April 27, 2011

Seconds are Hours

Between heavy rain storms, I'm attempting to ride once in a while. 

This morning I headed down my normal route, and as I approached one of the early traffic lights, it turned red.  I could hear a vehicle behind me, and I went into decision mode.  Do I: 1.  Stay mid-lane and frustrate the vehicle behind me if...(looking back and confirming) ...that plans to turn right, or 2.  Pull over and give room to that huge truck by carrying my bike up onto the sidewalk?

The implications here are always a battle in my mind.  As a cyclist on the road I have the right and responsibility to act as a car.  By so doing I will be most predictable, and often most annoying...because to drivers, seconds are hours.  I've experienced Frustrated Driver Syndrome (FDS) in two basic situations:  Either I'm going too slow or I'm blocking a right-turn lane.  Which brings me to the other side of my internal battle.  If I were in a car at a red light, planning to drive straight, and happened to be blocking the right-turner behind me, that driver would hardly bat an eye.  But in the same situation on a bicycle I have been honked at, revved at, and driven around.  Because seconds are hours.

This morning, because the light had only just turned red; I lifted my bike up over the curb and waved two cars up to the line before resuming my position in the street.  (I have often chosen not to do this for the express reason that my position in the street would be forfeited to a long line of cars.)

Later in my commute I found myself in the other FDS-inducing situation.  Entering an S-curve that is a single lane wide and bounded by curbs on both sides, I could hear a couple of vehicles behind me.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one car enter a left turn pocket out of the lane.  Then the second car, despite being seconds away from a two-lane section, revved his little pickup and passed within 6 inches of me.  I really appreciate being able to allow him to save those precious seconds...