Rare Blog-like Personal Rant

If you're riding your bike on a public path that includes walkers, skaters, etc, and you yell out "On your left" instead of just slowing down and maneuvering around them, you are an asshole. Your barked-out command (and make no mistake, for most people who use it, it is a command--to stay put or move over) is just as likely to startle the walker you're trying to pass into swerving or going the wrong direction.

If you're in-line skating, weaving all over the path, and a biker comes up behind you and silently passes you, swinging well wide of you and you bark out the command "Call a side," you are an asshole. You are especially an asshole if the biker says, "Nah, I don't do that," and you say, "You're going to get someone killed."

If you do say that, you might hear something like "I've been riding this bike twenty years and haven't killed anyone yet. Calling a side is a control thing, I don't like it." That is, assuming the doppler effect doesn't muffle this rant, delivered in a matter of seconds as I am passing you.

- tom moody 6-23-2005 8:49 am

Hi Tom,

I appreciate your concern about "commands" but as a pedestrian, I know I'm not always in control and walking in a straight line. I could easily swerve into your bike inadvertently. My hearing is not so good, so I'm not always aware that a bike is coming up behind me. I don't care what you say -- "on your left" is as good as anything, but a tap on the bell or "coming through" or "excuse me" -- whatever works so long as we all understand that the passing is on the left. But regardless of how in control you are and have been for 20 years, others, including myself, could still step in the wrong direction, unaware of your presence. Not your fault, but that's not exactly comforting to me.
- June (guest) 6-23-2005 10:15 am

June, If I have to slow down to the point where I am practically walking the bike, I will not hit you or any other pedestrian. At that speed, it's quite easy to clear my throat or say Excuse Me and then it's not such a big deal. I'm just not in that big a hurry when biking.

Yelling "On your left!" might be appropriate out on the street where it's one spandex Tour de France dude passing another spandex Tour de France dude in an atmosphere of manly exercise. But if they're on the public path, bikers should slow down when passing so that no tricky, on the fly judgments are made by either party about where the biker is coming from.

My diatribe is aimed at controller-types in public places, who will abuse whatever etiquette exists.

- tom moody 6-23-2005 10:38 am

I'm a total asshole when I'm on my bike.

If I'm on that Brooklyn Bridge or the West Side path, where there's a clearly marked bike lane, and some dumb ass pedestrian is strolling along in it (or even a jogger) they get a hellacious tongue-lashing from yours truly (well, it ain't that bad since I don't slow down and I'm biking as fast as I can).

If it's a inline skater I just yell, on yer left which seems to work OK.
- twhid 6-23-2005 5:17 pm

"if they're on the public path, bikers should slow down when passing so that no tricky, on the fly judgments are made by either party"....right on! As a cyclist in this situation, I couldn't agree more. In my estimation, the ettiquette is different between park paths and transportation (eg: bridge) paths. In a park, people ought to be able to wander aimlessly around without being bowled over or barked at. On a bridge, pedestrians oughta act like traffic.
- sally mckay 6-23-2005 6:02 pm

I have a big blue squeeky whale that I honk when I pass.
- paul (guest) 6-23-2005 6:40 pm

Once, while riding across the Manhattan bridge, a weathered old bike dude coming the other way yelled at me "You need to raise your seatpost!"

If you bark out commands on how people should setup their bikes, you are an asshole.
- mbs (guest) 6-23-2005 8:04 pm

Ha. I should add that the skater who told me to "Call my side" was veering around more exaggeratedly out of annoyance that I was approaching from behind without saying the magic words. I swung about four feet off the asphalt path onto the grass to avoid this person and still got a lecture.

- tom moody 6-23-2005 8:27 pm

try yelling "nice pants" (non)ironically instead.

- bill 6-23-2005 8:57 pm

Try yelling "nice pants" non-ironically at all. It ain't easy.

As an inline skater you have to realize that you are wider than either a bike or a pedestrian because you kick out to the sides. New skater's don't know this because they're too busy falling on their nice pants. I think the skater has to be especially aware of the cyclist comming from behind them because of this. I know that when I skate in traffic I'm much more aware of what's behind me than I am on a bike.

Tom, your "call a side" skater should chill.

- joester 6-23-2005 11:57 pm

Dude, I can't agree more about how annoying that is.. and just want you to know it even happens in small town rural suburbs with NO traffic where I'm peacefully jogging along the bike path in the clearly marked (and roomy) right lane obviously staying in a straight line and not about to move out of it and some bike tour de f speeds yelling "on your left!" nearly giving me a heart or tripping attack. It's such a power trip....
- jc (guest) 6-25-2005 2:34 am

In grade school I ran cross country. Our goody-two-shoes coach made us say "on your left" (or right) when passing competitors who naturally moved over to try and block us. So we started lying (saying we were on the side we weren't) and passing through the whole they left. Kinda went from goody-two-shoes to evil with one simple lie.
All this is to say, at least they're telling the truth!
- joester 6-25-2005 5:05 am

here you say nothing... some use a bell seems to work, mostly people on two wheels with no or small motor just slow down until the person in front hears something like a put-put, or the sound of tires squishing as the rider jiggles to keep upright... and in silence it all gets worked out. Of course there's the great bang ups that a plentiful-- one: scooter and bike collide with scooter bits are all-over the place engine still running and the bike all mangled with both parties all grazed up--I stood and watched. In silence these two banged up dudes tended to their duties and moved the equipment off the path eventually pushing their machines in opposite directions--not a word.
Well the obvious question is.... Were they brothers?

It seems to work.
- brent hallard (guest) 6-26-2005 6:23 am

Yeah, high school cross country and track seasons were a long, long time ago, and I kind of sucked anyway.

San Francisco is like one big fucking tour de force all the time, and am sick of dudes in tight pants yelling at me while I'm running or walking, especially since there are actual BIKE LANES in this city, anyway. Everyone has, like, miles of space to work with.

Someone screamed at me for riding my bike through a red light the other day. He, too, was an asshole. And bells suck, too.
- Forward Retreat (guest) 6-28-2005 3:09 am

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