Remember the arcade game “Whack-a-Mole”? The critter would randomly pop out of one of several mole-holes giving you a brief opportunity to give him a good whack.
When we ride in and out of the gaps, hiding between parked cars, we become the mole! We’re invisible to oncoming traffic until suddenly, without warning, we POP up out of the blind spot, just like the unwary mole.
Take a look at this series of diagrams and see if this looks familiar. . .
This is probably the most common error I see riders making. Even experienced cyclists will exchange their favorable position for 3 or 4 seconds where they can breath easy. Just yesterday, riding West across W34th St, with November’s darkness falling over rush hour, a black-clad messenger was doing exactly what’s shown in the diagrams. Certain that he was new to the game, I asked him how long he’d been riding in the city. I was surprised when he responded “20 Years!” (as he rode off through the red light)
Let’s get back to the diagrams.
Clearly, no one wants to play the mole in this scenario. What’s the better way? Shouldn’t I do my best to keep away from cars? Don’t I hold up traffic if I stay on the road?
Ok, let’s look at an alternative approach. The diagram shows a fairly wide lane, wide enough that the cyclist could keep her distance from the doors of the parked cars while still allowing traffic to pass her. The key is in remaining Visible and Predictable to approaching drivers.
Here’s another series of diagrams:
*A backward glance and some eye contact would be useful here too. Acknowledging their presence reduces tension and facilitates smooth interactions. (There’s something powerful about that eye contact!) I watch my rear view mirror for opportunities to communicate with drivers.
“Whack-a-Mole” is the first in what will be a series of roadway dynamic graphics. If you’ve found yourself in tight spots and hair-raising situations, send me an e-mail. Your story might become my next “teachable moment” and roadway diagram.