Day Seven in the 30 Days of Biking, 30 Words, 30 Pictures series
Executing left turns. Being left behind. Sure, I can write about those with “left” as the word of the day.
For today’s ride, however, I mean “Left!” as in “On your left” or “Passing on your left” or any of the other trail etiquette warnings. I rode my bicycle for miles without hearing this heading northbound on the Burke Gilman Trail around 6:30pm or so.
Nor did the people passing me ring their bells instead, a perfectly acceptable alternative. That’s my preferred method because I get more response from people wearing earbuds when I use my bell and I think it sounds friendlier, but today my bell was broken so I called out repeatedly.
The idea behind saying “Left” is that you won’t surprise people you’re passing. It’s not only polite, it’s safer; a surprised rider/pedestrian is an unpredictable rider/pedestrian.
If I know you’re coming up behind me faster than I’m riding I can navigate accordingly. You don’t know I’m about to execute some maneuver I wouldn’t if I knew you were there, or that I need to swerve around an obstacle I could warn you about. Wouldn’t you like me to assist in keeping our interaction pleasant and collision-free?
Occasionally I try to keep track of who says it and who doesn’t. So far I haven’t identified any strong or stereotypical patterns. You can be wearing street clothes or Spandex, riding an upright bike or down in the drops, loaded with panniers or wearing a heart monitor, alone or in a group. You say it. Or you don’t. The “you don’t” people far outnumber the “you do” people, in my highly unscientific sample.
If you do say it when you pass me I say “Thank you!”.
I have one grumpy response I use occasionally. If you pass me without calling out or ringing your bell, I may say, “On my left!” as you pass by, particularly if you were extra-fast and extra-close. I figure that way at least one of us has acknowledged the interaction, and perhaps I’ve given you a motherly little reminder that you should be saying it. I can dream.
It’s not a totally crazy dream. I’ve noticed that my saying of it reminds others who weren’t saying it and they sometimes start up, which I get to observe when someone I passed fires up and passes me.
In my really crazy dream, people also say it when passing in a bike lane. Those tend to have less margin for error and more street noise and I appreciate it even more.
Left. It’s oh-so-easy. Just say it.
NOTE: We have trail etiquette rack cards available upon request to anyone who’d like a batch to give out. They’re really popular when we take them to events and we’ve seen them in brochure holders at some trail heads. Contact Louise to request a batch.
- 30 Days of Biking, 30 Words, 30 Pictures: Day One–Fun
- 30 Days of Biking, Day Two–Flexibility
- 30 Days of Biking, Day Three: Color
- 30 Days of Biking, Day Four: Racing
- 30 Days of Biking, Day Five: Weather
- 30 Days of Biking, Day Six: Dates
- Do you say it or don’t you? Why/why not?