Ask The Advice Pedaler: Etiquette for the Conscientious Cyclist

Dear Advice Pedaler:
I'll support your cause when you get bicyclists to stop riding on the sidewalk. I can't tell you how many times I've almost been hit. My balance and hearing aren't what they used to be, so I can't get out of the way very fast.

Your Grandma

Dear Advice Pedaler:
Can you explain the proper etiquette for a situation I've encountered many times: I'm riding in the bike lane, in the direction of traffic, when suddenly a bicyclist comes at me from the opposite direction, in my bike lane. What am I supposed to do?

Confused on Folsom Street

Dear Grandma and Confused:
The Advice Pedaler looks forward to the day when all streets have room for bikes, when motorists respect bicyclists' rights to the road, where happy cyclists cheerfully call out "on your left" and use arm signals to indicate their intents, and the air is filled with the sweet sounds of bike bells. In this perfect world, even the rudest or most timid cyclist will not even think of riding on a sidewalk or against traffic.

Bicyclists must follow the same traffic laws as cars: ride with traffic and don't ride on the sidewalk. However, most sidewalk bikers and wrong-way riders don't realize that what they're doing is not only illegal, but also an abomination of manners and very dangerous.

When a bicyclist riding on the sidewalk crosses an intersection, they are going at a very high speed compared to pedestrians and can take turning cars and road-riding cyclists by complete surprise when they zoom through the crosswalk. A bicyclist riding in a bike lane against bicycle traffic usually surprises rule-following cyclists and forces them to quickly veer out into traffic in order to pass the wrong-way rider.

If the Advice Pedaler encounters a poorly designed street that makes it necessary to use the sidewalk, she gracefully dismounts and walks. When the Advice Pedaler is surprised by another cyclist coming the opposite direction in a bike lane, her usual response is "AAAAH!" or "WHOOA!" which has been an effective way to alert cyclists to their etiquette errors. She has found that "HEY! You're going the wrong way!" has not elicited a favorable response.

Note: The Advice Pedaler advises her readers that the question in last month's column from Ken, the car driver, was indeed a real phone call. Be warned! There are some crazy drivers out there.