Passing Lane

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Matthew, Jason, and Bear on a cold January 2015 ride.

With the new year and the (hopefully temporary) cessation of rain, Bear is out of hibernation, hungry for some salmon and honey, and raring to start the 2015 AIDS/LifeCycle training season. Today’s topic is passing: how to pass and how to be passed. New, timid riders may approach a group ride thinking, “There’s no way I’m going to pass anyone.” And more-experience riders may think, “All I have to do is mimic the ride leader and I’ll be OK.”

But both new and experience riders cannot rely on complacency. Every year, a rider is killed because he or she did not pass safely. Cycling on roadways with cars is dangerous, but it doesn’t have to be deadly. And how and when you pass will help to ensure your safety, the safety of your mates, the safety of other cyclists, and the safety of pedestrians. While bicycles are “vehicles” under the California Vehicle Code, common sense and many rules and regulations differentiate how cyclists are treated.

For instance, it is OK for a bicycle to ride on the shoulder. Under certain circumstances, riding on the sidewalk is allowed. While many roadways have special cycling lanes, a bicycle is entitled to use an entire lane of travel. But riding on the outside of a few ounces of metal (or carbon fiber) puts you at a huge collision disadvantage over both cars and the pavement. The question is, how do you use passing skills to minimize the risk of a collision? By keeping in mind a few simple rules, you can avoid both collisions and the derision of your fellow cyclists.

To pass another cyclist, here is a good set of steps to remember.

  1. If possible, try not to pass more than one cyclist at a time and pass only when you can see a clear line of travel.
  2. Never assume the cyclist you are about to pass knows you are coming: call out, “On your left!”
  3. Look behind you to make sure it is safe to leave your path of travel.
  4. With your left hand, point to the lane you are about to take so drivers know what you are doing.
  5. Pass the cyclist to your left (never to the right) in a smooth arc, don’t jerk out into traffic.
  6. Give yourself enough room to complete the pass, but not so much that you move out into oncoming traffic.
  7. NEVER find yourself to the left of the yellow line. Never. Ever.
  8. When you complete the pass, look over your right shoulder to make sure you’ve cleared the cyclist,
  9. Continuing your smooth arc, merge back into the lane of travel.
  10. Complete your pass as quickly as it is safe to do so.

If you find that you are unable to complete the pass, know that generally, the rider whose wheel is in front has the right of way. So, if you’re behind, drop back until it is safe to pass. And remember, while it may be polite, it is NOT the duty of the person you are passing to move over so you can pass.

If you find that you ride in a group who regularly disobeys these or other traffic rules, point them to this blog and let them explain themselves. If they won’t, find a new group. Your life is not worth the risk.

I want to see all of you out there on the road, but more importantly, I want to see all of you safe and sound in camp every night.

I missed you.

Your Bear


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