All the biking went well. Everyone shared nicely.
Had a close pass by a CDTA bus yesterday, though. Saw them coming in my mirror and decided to stay fully to the right for a change. Didn’t work. They snuggled right up. About as close as I’ve ever been passed. Two feet of space between their mirror and my shoulder max. Really spooky. No room to move left or right. I was forced to play blue angel stunt pilot with a bus driver I’ve never met. It was bus number 4093 on route 10. I mention the number only because I’ve called that one in at least once before. I remember the number! I wonder if operators drive the same bus day after day? No matter. I called it in again. The call center operator was super nice. Supervisor is supposed to call.
The other CDTA rep that I’ve been working with hasn’t responded to my suggested text for the close passing memo. The delay and spotty communication together suggest he isn’t as committed to fixing this as he seemed when we met face to face.
Time to try other things. Here is my first letter to the editor of the Times Union.
It’s great that we’re spending a lot of money, federal, state and local, to make Albany a better place to bicycle. Still, no matter how many bicycle lanes and trails are built, we still need to share lanes with motor vehicles when we are between cycling facilities. This needn’t be a problem if all road users knew all the relevant laws, or were even consistently safe and courteous. So many motorists do a great job of safely sharing the road with bicyclists, but too many don’t. It is rare that I bicycle more than a mile without a close pass. This needs to stop.
Close passes are scary, dangerous and illegal. The current law in New York State was enacted after a bicyclist was crushed by a passing city bus in NYC. The law and legislative history, together, require motorists to leave a minimum of three feet when passing a cyclist. The CDTA operators manual recommends that busses leave a minimum of five feet and slow to pass.
It is important to know that the safe passing buffer doesn’t include exceptions. No matter where the cyclist is in a lane, you need to leave three feet when passing. Cyclists can legally leave the right hand side of the lane when there are obstructions in their path (i.e. parked cars, glass, grates and potholes), when they need to turn left and when the lane is too narrow to share side by side. These exceptions to the stay right rule nearly swallow the rule as our gutters are pot holed and many of our lanes in town are very narrow. Even the widest lanes are too narrow for large vehicles and bicyclists to share side by side once you factor in the safe passing buffer.
Since it is nearly impossible for a motorist to accurately gauge the distance between a bicycle and the outside of their mirror, and since bicyclists have the right to leave the right hand side of the road when necessary to be safe, the best practice for a passing motorist is to fully leave the cyclist’s lane when passing. Motorists are allowed to cross double yellows to do so (provided there is no oncoming traffic). If you can’t fully leave the lane because of other traffic, wait to pass. You won’t need to wait more than 10 seconds before you can pass safely. If the lives of your neighbors who chose to bicycle aren’t worth a 10 second delay, let us know now so we can stop building bicycle infrastructure that most bicyclists will be too scared to use.
I also dropped a note to the mayor to see if she’ll discuss the topic on her radio show (Saturday at 7:30 a.m. on 101.5 fm). Mark my word–little by little I am going to get the word out. We are going to share nicely!
Happy Friday to you all. Be safe and sweet.