I pedaled up behind him westbound on Riverside, catching him at the stop light at Wall by the STA plaza. Good-looking black bike, fully loaded racks with panniers front and back. At least somewhat safety-oriented rider: wearing two rear-view mirrors clipped to his helmet as compared with my one.
Why do I say “somewhat” safety-oriented? He was wearing all dark clothing, his rear taillight was tucked away in near invisibility under the rack, and it was 5:15, the sun dropping rapidly to the west. He pedaled along slowly in the left-hand tire track of the right-hand lane, while I was riding as far to the right as is safe, per the law.
“Good afternoon,” I called cheerily. No response. “Is he wearing earphones?” I muttered aloud to myself. At that, he turned his head and smiled at me. White guy, long ringlets, soul patch, John Lennon glasses. “Hi,” I said, smiling back.
Light changed. Beat him to the next light, but of course it changed and he caught me on the red—kind of like what all of us do to drivers through downtown as they jackrabbit ahead only to wait for us at the next light.
The thing is, I could feel the impatience of the drivers behind us. Not only that, I could see it. They were stacking up behind us (remember, it’s 515 p.m.). If it had been only me they could have passed, but he blocked the lane. "Share the road" isn't just rhetoric directed at drivers—it's aimed at us, too.
While it’s legal for two riders to ride abreast, we weren’t together when he chose that spot all by himself. We were traveling at different speeds and once I got out ahead of those darn lights, I was going to be gone while he would continue to slow vehicular traffic from his illegal spot.
“You really should get over,” I said, glancing back at the string of cars behind us. “So they can get by.”
He smiled at me, his glasses glinting in the sun. “Thanks for the feedback,” he said politely.
I had to smile. “I thought you’d appreciate it,” I said as I pulled away when the light changed. He rode another block, then from his spot behind and to my left he made a wide right turn onto Lincoln and we went our separate ways.
What do you do when you see a cyclist doing something that irritates drivers, maybe making it harder on the rest of us, and you have the opportunity to say something?
Are we all bike educators, in a sense—trying to improve traffic flow, safety and courtesy among cyclists as well as drivers and pedestrians—or should I remember I haven’t been deputized and just shut up for a while?
What would you have done?