the reflective vest given the overcast conditions. He wasn't super easy to see.

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    This is a fantastic discussion. Summary: If you ride to the right of a lane that is not wide enough to share, drivers may want to squeeze in and pass you closely. If the lane is not wide enough to share, you should take the lane. Cars will either wait until it's safe to pass or change lanes (if more than one lane). Personally I don't take the lane if the speed limit is more than 35 MPH, but that's my personal preference. I also don't ride without lights on the road in overcast conditions and I always have something bright like on my bike or person. All black kits may look cool but they make you hard to see all of the time.

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    What I saw in the video is that the drivers gave similar space to the cyclist whether he was fully taking the lane or on the right tire track. What were cited as "lane splits" to me did not look like dangerous passes, but merely the driver did not need to fully go over to the other lane to pass safely. I don't think these lane splits are illegal. In terms of visibility, that was merely a function of whether the car was in the lane behind the cyclist when the camera car came up. That seems to be a function of when the driver started his pass, which depends not only on the rider position, but more importantly, on the position of other cars in the middle lane. The video complains of a motorcyclist that shares the lane as he passes the cyclist who was in the right tire track. If sufficient distance is given, that is not illegal. I also note that none of the drivers seemed to signal their intentions to switch lanes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DismalScientist View Post
    \I don't think these lane splits are illegal.
    A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who drives any motor vehicle so as to be abreast of another vehicle in a lane designed for one vehicle, or drives any motor vehicle so as to travel abreast of any other vehicle traveling in a lane designed for one vehicle.
    I appreciate you might think it fine safety wise, but it is not legal in Virginia. Foot in mouth, preserved on the internet for my humility.

    this section shall not apply to (ii) a motor vehicle traveling in the same lane of traffic as a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, or moped; nor shall it apply to
    - side gripe - so they can lane split cyclists, but cyclist can't lane split cars
    A person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, motorized skateboard or foot-scooter, or moped shall not travel between two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction, except where one lane is a separate turn lane or a mandatory turn lane.
    To the larger point - they aren't measuring, so it is hard to tell in which method you get more distance. My personal experience is I've only ever been passed too closely and/or hit when riding right tire. When taking the full lane, my rides are much more pleasant. Its not typically cars that are my issue. Its the metro bus and garbage truck that decide they can also pass in lane. If you force them to change lane, they typically actually change lane. If you give them wiggle room, they try to squeeze.
    Last edited by dplasters; 11-23-2015 at 12:57 PM.

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    I find if I ride in the right tire track, I don't get squeezed. Farther to the right is a problem. I ride farther to the left as my speed relative to other traffic increases. I didn't see the speed limit on that road in the video, but it looks like it was designed to be fairly fast and without a shoulder, sufficient that I would likely seek other routing.

    On cyclists lane splitting cars, I think the key word in the law is "moving." I think filtering between stopped cars may be legal. I don't think I want to lane split between moving cars.

    On a related note, I believe the law has changed regarding cars passing bikes across a (double) yellow line. Cyclists can now be treated like slow-moving farm equipment. Personally, I worry about drivers who want to go all the way over to the other lane while passing, as I just want adequate space when passed. I sense, but do not know, that such drivers (those that want all four wheels on the other side of the double yellow) get frustrated as they see few passing opportunities.

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    I'm not a lawyer, but this is what the VDOT site says:

    http://www.virginiadot.org/programs/bk-laws.asp#Where

    Bicyclists must not ride between two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction unless one lane is a separate or mandatory turn lane.

    This seems to imply lane splitting between moving traffic is legal if one of the lanes is a turn lane. I wouldn't mind being corrected though.

    http://www.virginiadot.org/programs/bk-laws.asp#Passing

    Bicyclists may overtake and pass another vehicle only when safe to do so. Bicyclists may pass another vehicle on the right or left, and they may stay in the same lane, change lanes, or ride off the road if necessary for safe passing.

    This part seems to imply filtering is ok, though there's some debate on whether passing between stopped cars is safe. Dooring is frequently cited as a hazard in this scenario, although I've only seen people open their car doors in stopped traffic when everyone is convinced traffic is not going to move for an hour or more (eg. a major traffic blockage like an accident blocking all lanes, or spilled jet fuel).

  11. 11-23-2015, 02:48 PM


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