Several weeks ago I posted an article with dashcam video about roads with double yellow lines. I was driving the car, and slowed to follow a bicyclist at a blind curve on a two-lane rural highway. A large dump truck with a trailer appeared, coming from the opposite direction.
If I had held my speed and passed the bicyclist, I could not have merged left far enough to pass the bicyclist safely. Neither could the truck driver see me in time to make more room.
The bicyclist kept to the right as far as he could. He relied only on hope — and my good judgment — to avoid a close pass, or worse.
The video held a message for motorists: “What you don’t see can hurt you” — or hurt someone else (in this case, most likely the bicyclist).
Blind curves hold a message for bicyclists
To clarify this message, I later rode the same stretch on a bicycle with front and rear video cameras.
As this video shows, I mostly rode on the shoulder. Several cars and a pickup truck passed me — no problem. No oncoming traffic prevented safe passing clearance.
But as I approached the blind curve, the shoulder narrowed to almost nothing. A big truck or other large vehicle could be approaching ahead. Who knew? Who could know? Neither I nor the driver of the car approaching from behind me could see around that curve.
Here’s what I did — what I always do — to protect myself:
I checked in my rearview mirror and took a look over my shoulder. If vehicles had been closer behind, I would have have used a hand signal to negotiate my way into line.
The driver slowed to follow me for a few seconds. Once I had rounded the curve and could see far enough ahead, I released to the right and give a friendly wave. The driver accelerated and passed me.
How control and release promotes safe passing
What did my actions achieve?
- They indicated that I was aware of the driver’s vehicle behind me.
- They indicated that I knew it was unsafe to pass. Maybe I knew something the driver didn’t know!
- In case the driver was impatient, they made it clear that passing would have to wait until we could both see far enough ahead.
- The car’s slowing confirmed to me that the driver was aware of me and acting safely.
- And by releasing as soon as it was safe, I demonstrated courtesy. No motorist wants to be “stuck” behind a cyclist.
As it turned out, there was no large truck, or not even a small car, approaching from the front.
But that isn’t the point. One could have been.
Might the driver behind me have passed, unable to see far enough ahead, if I had hugged the right edge of the road? I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter, because I took active control of my safety in a potentially dangerous situation.
When my safety is at stake, I choose not to rely on others to do the right thing. As we say in CyclingSavvy courses, drivers get smarter when we lead the dance.