On a ride with a buddy last week, as we were rolling toward home on a 2-lane road that leads to the “downtown” area of a small Atlanta suburb, we passed a cycling couple about a half mile from an upcoming intersection that crosses a 4-lane road.
The 2-lane road we were on typically has moderate traffic, which tends to stack up a bit as you get closer to that intersection.
As we passed the couple, I was on the front and gave them a clear “on your left” notice – which they both acknowledged (the husband, in back, with a quick additional notice to his wife that we were passing; and the wife with a “thank you” to me as we passed. It seemed obvious that both knew the customs of the road.)
It was road cycling courtesy at its best: Both parties doing the right things to ensure the safety of all.
Then The Mistakes Started Piling Up
Sadly, that changed a half mile down the road at the intersection.
My buddy and I rolled up behind a line of cars waiting at the traffic light and dutifully took our spot in line behind about 10 cars awaiting the light change. Meanwhile, as we waited and chatted, behind us the couple pulled into a parking lot that is adjacent to the road and runs almost all the way to the intersection. Near the intersection a sidewalk links up to the edge of the parking lot.
We watched as they rolled through the parking lot, skirting the entire line of traffic, then rode on the sidewalk the remaining few feet to the edge of a crosswalk at the intersection.
It was one of those times as a roadie when you just sit and watch as a fellow cyclist does something that makes you look bad by association. It always cheeses me off when it happens.
But it got worse.
The light changed, and as the cars ahead of us started filtering through the intersection, we clicked in and got rolling, gathering speed to try to maintain the flow of traffic. There was now just one car between us and the intersection. Ahead, the husband had already made his way across the intersection in the crosswalk, riding – not walking – his bike.
As the car in front of us started to turn right onto the 4-lane road, the wife nudged out into the crosswalk enough to force the car to stop quickly right in front of us. We had to adjust course on the fly, riding around the car and through intersection.
Now I was really cheesed!
Not only had the pair “cheated” their way around the line of traffic – which drivers despise as much as law-abiding cyclists – they compounded the error of their ways by pedaling across the intersection in the crosswalk. And, in the manner in which they did it, they ended up endangering their fellow cyclists.
Don’t Cheat at Intersections
The moral of the story: Don’t cheat at intersections.
First, don’t skirt a long line of traffic queued up at an intersection. It does nothing but make you (and your fellow cyclists) look bad, and it makes drivers resentful. (In an already unfriendly cycling city like Atlanta, we don’t need any additional animus toward cyclists.)
Use the road like a vehicle, and wait your turn in the line of traffic.
If instead you elect to use a crosswalk to navigate a busy intersection, get off the bike and walk it across. The crosswalk is for pedestrians.
Whatever you do, think about not just your safety, but the safety of your fellow cyclists. And don’t do anything to endanger them. Period.
John Marsh is the editor and publisher of RBR Newsletter and RoadBikeRider.com. A rider of “less than podium” talent, he sees himself as RBR’s Ringmaster, guiding the real talent (RBR’s great coaches, contributors and authors) in bringing our readers consistently useful, informative, entertaining info that helps make them better road cyclists. That’s what we’re all about here—always have been, always will be. Click to read John’s full bio.