Ride In 6/7: Skirt Steak Tastes Sexist

Isn't a short car trip the same distance as a short bike trip?

Here are some jumbled thoughts on bike etiquette, a subject with which I'm perhaps obsessed. I care deeply about comportment. Mostly about bicycles, but also about mittens. You know, glove comportment. Puns aside (assuming anyone is still reading), here are some suggestions for proper bike behavior, mostly as it relates to other bicyclists. You can take them or leave (or stow them away in your glove comportment).

  • Understand context. You should ride differently in a crowded cycle track speckled with lights and stop signs than you do in an open trail speckled with, um, speckled hens maybe, like if you're out in the countryside. This seems like an obvious thing, but apparently it's not. This is not only an observation about speed, but just about general demeanor. An urban commute isn't a race and your expectations shouldn't be to blaze through the city streets unfettered and carefree. The more people (and by people, I mean people in cars, on transport, on bikes, walking, and in woefully off-course catamarans) about, the more you should expect to be fettered. Fettering happens. 

  • Signal your passes, pass with room. Ring a bell, honk a horn, say on your left, do something before passing another person. And when you do pass them, please provide ample room. In almost all cases, you don't have ample room to pass someone within the confines of a bike lane. You shouldn't try to do that. It's very annoying. And sort of unsafe. Maybe you think you're in control of your bike, but maybe I won't be when you brush past me within inches. Maybe this will lead to calamity, which would only happen to be hilarious if I happened to be carrying banana cream pies and one of them hit you in the face. But I rarely commute with pies, so the greater likelihood is that we'll just crash and it won't be slapstick in any way. 

  • Only pass while the person in front of you is moving. This is my real bugaboo, which I believe was also a Destiny's Child song. But neither Beyonce, Kelly or [other member of Destiny's Child] would endorse your shoaling (riding in front of someone who arrived at a stop light before you) because it's 1) rude and 2) illogical. It's rude because we live in a first-come, first-served world. That's why the dinosaurs got extincted by the meteor. They were here first. Do you cut in front of someone at the ATM because you think your transaction will be faster? No, of course. And also because you probably don't have any money. And it's illogical, because in spite of your protestations to the opposite, you don't KNOW that you're going to want to bike faster than the person in front of you. You're making a judgment based on no evidence. You know who does that? Judge Dredd (maybe? It's been a while since I've seen that movie, if I ever saw it at all) . Anyway, all you're doing is asserting to the other person on the bike, the one who go there before you, that you think that you're better than them. That somehow your trip is more important than theirs and that you need to go first. That's wrong. And it's anticivic.And it's singularly frustrating to the bicyclist that you've just shoaled when, for example, maybe you aren't in fact traveling as fast as he was and now you're blocking the bike lane in front of him. So don't do this. Wait your turn, pass when you can. 

  • Yield, like a normal person. You know, don't cut someone off who is traveling straight just so you can make your turn. That's like finishing the milk and putting the empty carton back in the fridge. Not because it's an apt analogy- it's just sort of a jerk thing to do. 

  • Lights at night. No excuse. One day I'm going to bike into a lightless cyclist and I'm going to be very mad about it. I will take to my marginally popular bicycling blog and launch all kinds of jeremiads, screeds and diatribes. Would you drive lightless? You ever get into your Honda Accord and think "naw, I'm good, even though it's totally dark" and just expect people to see you? It's not hard to be responsible. And once again, I extend this in all seriousness: if you need bike lights and cannot afford them, please email me at talesfromthesharrows@gmail.com. I will buy them for you. If you need lights and can afford them, go to any bike shop and get them right away.

  • Don't stop in the crosswalk. Every time you block a crosswalk, a Wookie dies. It's not hard to stop before them (or after them). And the 3 feet farther back isn't going to make a difference in how fast you get home. Once the light turns, then you can punch it (Chewie!)
There's more, but I can always string this out to another episode. I think the bigger point that I'd like to assume that I'm trying to convey is that there are some super, super easy general principles that you can follow to make sure that you're not pissing off other people and if you're like me and believe in karma (I  have a shrine in my home decided to the Karma Chameleon, who is my deity), you'll know that you'll eventually get what you give (I give offerings in front of votive candles to the Karma Chameleon). So try to be a half-way decent person and cognizant of those around you. Bike commuting is not impersonal and soul-deadening and there's no windshield to shield you from approbation (and wind). Pedal with empathy, coast with serenity. Unless you're on a fixie and then whip skid with gentleness. 

Ride was fine. Same route as normal. Saw this:

It's on R Street. It's temporary. Nice though. Only for about 50 feet. 


  1. I think my favorite part of this blog is that consecutive posts will reference John Locke and Judge Dredd, respectively.

  2. Amen to your bullets, shoaling while stopped at a light in particular- just rude and selfish.

  3. I think this one sentence is a great way to explain your point live.

    "Do you cut in front of someone at the ATM because you think your transaction will be faster?"

    Say it then go. Quickly.

    1. I would do it, but my route (MBT to Mall to MVT to Old Town) doesn't have many shoaling opportunities, thus not much shoaling.

  4. That was really funny and honest! Everyone who commute by bike should read this!

  5. @Jon- I'm glad you like it. I don't know what that says about either of us.
    @Lucas- that one is my biggest pet peeve too
    @JT- you know I'm too much of a coward to actually say anything
    @charlie- thanks so much. Feel free to share.