Just last week, I was riding towards a busy intersection. Ahead of me, there was a long line of cars facing me, waiting to make a left turn onto the cross street.
The driver of the first car had plenty of room to make his left before I got to the intersection, crossing my path and going on his way with room to spare.
The second car probably shouldn’t have gone. The driver’s view had been blocked by the first car, and he had no idea I was there until he followed the first driver in making his turn. Fortunately, I hadn’t quite entered the intersection, so he rounded the corner without posing an undue threat.
The third car was another matter.
It was clear that his view had been totally obscured by the cars ahead of him. And if he followed their lead, neither one of us would make it to the other side.
So I pointed at him.
I wasn’t trying to be rude. It’s just a little trick I’ve learned over the years. When a driver doesn’t seem to see me, I extend my arm and point at him. And invariably, they notice me, and respond appropriately.
Don’t ask me why it works. It just does.
In this case, I pointed at the driver as soon as he came into view, after the other car turned. We made eye contact, he nodded, and I rode safely through the intersection and on my merry way.
I’ve used the same technique as I’ve been stopped at a light, when it appeared a driver a going to try to get the jump on me as soon as the light changed. In that case, the driver appeared to be purposely ignoring me, refusing to make eye contact — always a bad sign.
Sure enough, the light changed and he gunned his engine, lurching into the intersection, despite the fact that I had the right of way. So again, I pointed.
And God help me, he stopped.
He sat there with an embarrassed look on his face and let me ride past. Then gunned his engine again, screeching through the corner and down the road.
Other times, I’ve used an extended digit — the first one, not the second, which I tend to employ all too often — to indicate where I intend to go. By pointing straight ahead, I could show that I was going to ride straight across an intersection, even though it was a situation where most drivers would have expected me to turn.
Or I’ve pointed out at a slight angle, to tell drivers that I was entering the lane briefly to go around some obstacle, rather than taking the full lane — or risk confusing them by making a left turn signal.
And in every case, it’s worked. Drivers slow down, and give me enough space to make my move or cross the street. And more amazingly, I’ve never gotten a single horn, shout or obscene gesture in response.
Don’t ask me why.
I’ve even been known to take it a step further by actually directing traffic.
Like at a four way stop, for instance, when no one knows who should go first. In some cases, it may have actually been my right of way. But only a fool would insist on taking it without knowing that the other vehicles intended to cede it.
And as they say down south, my Mama didn’t raise no fools.
So I point at one driver, and hold up my hand to indicate halt. Then point at the other driver and wave him through the intersection, before waving the first car through. And once the intersection is clear, I’ll go through myself — sometime holding out that same halt signal to tell a late arriving vehicle I’m going through.
I always expect the drivers to ignore me. Or laugh. Or get pissed off. But oddly, it never seems to happen.
Instead, they invariably respond to my points and hand commands as meekly as a herd of sheep with a border collie nipping at their flanks.
I can’t explain it. I won’t even try.
All I know is that it works. And the fact that I’m still here to tell you about it is all the proof you need that it does.
Bicycle Fixation offers their stylish Limited Edition Herringbone Knickers; very cool, but at that price, I think I’ll continue to wear my decided unstylish spandex. Meanwhile, another rider offers a jersey indicating the three foot passing distance we should all insist on — at least until our personal portable bike lanes hit the market. Gary relates his semi-soggy saga of riding to San Diego over the weekend. Another local bike path becomes a habitat for homeless humanity. Leave it to the Japanese to meld a parking garage with a bicycle vending machine. The Expo Construction Authority seeks an alternate for the Expo Bikeway through NIMBY-ist Cheviot Hills. Yeah, good luck with that. Bike paradise Boulder, Colorado is about to get a state-of-the-art off-road bike park, while Belmont, CA drivers are raging over the new bike lane. Finally, the Rearview Rider, aka the Bicycling Librarian, offers up her new blog of bike-worthy links.