My friend, CyclingSavvy graduate Ian Whiting, rides a lot on shoulderless Massachusetts highways. Big rigs also use them. Ian likes to shoot video as he rides. I am pleased to host his videos here on the Savvy Cyclist. There are already Savvy Cyclist posts about how to be safe when cycling around big trucks in urban traffic, but now Ian will show us a couple of examples of CyclingSavvy control-and-release strategy for the open road.
What is control-and-release strategy?
CyclingSavvy control-and-release strategy is to control the travel lane when passing is unsafe, releasing control by moving over to the right when passing becomes safe. This strategy is about cyclists’ engaging actively with motorists, and it is about release as much as it is about control. Ian’s video shows a couple of different ways to release on the same uphill stretch, with oncoming traffic and a restricted sight line over the hilltop. Both clips in the video start at the same traffic signal. Here’s the location in Google Maps.
In Ian’s first clip, he starts out on a green light; the truck catches up with him partway up the hill. He pulls over into a convenient driveway entrance to let the truck pass. There is nothing unusual about this – except – A second truck was following the one he pulled over to let pass. There’s a lesson in that: cyclists should always check before re-entering the roadway, even after only pulling aside briefly. What you saw behind you is now in front of you, but you might not have seen everything that was behind you.
The “loop-the loop” – not a conventional control-and-release strategy!
In the second clip, Ian is waiting at the traffic light when a big rig pulls up behind. He does a “loop the loop” — a U turn, backtracking, and another U turn to get behind the truck. This is not a conventional control-and-release strategy, but it works. Clever!
I advise using the loop-the-loop technique only when traffic is stopped, and passing would be illegal. In Ian’s video, he is first in line at a red light. The loop-the-loop is practical only when you can easily reach a lane for traffic in the opposite direction — so, almost always on a two-lane highway, though also on a multi-lane highway if you are waiting to turn left. You need to check for illegal passing, but also for traffic in the lane where you will backtrack — including traffic turning into that lane.
The loop-the-loop technique probably won’t generate goodwill to the same extent as pulling over. The truck driver will probably think that you decided to turn around and go back where you came from. But either way, it works better to be behind the big rig than in front. Well, except for the truck’s diesel smoke. But you would get that anyway, only at a different time.