Lane control and the pandemic

I recently saw a thread from a group of cyclists who were dismayed at being forced to ride on PCH between Temescal Canyon and the Santa Monica Pier. Several of the riders thought it was unsafe and were upset that their bike path cut-off had been shut down as part of the beach closures in L.A.

I thought it was a shame that riders are uncomfortable riding in the lane on that stretch of PCH. In fact, I haven’t ridden that section of the bike path or the cut-off in years precisely because that stretch of PCH is amazingly good for taking the lane.

For starters, it has three lanes, so there’s no rational reason to feel like you’re holding up traffic. Second, the lanes are narrow so if you position even a couple of feet off the fog lane there’s no way for a car to squeeze by. If you move over into the center or left-hand portion of the lane, there’s not a car on the road that will even think of squeezing in, which you can’t say for a lot of PCH. Third, you will always get honked at at least once, which is nothing more than an acknowledgement of the driver that he sees you and is going to pass by.

Of all the segments on PCH, this is typically the most densely crowded and the one I have had the fewest issues on, and by issues I mean scenarios where I felt like I could have gotten hit. The bike path that parallels it is so jammed up with bikes and walkers on the weekend that I’ve had countless close calls, and cleaned up quite a few spills involving others. One friend suffered a life-altering fracture on that section of the bike path, without a car in sight.

One reason that riders have such problems with safe but congested roadways like this portion of PCH is because they don’t normally practice lane control as much as they practice traffic avoidance. That works for a lot of cyclists until the inevitability of traffic hits and they’re suddenly lacking the skills, and most crucially the mental calm needed to navigate the roads with cars.

Anyone thinking ahead about the pandemic landscape in six months or six years surely recognizes that we won’t be returning to crowded places with the same alacrity as before. More people will see bicycling as a way to get exercise, get to work, or spend time with the family without additional exposure to pathogens. It may also mean more riders having to learn about lane control.

Could be worse.

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12 thoughts on “Lane control and the pandemic”

  1. Lane control is all about claiming and controlling your space. Kind of important now. And actually easier riding a bike in a traffic lane than on a bike path or riding (or walking) on a sidewalk.

    Here’s my favorite solo video from that stretch of PCH.

    The truck driver is telling me that there’s a bike path on the beach and that’s where I should be. Motorists can’t use that excuse any more for hassling us for our bicycle driving behavior there!

    1. That truck didn’t appear to have a front nor a rear license plate. From the rear camera, if you had that Garmin Radar, I think the “something is coming” LEDs would have exploded with his approach speed.

      1. I think it was a new vehicle with a temp permit and Bunning Chevrolet as the plate.

        I often ride with a mirror and so have a pretty good idea of what’s behind. When I don’t, I use my large ears. I don’t feel a need for Garmin Radar. When using a prominent lane control position, almost all motorists change lanes quite far back. This fellow obviously wanted to make a statement. And when you hear the horn from behind, you know that you’ve been senn and most likely safe. Not being seen is when you get into trouble.

        1. I can see my radar observation looked like a suggestion and that wasn’t the intent. The driver seemed very aggressive in his approach speed, and I was thinking along the lines of the Gary Larson Far Side panel which had the eye ball in the mirror which said “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear”. In my goofy mind, the radar Leds would burn out from his approach speed, which you would see and think “Holy Shit!”
          He not only tried to make a statement, but I think he was trying to scare you as well. Vehicular Assault.

  2. I’d much rather be in the road than a bike/walking trail because, as dumb as driver are, the path pedestrian and cyclist are worse.

    1. I have to agree with Seth. These two are full of lots of doo doo, and while they may be doctors, they may also be Libertarians, because they sure sound like it. Public Health trumps (sorry) Constitutional Rights in an emergency. It’s not the risk to the General population that is the danger, it is ease with which the general population can pickup, and transmit this virus to the non-general, a.k.a. the vulnerable population. That is where this virus has struck hard, and quarantining the healthy is the right the thing for those at risk.

  3. The bike path is crazy dangerous for cyclists. Personal experience.

    Downwinder’s post is crazy dangerous for….
    ah…. humanity.

    1. Yes the bike path is dangerous. I’d still like to know what happened to that cyclist who went down and hurt his shoulder just before the lock-down. Has anyone heard back or followed up with him?

      As for the doctors video, they are actual practicing doctors, not academics who haven’t seen a patient in 20 years. Watching the video, as opposed to just reading the text explains it better.

  4. That stretch of PCH has never been good, it has been a while but as I recall at one time before they re-striped it, I think there was a bit more room.
    There really is no alternative than to control a lane.

    There is reckless though, returning from grocery shopping Sunday morning descending on Silver Spur in a minivan, a cyclist was weaving erratically, shoulder to beyond the double yellow, not a slalom, but just weird, kept looking back over his shoulder, which he should not have done as he did not know how to do that and ride straight. I was below the limit, holding back as I was guessing this could be a call 911 deal in the making.
    Finally rides down the double yellow then makes a wide high speed sweeper onto an intersection street (Willow Wood)- his speed requiring him to be on the wrong side of that road.

    Behavior like that makes it a challenge for reasonable riders.

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