Cycling In Traffic – A Tale of Two Countries



Readers may recall my surprise at witnessing London cyclists band together in packs and take over a lane of city traffic in order to better protect themselves from city motorists.  They may also remember my British host, Brian, assuring me it would not be necessary to ride single file in the event of a passing motorist.   This was all very unusual behavior, in my experience, and I was very pleased to see it.
As proof to Brian and all others not familiar with the cycling scene in America, I wish to enter the following newspaper article into the record:
Here, we find a concerned citizen who has called upon the local constabulary to deal with the menacing problem of being “caught behind a group of cyclists traveling in a pack when driving down MacArthur Boulevard on the weekends.”
At times, these packs of cyclists have been known to take up an entire lane, leaving motorists with only one lane to drive on should they choose to pass.  The horror.  Let us hope that Montgomery County’s Finest are up to the task of putting these brigands in their place.  None less than the Chief of Police has signed a letter, reminding cyclists that they are only permitted to ride two abreast “if the flow of traffic is unimpeded.”
Violators face a fine of up to $90.
So there it is – two completely different views of how cyclists should interact with city traffic. 

5 thoughts on “Cycling In Traffic – A Tale of Two Countries

  1. Cycling 2 abreast in the UK may be legal, but I take issue with the fact that it is acceptable. When I’m out on a ride with a mate, we always ride 2 abreast when there are no cars about, when we hear traffic from the rear we slide into single file.
    There are a number of reasons why I do this. I’m a car driver too and it annoys the hell out of me (a person who cycles a lot more than I drive) when I see a pack of riders strewn across a lane making me slow to their pace and not being able to pass safely. This is just inconsiderate and just pisses off motorists even more than they already are pissed of with cyclists.
    There is a saying in England, “why do dogs lick their bollocks?” The answer is “because they can”. Most cycle clubs I see in and around my area ride like this, because they can. It’s a bit like the motorist that sits in lane 3 (the fast lane) of the motorway at 70mph and causes a huge tail back behind him. He’s not doing it because it’s the legal thing to do, he’s doing it to make a point and to annoy other road users. I see a lot of cyclists taking that attitude. Why?
    We (cyclists) are, at the moment a barely tolerated minority and holding up other road users isn’t doing us as a group any favours. Riding in single file amongst motor vehicles is safer, less inconveniant for them and doesn’t hold us cyclists up. We need to lose the holier than thou attitude and wise up.
    I can already hear the counter argument about motorists doing the same about us. My answer is that we’re the minority, we live in a democratic society and they are the majority, ergo power holders. We need to be making them happier about us not the other way around. Until we’re in a majority then that’s the way it is. Live with it.

    Sorry for the rant…

    • As rants go, that one was fairly lucid, Clive! I can’t say I disagree with anything you wrote. Explaining pelotons is a problem for even the biggest cycling advocate. One small fact worth clarifying is the road in question (MacArthur Blvd) has two lanes of traffic in each direction, meaning it was possible for cars to get past the pack even though they were blocking an entire lane.

  2. I agree with Clive that cyclists should be as considerate towards motorists as they would like motorists to be to them. Big clumps of club riders are a problem. I don’t think the situation would be helped by having thirty riders strung out one behind another as that would make a very dangerous passing situation. Of course, cars are far more likely to be held up by other cars than the occasional cyclist but that doesn’t seem to get them so annoyed.

    Reading your newspaper clip, Steve, it often surprises me how many rules and regulations and detailed traffic laws there are in the land of the free.

    • It presents an interesting glimpse as to the problems we would face if truly substantial numbers of people would travel by bicycle. You would have a choice of “packs” or very long lines, neither of which are conducive to automobile traffic.

      As for the plethora of laws in America, I can only agree. We conservatives shake our heads at the intrusions upon individual liberty and cluck to ourselves that we are becoming more like Europe with each passing year!

  3. Road hogging by club riders is one reason I haven’t gone back to ride with the one I tried a few weeks back (the other reason is that it was bloody hard!). I’m of the opinion that we should all just get along, and if that means filing up when a car comes along, it’s not going to bother me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s