On Your Left

Green_LA River

2013-08-25 – I’ve written about this before, but I have to do it again. I hate bicyclists who say “on your left” as they overtake you on shared paths in the park.

Yesterday was the worst.

The offender, dressed in chic bicyclist fashion with red and white silk, made his announcement less than a second before he buzzed us. We, at the time, were struggling with our dog Lefty. He followed up the “on your left” with a “fuck you” and peddled off down the path.

This is wrong. And let me tell you why.

On any roadway or path, the person who is behind must always yield to the person who is ahead. This happens so automatically when you are driving that we rarely even give it any thought. But it is true. This is a rule on the ski slopes. You always yield to the downhill person. (Since you are going downhill, the downhill person is the one who is “ahead.”) This rule exists for a simple reason: The person who is behind can see the person who is ahead, not vice versa. The person who can see can take evasive action. The person who doesn’t see can’t.

So why wouldn’t the same rule apply to bikes?

Now I like to bike. In fact, I was out riding yesterday and I saw a sign by the lake in Evanston that I never saw before. It said (symbolically) “bicyclists yield to pedestrians.”

On-your-leftists don’t do this. They are demanding that the pedestrians yield to the biker who they don’t even see!

When I’m riding, I have no trouble making my way around pedestrians or slower bicyclists. I have no need to sneak up on them and scare them with an “on your left.” Once in a while you see someone who is behaving erratically up ahead. Part of safe bicycling is sizing up the situation and figuring out how to get past. Or, if there is no way, to stop.

And this is the problem. Bicyclists don’t like to stop. That’s why they say “on your left” and that’s why they blow through stop signs and stop lights if they can. I get this. You work hard to get up some speed. You don’t want to give up your momentum. Go for it!

But don’t try to shift the responsibility for safety to others. You can see where you are going. You’re probably a smart person. You can find a way around a slow pedestrian or a slow bicyclist on your own. Do it. Leave me out of it.

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