It's about the ways you use your bike.


In New York City on 6 June 2010 at 2:40 pm

Bicycling has numerous benefits over other modes of transport, including the ability to do it without a licence of any sort.  The down side of this is that there  is no barrier to entry to any yahoo who wants to ride in the same place that I do, so streets and bike paths inevitably fill up with riders with very little idea how to ride and no concept of cycling etiquette. I’d like to take this opportunity to educate our readers on the topic.

I’ll begin with an anecdote: The other day I was riding to work. As previously mentioned, I don’t race down the path, but I do ride faster than most people. Because of this, I spend a lot of my time passing. Folks are usually quite nice about it. Most of them tend to ride more or less on the right side of the path, so it’s not too difficult to pass on the left. In case any of you aren’t aware, this is the correct way to ride.

**For the sake of clarity, let me repeat: As when driving a car, ride on the right, pass on the left.**

In New York, I put the wide-spread lack of understanding of this principle down to the fact that no one here drives.  We see the result on subway escalators, also. Same principle applies: Stand on the right, walk on the left.

Back to the anecdote. Lots of people don’t ride on the right–they ride on the left, they ride in the middle of the path, they ride in slow zig-zags taking them from one edge of the path to the other. Sometimes, couples, friends, and roving packs of hipsters ride two or three abreast down the path, making passing quite a task. Long story slightly less long, passing is often needlessly difficult and doing it unnecessarily makes me mad. As I was riding, this guy on a single speed bike zooms past me. He had gotten on around 96th, I’d been on the path since 158th, so I was quite prepared for him to be trucking along faster than I was . . . but he wasn’t. He zoomed by, pedalling furiously, then proceeded to coast, ride with no hands, and slow down considerably. Within a minute or so, I was directly behind him and quickly passed. To my thinking, this ends the show. If you can’t pass someone at the speed at which you consistently ride, don’t pass them. This guy disagreed, however, and proceeded to pass my maybe three more times, each time standing up to pedal, getting maybe 30 metres in front of me before slowing down and becoming an obstacle.

The whole dance lasted maybe 5 minutes, but it was needlessly frustrating and could have been avoided if the other cyclist had exhibited some common courtesy. This courtesy is my lesson for the day:

If you can’t pace, don’t pass.

By all means, ride as fast as you wish (safely) when you’re out on the streets or paths. If you consider it a race, go ahead and zoom by other cyclists. Make wooshing noises as you pass and imagine the crowd roaring for you, but make sure you can keep that same pace for at least a couple of miles and not just for long enough to get in someone’s way. Having a little spatial awareness while you ride is very important (and a subject I’ll return to sometime soon, probably while raging against cyclists who ride with headphones on) and goes a long way towards making everyone’s ride a little safer and a lot more fun.

Go safety! Go courtesy! Go ride!

  1. I hear you man. We all have our pace, and it works so much better when others are courteous and allow us to flow.

    Hey, you guys need to get posting again….been a while. Hope to see more soon.


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