Michigan Cycling Law and Passing Slower Traffic; Why Did the Facebook Crowd have a Meltdown Over This Photo?
I took the photo above on DALMAC and sent it in to the staffers to enter a photo contest. Apparently, whether the TCBA posted it, or one of my friends, on Facebook, social media had a huge meltdown over this photo. Folks, motherf***ers were pissed. At issue was the fact that we crossed a yellow line to pass a miniature horse and buggy being driven by a young boy. First, before we get into this, we need context to keep the idiocy at a minimum; we were roughly double the speed of the little guy and his horse. I’d guess they were about 10-mph and we were around 20, probably a little higher. Our average pace for the day was 19.48-mph, so common sense would dictate between 22 & 24 (we do, for the most part, stop at stop signs and always at traffic lights, so we have to ride a little faster for the average).
Now, I’m second bike behind my buddy, Mike in this photo. I started calling out to move wide, early and that’s exactly what we did to pass.
If you don’t know anything about cycling, passing horses and buggies, and traffic, and you’re ignorant of Michigan law, well, I imagine you could get your dander up over that photo, but another’s ignorance isn’t enough to get my undies in a bunch, either.
So, here are the things people miss in their ignorance, intolerance and desire to jump on someone else out for a leisurely stroll:
- It’s hard to see from the photo, because I was holding the camera down pretty low, and I was angling it down as well, to get the shot right, whilst riding in a pace line at better than 20-mph (everyone within earshot knew I was taking the photos), but adjusting the height a little bit, to eye level, we can see all the way down the road beyond the stop sign. We knew we had the room to pass and gave the horse and buggy a little more than three feet, because that’s what decent people do.
- We had complete situational awareness when we passed the kid riding in the horse and buggy. Complete.
- It’s a kid driving that buggy…
- Anyone who knows anything about horses, when they get spooked, they freight train. We weren’t about to spook that horse and have him go all mental on a kid, so we started talking so the horse (and the kid) could hear us coming, then we passed wide, where and when it was safe to do so, and in a manner that we hoped wouldn’t spook them.
- This is a photo taken just a few seconds earlier when we were in the process of moving over – you can see the lead cyclist on the right motioning to get over (or, if you didn’t know, that’s the end of the motion to move over, an obstacle is ahead):
As we are a vehicle on the road, subject to the same laws (as the angry mob likes to say), we assumed a little bit of the new Michigan bicycle passing law ourselves:
(3) Notwithstanding section 640, if it is safe to do so, the driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction may overtake and pass the bicycle in a no-passing zone.
We, as cyclists and motorists, are accutely aware of what three feet actually is. In the first photo, I’d call that four or five feet, but again, we didn’t want to spook the kid or the horse. So, in other words, we followed existing law and did what was intelligent. We overtook a horse and buggy, on a bicycle travelling roughly double the speed, where it was clearly safe to do so, in a no-passing zone. We used the existing law on the books as it was written, passed, and intended.
It’ll never be good enough, as cyclists go…
Just yesterday, our small, four-person group was yelled at by a motorist because we didn’t stop at a stop sign and put a foot down… 40 feet before we even got to the intersection. We hadn’t even made it to the intersection! First, we are not on motorcycles. We have the ability to stop without putting a foot down. Let’s take that argument at face value, though. You think motorists are mad at cyclists now, let’s follow the put your foot down notion to conclusion. Rather than take 20 cyclists 20 seconds to clear an intersection, let’s go two at a time, foot down, then go, foot down, then go… those same twenty cyclists would take a minute and a half to clear an intersection. You think motorists are irate now, good grief. Better, let’s follow knucklehead’s suggestion and stop, foot down, 40′ from an intersection, and hop our bikes up to the stop sign. 20 cyclists, we’d clear an intersection in two minutes. You can’t even quantify the squitters that would cause.
Where the rubber meets the road, as they say.
It doesn’t matter why the angst, it’s directed at the wrong people. Cyclists would rather be on a paved shoulder almost as much as motorists want them on a shoulder. I’d be willing to bet you wide shoulders would approach 90% voter approval, so why doesn’t every road built in the State of Michigan have a wide shoulder on either side of the road that we would gladly use to avoid angry nincompoops?
Ask your politician. And therein lies the rub. One thing is for sure, I’m not going to quit using the roads till they put shoulders in we can ride on, no matter how angry someone ignorantly is that I’m legally there.
Just remember, if it’s a “speed” thing, you’ll have to ban mail vans and farm equipment from the roads as well. My friends and I pass them on a regular basis. We passed a mail truck just Saturday morning. The driver never came close to catching us… and we take up less space on the road.