Blathering on Communication

I am always curious about what is the most effective communication method while I’m riding around the city. I’m talking about communicating to the people around me, within my direct environment: people in their cars, tractor trailers, other bikers, pedestrians. I have responded and reacted to motorists in many different ways and have recently learned that responding to an idiotic, erratic, or malicious motorist in the most positive way possible is perhaps the best way. Positive meaning kindly informing them of my rights, possibly their wrongs, or actually not responding/reacting at all; situation depending. We all know that our moods and current emotions can filter in and cause us to react differently (i.e. negatively and sometimes edging into violently—the desire sometimes to Hulk out and tear their quarter panel off with my bare hands has crossed my mind more than once). But like I said, I’m always conscious of how I’m communicating myself to those we share the road with and find that being positive, upbeat, and friendly might just be the best course of action.


A couple weeks ago my fiancé and I were riding to Ballard on Leary Way, waiting at the red light under 15th Ave. We were side by side in the right lane with space to pass on our left when this dude, in his car somewhat behind but still to the side of us, leans out the driver’s side window and asks us over his car’s hood if we wouldn’t mind riding single file so that he could pass us. This so threw me off that I only had time to snidely tell him that he’ll be fine to pass us with the lane he’s got to the left. (There are two westbound lanes on Leary.) Sure enough, we both continued from the now green light, remaining side-by-side, and about thirty seconds later, the guy passes us in his car straddling the white line dividing the two westbound lanes of traffic. As he drove off, regrettably, I gave him the bird. We round the turn that’s there and I see the dude pulling into a parking lot of a gym that’s on the other side of the street. So it was even more confusing as to why he asked us to ride single file, considering he needed to be in the left lane anyway to get to the gym that was a mere six blocks away. What’s the rush guy?

Why did I give the guy the finger? I guess because I was so thrown off, so confused, as to how to react to his question. Is it just me or was this a really odd thing for someone to do? Was he being polite, or was it simply a façade of politeness? Was he being a presumptuous prick? Or a considerate gentleman? I obviously felt the former considering my single finger gesture as he passed. But was I right? Does he think by asking we should obey?

I obviously am not settled on how I feel about this interaction. Am I, (are we), so used to the opposite communication from motorists? Not only was this so much the opposite, but it was also not really within the typical methods of road communication (i.e. turn signals, horns, lane positioning, etc.) How do we expect to be communicated to while we’re out riding the streets?

Not to get into an argument about the symantics of the RCW, but here is clause two stating the two abreast rule:

RCW 46.61.770
(2) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

3 thoughts on “Blathering on Communication”

  1. I blogged today about two similar situations on my morning commute. One lady came close and she parked a block up and I was able to stop and talk to her about how close she cut it, and she apologized. The next guy hit me, and then threw his sports drink at me, hitting my chainstay. Wtf.


  2. here is what mr. tony a Pardon The Interuption, Washington Post writer, and D.C talk show host has to say about bikes in D.C
    -from – “A Pain In the Asphalt” -Tony Kornheiser, May 26, 1996:

    I would like to propose a more permanent solution. It is a little radical, but it might just solve all of D.C.’s problems.

    Here’s what we do: We flood the city, make it a water wonderland, like Venice. Who will care about potholes that are five feet under water? We will all get around by gondola (which we will call “gundolas” because, in a necessary local adaptation, someone will have to ride shotgun). The tourist industry will boom. And best of all, all those downtown bicycle messengers would drown.



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