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Single-File and Other Rules of the Road

Wed, 08/19/2020 - 20:46


As much as they might improve a dangerous situation, new bicycle lanes will not be coming anytime soon to rescue East End roads. Bureaucracies, even small-town ones, move slowly. In the meantime, biking during Covid will remain harrowing for riders and passing drivers alike. On a busy summer day, Further Lane or Old Stone Highway can be a gauntlet of one-finger salutes, honking horns, and howls of road rage. (“Single file!” the driver screams. “Up yours!” the cyclist replies.) Everyone seems to believe they are the one in the right; everyone seems to be operating under their own private set of rules.

If you, like us, could hear the stream of 911 ambulance calls that come in each week for cycling accidents, you’d agree: We all need to shake hands on a few basic ground rules.

First, drivers, if you are overtaking a bicycle on your side of the street, the rules of the road require you to wait — you, not the oncoming driver. Yes, you have to wait behind the cyclist until the oncoming lane is clear before trying to pass. It is startling how many drivers do not seem to understand — or care? — that when they are the one facing an obstruction, they should never move into the path of an approaching vehicle to get by. On our narrow lanes, this small patience is the only way to give bicycles adequate room; three feet of berth is the recommended distance. Also, slow down, for crying out loud. Speed does kill.

And, bikers, as pleasant as it may be to chat while you meander up that seemingly quiet country road, you really should not ride two abreast (or three or six abreast). If you’re coming from the city, the lane might feel empty to you, but vehicles are indeed almost always approaching — frequently from behind, frequently at high speed, frequently on curves where the driver cannot see you. As for you packs of fitness-oriented riders, please don’t bunch up in large groups. You need to spread out and share the road. It may be fun to pretend you are in the peloton in the Tour de France, but it’s just the Hamptons, and it’s really, really crowded. And, lastly, ride with traffic.

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