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« Some measure of justice | Main | Irrational Fear »

Don't be a Gutter Bunny

Gutter Bunnies are timorous little creatures; they ride their bicycles hugging the right hand side of the road, afraid to get out of the gutter even when the road is plenty wide enough for cars to pass safely.

Clinging to the right hand edge of the road gives the Gutter Bunny a false sense of security; but their curb hugging habits actually place them in greater danger. Here are a few examples why.

1.) Cars will buzz by Gutter Bunnies like they are not even there. Not slowing down or deviating from their line of travel.

Believe it or not there are Car Driving Gutter Bunnies, who habitually drive with their passenger side wheels trimming the grass at the side of the road.

So if a driver buzzes on by a Gutter Bunny without so much as a touch of his brakes, or deviating from his line of travel, and he just happens to be followed much too closely by Car Driving Gutter Bunny.

Guess what?

The Car Driving version will not even see his bicycle counterpart until he slams in the back of him.

To avoid this situation: Ride 18 inches or so out from the edge of the road; more if the lane width allows it. (Picture right.)

The first car passing will have to make a conscious effort to steer a course around you, this will alert following cars of your presence, and they too will usually follow the same line as the first car.


2.) In this next scenario a Gutter Bunny is riding along a road and is approaching a turning to his right.

A car is racing up this side road at a high rate of speed and it appears he may not stop at the intersection.

The driver does not even see the Bunny approaching on his bike as they have a tendency to blend in with the landscaping. (Below left.) The cyclist is not even sure if the driver entering the highway is turning left or right.

If there is no traffic immediately behind the cyclist, he should move out to the center of the lane, this gives the car driver more opportunity to see the cyclist. (Above right.)

Should the car make a right entering the cyclist’s lane and moving away from him; the cyclist can pull towards the center of the road, or even go into the opposing lane if the is no approaching traffic from the opposite direction. (Below left.)

If the car should make a left turn crossing the cyclists path, the cyclist can pull hard to the right and go behind the offending car. (Above right.)

3.) Similarly, a car driver approaching from the opposite direction and making a left turn into the side road, may not notice the Gutter Bunny as he creeps the extreme edge of the highway. (Below left.)

The Bunny too is off somewhere in his own little Bunny world, daydreaming about little girl bunnies, or whatever. As he pedals across the intersection the car makes his turn and our Bunny is knocked into the middle of next week. (Below right.)

The Bunny may see the car turn at the last moment and try to stop or swerve hard to the left, but he still slams into the side of the vehicle.

Again if there is no traffic behind, the cyclist should move to the center of the lane; in all probability the driver of the left turning car will now see the cyclist. (Below left.)

Alternatively, another car may come up from behind the cyclist which would be his safety buffer; the opposing driver will not turn if there is an approaching car. The cyclist can then signal and move over to the right again as he clears the intersection, allowing the car behind him to pass.

In the worst case scenario, (Above right.) the car still makes its left turn, but the cyclist by positioning himself in the center of the lane has the opportunity to pull left also and go harmlessly behind the offending vehicle.

4.) Finally the dreaded Right Hook: This is where a cyclist is riding straight ahead, but a car passes him then turns right in front of him. The Gutter Bunny leaves himself no room in this situation. (Below left.)

(Above right.) If the cyclist once again is riding out in the lane away from the curb, in all probability the car driver will not pass the cyclist. However, don’t count on it. But at least the cyclist has some room to maneuver and if he makes a hard right also, he may not be going in the direction he intended, but he at least avoided a collision.

In a situation where there is a left turn lane (Above.) the Gutter Bunny will often follow the right hand edge of the road even if he intends to go straight. This is asking for a right hook as following vehicles assume the cyclist is also turning right.

If the cyclist intends to go straight he should stay in the appropriate lane and allow other vehicles turning right to pass on his right.

By riding the extreme edge of the road cyclists leave themselves nowhere to go should they be crowded out by another vehicle. There is either a curb to the right, or the edge of the asphalt drops off sharply or parts of it may be broken or missing.

Claim your space on the highway; always be predictable and let your intentions be known with clear hand signals. A simple turn of the head to look behind will speak volumes to a following car driver that you intend to change direction.



Reader Comments (6)

"Ride High" - best bit of advice ever - I got it from Richard's Bicycle Book when I first started cycling and use it every time I'm in the saddle. His advice on dealing with dogs is good too (not for the faint hearted), but fortunately I've never needed to use it.

October 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHG

Looking at #1 the driver in the RED car can NOT see the cyclist at all,This is even more reason for a flag on the back of the bike and flshing red lights. PLUS a bright refective jersey. Once again all is for naught if no VISABILITY!

October 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGRUMPY Crump

These are all good habits and ones I routinely practice while riding, it's good to see them listed. I also believe these habits are consistent with my state's vehicle code requiring riding a bicycle as far right as practicable. Practicable includes safety, it makes sense to leave an appropriate safety zone between yourself and the gutter or curb, the amount of that zone depends on the conditions.

October 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Thanks, Dave, for posting this.

October 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMicheal Blue

Aside from safety from motorised vehicular traffic there are other reasons not to be a gutter bunny. The gutters are usually not smooth and have the grates for water drains.These may or may not have gaps which can trap a tire. Likely they aren't even with the road bed and form a nasty little bump. The edges of roads w/o gutters usually are some what uneven through wear and tear. Another big factor for me is the debris which collects in the gutter areas. You have to dodge all sorts fo junk and broken glass and you only have one way to dodge, into traffic.

October 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

Don't miss Keri McCaffrey's page on lane position at CyclingSavvy.org -- with animation, video, and general excellence that makes the Bikeleague look like a bunch of dorks.

October 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

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