Single File Discussion – Again

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The phrase single file is now only used pertaining to cyclists and how they don’t ride close enough the the side of the road.  Cyclists riding two abreast seems to be a recipe that turns regular people into  aggro motorists.

I saw an article at Cyclingweekly that was a discussion between Chris Boardman and someone that felt that a truck had passed her mother too closely.  Chris Boardman tweeted that they should have been riding single file on such a narrow road.

The only case I can see for this is that it might not piss off the truck driver so much.  It is definitely more dangerous.  Riding single file encourages drivers to try to make hasty passes when the road isn’t necessarily clear.

That is what most drivers don’t get, is that there isn’t enough room on a normal two lane road for two cars and one bicycle.  A car has to cross the centerline to pass safely.  If the average motorist understood this, I think the problem would be much less.

I got thinking about this because some dick on a Harley came by a couple days ago, revved his engine, which scared the shit out of me, and then proceeded to yell at us to ride single file.

The terrain around Northeast Kansas is such that we could encounter more issues if it were more populated.  It is rolling around here, with lots of short hills in succession, so hard to pass, even car vs. car.  What I have found alleviates the issue some, is when I get to the top of a hill and see that it is safe to cross the centerline for the car to pass, I wave the car by.  It seems to tell the driver that we were concerned about holding him up.  At least that is what I think.  I’ve never waved a car by and had the guy go irate on me.

Again, I googled it and have already written a post of most of my thought about single file riding.   Here it is.

Two Abreast, It’s the Law

That is the law here in Kansas for cyclists. It is a super good law. The only problem with the law is that nobody but cyclists know it.

I don’t know how many times in my lifetime I’ve had people yell “single file” to me. Probably 1000’s. The only time I’ve ever heard those two words in a phrase was when I was elementary school, walking in the hall to the auditorium or somewhere as a class and riding my bicycle. I don’t know where it got ingrained into people’s brains that single file is how cyclists are “supposed” to ride on the street, but it is a common mistake.

I’ve been riding back and forth to Lawrence recently. Unless I’m riding on gravel down by the river, I have to ride on State Hwy. 40 for some amount of time. The road isn’t too busy and really not that dangerous. But, it doesn’t have a shoulder and rolls enough to make passing tricky. Cars passing each other and cars passing cyclists.

At least once, and usually more, when I ride the road, some yahoo will pass me, crossing into the opposite lane going up a hill. Inevitably, a car will be coming from the other direction and have to swerve, brake or something. It never ceases to amaze me that the guy in the other lane nearly always honks or flips me off when he comes by.

I just don’t get it. The car that was passing me is nearly always crossing a double yellow line on a blind hill and the other car blames the cyclist. What’s up with that?

It is even worse when I’m riding with someone else. The drivers of the cars think, mistakenly, that we’re breaking the law by riding two abreast. Somehow that mentality gives these people the need to try to enforce their mistaken thoughts by honking or coming by dangerously close, usually passing illegally themselves. It is super weird, like the law should even matter enough to endanger someones life.

I’ve had people actually stop a couple times and go into a tirade about the two abreast riding. Only a couple times. I used to carry a piece of paper in plastic that stated the Kansas State Law concerning riding bicycles two abreast. Each time a person stopped, I would show them the law and it was amazing how that would calm them down. It is like they thought they were the two abreast police and the realization that they didn’t know the law completely deflated them down to nothing.

Once we were riding over to Kansas City for a training race and got pulled over by the Douglas County Sheriffs near Lawrence. The guy was hassling us for riding two abreast. I happened to have the law with me and showed it to the officer. Next thing I know, the guy’s supervisor shows up. The officer had already called him since there were 6 of us. The officer goes and tells him that we were riding 4 abreast, when just 5 minutes earlier he had told us he stopped us for not riding single file. I was obviously pissed.

I had a conversation with the supervisor and told him that it was a much bigger deal having a sheriff lie to his supervisor, right in front of 6 regular citizens than whatever law the guy thought we were breaking to start with. It really didn’t go anywhere. The supervisor said that they had big problems with groups of riders “massing” on the county roads and thought this was one of those situations. Anyway, it goes to show that even the local law enforcement officers don’t know the law.

If that is the case, I don’t know why I would expect anyone else to. I went down and renewed my driver’s license in February. I thought that is would be a good idea to include a question on the renewal test about the two abreast law, but we don’t even take a test anymore. Just walk in, take an eye exam, get a photo taken, pay $25 and out. Maybe 5 minutes max.

I don’t know how to fix the problem. It sure would be nice if the drivers didn’t think that all us cyclists were law breakers when we ride side by side. I know that would alleviate a ton of the tension. But I don’t really see a way to do it.

Maybe some signs like this might help some. Funny, I got this off a website talking about riding in Tenerife and how it is a 1500 Euro fine to pass cyclists illegally in Spain.
 The cats are now staying high now that Tucker is more coordinated. 

26 thoughts on “Single File Discussion – Again

  1. Bolas Azules

    Somedays I just feel like we are wasting our time fighting the tide. As America gets fatter and more sedentary the hate for cyclists is going to grow and grow. Fat-assed drivers are never going to give a crap about those who are unlike themselves.

    Similarly the whole anti-doping movement seems like an unwinnable battle. Hell other sports are taking cycling’s cue and running with it. From other endurance sports to every other ‘sport,’ some of which can be categorized as bar room games now have rampant doping in them. Somedays I think we should just have an ‘Unlimited Class” where caught dopers and riders who simply prefer to dope can compete. Kind of like the boxing “Heavyweight Class” where there is no top end.

    They hate us, we hate them, they hate them…America!

    1. Nor Meyer

      Cyclists are an anomaly on the vast, vast, vast majority of roads in this country. So why should we as cyclists be surprised when encountering a disbelieving motorist? On the face of it it’s mind boggling that a person riding a 20-something pound self propelled bicycle at 15 mph should even be sharing the road with a 2000+ lb. car traveling 50+ mph. As a cyclist of 40+ years on paved and unpaved roads all over the states I for one am acutely aware of this dichotomy ‘tween modes of transportation, and I’m supremely grateful for the liberty afforded me by the powers that be to indulge in a manifestly crazy recreation.

      1. SB

        “grateful for the liberty afforded me by the powers that be”

        That’s exactly backwards. Freedom of movement is a basic human right, not some special entitlement “given” by a government – this is one of the reasons we have a Constitution to limit the power of the government to restrict these basic human rights.

        The public right of way long precedes the automobile. We have to defend that concept.

    2. The Cyclist

      In the “class unlimited” death will regulate the business. No need for WADA or USADA. More of a darwinian approach to the problem. Fine by me.

  2. Barb

    The reason motorists get mad is because when encountering a cyclist on a highway with no shoulder and coming up on the cyclist from behind, motorists are pretty much forced to slow down to 18-20mph (or slower if it is a hill) until they can safely pass, or pass in a dangerous manner (like over a double yellow line/on a blind curve/hill.)
    It may be a law that cyclists can ride two abreast, but it is a motor vehicle law that slower vehicles must stop and pull over and allow the regular flow of traffic to pass, if they are holding up more than two or three cars. This probably wouldn’t apply in your case since your highway is probably not that busy, but when a motorist is being forced to slow down to 20mph (or less on a highway with a speed limit of 55 or even 65 it is frustrating (and maybe even hazardous) for motorists. Even though many try to argue that roads were originally built for bicycle traffic, clearly many highways were designed for vehicle traffic only, with no provision for bicycles; and yet many cyclists still insist they have “the right” to be there, when in fact there is literally no room for them when the highway is being used for it’s intended purpose, which is motor vehicle traffic. Not to mention, the number of cyclists who ride the extensive number of miles per day that you’re riding, is greatly outweighed by the number of motorists using that road, and yet the minority expects preferential treatment over majority needs. Authorities have taken to painting bike chevrons on certain roads, which really doesn’t solve this problem. It’s like trying to fix a broken arm with a band aid, when what is really required is bike infrastructure. No one is lobbying for better bike infrastructure, and they should be because that is the only viable solution, but we’re all too busy out riding our bikes to invest the kind of time required to enlist cyclist support and to get these funding issues on any kind of legislative bill. I’m not advocating for motorists or against cyclists using the highways, just reasoning why motorists become frustrated and angry. Seems pretty simple to me.

    1. Andrew Ross

      Yeah, you are arguing against cyclists using using roads:

      “many cyclists still insist they have “the right” to be there, when in fact there is literally no room for them when the highway is being used for it’s intended purpose, which is motor vehicle traffic.”

      See what you did there?

      Bikes are vehicles, and their operators do have the right to use the roads. Slowing to wait for a safe place to pass might cost a motorist 15 seconds.

    2. JB

      Barb, can you cite this law?
      “…it is a motor vehicle law that slower vehicles must stop and pull over and allow the regular flow of traffic to pass, if they are holding up more than two or three cars.”

    3. jpete

      I think the reason they get mad is because they have expectations and a sense of entitlement. A couple years ago, an editor in the Salina paper wrote an article after the death of a cyclist on nearby roads by a guy who tried to hide the evidence. He said, that bikes shouldn’t use the roads, particularly in harvest season, that it’s not like they’re going to the Olympics or something. Funny thing is that in rural Kansas, it is not unusual to have to wait, on my bike, to pass slower moving farm equipment. Also slower- horse and buggy traffic, which also has a right to the roadway. In other countries and places even in this country, expectations are different. Cycling traffic is looked at as part of the traffic landscape, not a hassle or barrier to your day. Do people treat slower moving pedestrians on the sidewalk with the same inexcusable rage? If I walk more slowly on a busy sidewalk than someone else or am pushing a baby stroller, do I deserve expletives or having things thrown at me? The problem is not the bikes. The problem is not the cars. The problem is people’s attitudes, which are shaped by their beliefs and perceptions. Change those, and the roads will be safer for everyone.

    4. SB

      Sorry Barb, you’re wrong. This is basic human rights we are talking about, public access to the public right of way. No different whether it’s a person on a bike, a person in a wheelchair, a farmer driving a tractor, an Amish buggy, whatever. They are PUBLIC roads.

      Don’t mean to make you feel bad, lot’s of people have the same misconception, it’s not your fault. But it’s still wrong.

  3. The Cyclist

    Next time you pass a bunch of HA morons ridin all over the road just yell “SINGLE FILE” at them.

  4. Tripod Ron

    Do not hesitate to talk shit to these Harley riders. Especially if their bike is all chromed out. If their bike is dirty let it slide…

    Just like the dentist who throws on a US Postal kit before heading out the door, these Harley riders just got done filing TPS reports and are in costume. The well groomed goatee is a telltale sign of middle management as well.

    1. Joe

      Do not hesitate to talk shit to anyone who is uniformed, especially an entitled, high and mighty fool who thinks they can intimidate you. Use your knowledge and intelligence to shut them up, and then squash them with your superiority. Then resort to personal insults and threats until they run off into the woods with their tail between their legs whimpering with the realization of the inferiority of their ignorant and misguided ways. If you must, wield a pseudo weapon of some sort while making yourself large and loud, acting in a Viking or Aztec manner. If that does not work, a cleat to the forehead has always worked for me.

  5. L

    Steve – I know it probably rubs people the wrong way, but I discovered a way to make drivers and motorcyclists VERY respectful when I’m riding a bike. Actually, I learned it from Ronnie Vails when I used to live/ride out in Eugene, OR. Eugene, by itself, is a great cycling town, but once you get a ways out into the country it gets a little red-necky. Which means, if you’re a cyclist, you get hassled. And if you’re like Ronnie – a black guy on a bike – you get extra-hassled. One day, I met Ronnie for a ride and about halfway through the ride I realized two things: A) we weren’t getting hassled at all, and B) Ronnie had a rather large caliber revolver on a holster in the middle of his back that was VERY prominent under his white jersey.
    In fact, it’s not even accurate to say we weren’t getting hassled, because we were getting greeted – and politely at that. Drivers would swing extra wide and drive by with a polite wave.

    I have since moved to Northern Virginia where the hassling is worse than it ever was in Eugene. Particularly in semi-rural parts of NoVA, the drivers seem to think that cyclists are the equivalent of squirrels or dog shit. I’ve only done it once, so it’s not scientific or anything, but the one day I tried Ronnie’s trick out near Middleburg the results were gratifying. All the damn uber-rich horsey-owners and their dangerous trailers (particularly on such narrow, shoulder-less roads) started slowing down and passing with courtesy. People would take the time to stop at intersections just to talk to me. I’ve lived out here almost 20 years now and the ONLY time I’ve ever had a driver stop and want to have a pleasant conversation with me is when I was wearing a weapon.

    And, no, it’s never loaded. And, yes I’m licensed for CC.

    Just sayin’.

    1. Nor Meyer

      hmmmmmm—-I used to ride in n va all the time w the Potomac Pedalers, and I don’t recall any prob w motorists. Beautiful country, great riding.

    2. Wildcat

      Nice, but why not have it loaded? I carry a S&W Bodyguard .380 while riding – although, it’s very well concealed. No CC license needed in Kansas anymore!

      1. L

        Well, the one time I rode with it….I knew I was never going to have to use it. Nobody out in Middleburg/Upperville/Bluemont is going to shoot at me or do anything violent on purpose. But, if they see a semi-auto on my back, it will cause them to be vastly more polite than if I weren’t packing. They automatically give 3 feet or more and they drive by and wave and smile.

        Truly, I don’t like the idea of riding with a weapon, at all. Its just another piece of equipment that I have to remember, etc. But, it is certainly interesting to note the change in attitude of passing drivers.

  6. Roger Lomshek

    Steve, After the Walnut TT we got these signs posted every few miles near every intersection on pretty much every paved road in Crawford County.
    We’re extremely fortunate to have very protective Sheriff and Police departments and county government in general who are sympathetic to cyclists.
    I talked to the head of KDOT’s sign department but they’re not interested right now.
    Roger Lomshek

  7. jeffc

    There have been numerous studies on this and how society drives (ex ) … after biking in countries like Costa Rica, most of the Carribean islands, and many US states…. I’ve come to realize that a measure of true society is how society drives. Americans are for the most part very good drivers. Canadians are fn nut cases, esp Quebec. As I drove down to North Carolina, the driving was tame. Then coming back into canada, I realized how many nutty drivers there were up here. I never noticed this before. Costa Rica is complete organized chaos. People will do anything to get ahead one space in there 3000lbs of metal. Some of the carribean islands are tame, especially the british ones. But, places like Barbados is just a friggen nut house. As we approached each island, I measure the amount of “anger” by the amount of horniness (people honking their horns). Sure enough there was a correlation between horniness and the amount of crazy drivers on the road.
    I suspect, as more and more traffic is on the road, the percentage of crazy drivers increases. I use the 80/20 rule ( )
    80% of the drivers are good drivers.
    20% fall outside of the norm, 10% are made up of those that deviate in and out of normal driving practices. The other 10% is made up of 5% brain dead, they go away with time. 5% don’t give a crap. Its this 5% that you really have to worry about – narcissistic they are in there ways – ME and only ME. They don’t give a damn about anyone else (psychopathic it some sense ).
    Thus, they have 3000lbs of metal, why can’t we have something of equivalence? (grenade?)
    Worry about this 5% for they just don’t give a damn in most of their life…

    1. jeffc

      also, see what portland OR has done… many cycling groups advocating, plus the huge one was that portland refused funding for the big build back in the 70s. Instead, it invested in more light rail and cycling infrastructure.
      While other cities put money into roads. Huge huge long term costs.
      Thus, other cities got lazy. Portland got innovative and to this day its known for its cycling and train industry…
      while other cities are in great debt with major traffic issues/problems and fatalities.

      when government doesn’t support cycling infrastructure, worry…
      best to formulate advocate groups to push more laws to protect cyclists.

      In Ottawa, Canada. We now have dooring laws (200 dollar fine), may bike lanes, and police now respect cyclists and politicians are pushing for more cycling infrastructure due to huge cost saving in the long run. Plus added health care costs etc… its good all around.

      Yet, cities like Toronto had a crack head mayor (Rob Ford) that greatly objected to cycling infrastructure. It will suffer in the long run. Spending billions on more roads. More lazy people. More angry drivers etc… costly.

  8. Femke

    I like the signs in Tenerife that say “Doping, Next Right,” but I don’t really need that any more. All I need is a USB plug.

  9. SM

    I try to avoid riding on roads with lines painted on them. Having a friend that was killed locally on a lined road with no shoulder, it scares me. I try to stick to low traveled country or even gravel roads. My method for having a vehicle coming up from behind when a hill or blind curve is coming up is to move to the center of my lane blocking a close pass. Then as soon as I can see that it is clear for them to pass, I quickly move over and wave them around. As you say, they are generally pretty friendly with this. I only remember one instance where the driver seemed pissed that I held them up for 5 seconds. I had the dick on the harley coast up from behind with the clutch pulled, then rev his loud pipes right in my ear last spring. I can honestly say that I have never been more pissed off in my life. If I could have caught him, I would attempted to beat him and his shitty motorcycle into bits. He passed so closely that I was almost able to reach the sissy bar. His wife could tell that it was a dick move on his part and she seemed somewhat pissed at him about it. I couldn’t hear out of my left ear for the rest of the day and it continued to ring for about 3 days.

  10. dave

    Somewhere back in the early years of road/street building a general width was established for two lanes of traffic. It was good enough at the time with lower traffic volumes and budgets but while the population/traffic and cycling has increased over the years the width of roads and streets has stayed the same. We keep building new roads/streets but don’t allow anything in the budgets for increasing the width a little bit. And a little bit would make a big difference. Just half a lane more. I guess another pipe dream. As far as passing/not passing , it depends on the situation. A single rider, two riders, a group of riders. Surface conditions, any berm, weather, day/night, amount of traffic both ways, hilly/flat, curvy/straight and speed of vehicles/bikes. All that being said, I will say again that there are two items that definitely make bike riders safer : a high visibility/neon work vest or jersey and the 3rd Eye handlebar end mirror. Just like a motorcycle, it allows you to much better handle the traffic from behind, including the occasional ding dong who’s never, ever ridden a bike.

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