Home > Policy, Travel > I pass cyclists at three feet

I pass cyclists at three feet

This September has seen me cycling in France, in the Alps and Provence, climbing some of the storied Tour de France ascents. I tackled a series of passes and a couple of mountains, among others, and they’re all as hard as you might imagine, long and steep, and at racing speeds they are justifiably the makers of legends. I’m probably never going to get around to doing a proper write-up of my adventures, but I made a goofy video of me climbing the Alpe d’Huez, which you can watch here … or not.

What I found interesting, however, is how much consideration the French give to cyclists in these mountains. It’s nothing like the Netherlands, of course, where cyclists generally have separate infrastructure, but there seems to be a conscious effort at integrating cyclists onto the roads. Part of it comes from pure practicality: summer is the slow season in many of these areas, and cyclists bring money. But I also saw many signs that help drivers in their interactions with other road users. In particular, I thought these signs, which tell drivers quite clearly to pass at 1.5 meters, were helpful in a way that our banal and next-to-useless “share the road” signs are not.

So, in short, I say this: if California’s governor does, in fact, sign the three-foot passing bill into law, we should get rid of the “share the road” signs and replace them with something much more useful and instructive, something that tells drivers what to do, something like these French panneaux.

Categories: Policy, Travel
  1. September 16, 2012 at 9:03 PM

    Excellent suggestion. These signs tell motorists HOW to share the road, and offer a clear, easy-to-understand illustration, neither of which California’s useless “share the road” signs do.

  2. October 14, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    Thanks for the armchair travel adventure! The road sign is heartening because it suggests 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) of passing distance. By now we know that our good Governor can’t recommend even 3 feet for California cyclists – a real shame on him. And that’s the second time he’s vetoed safe passing legislation.

    The French have an ambivalent relationship with cyclists too, I learned. Cycling is a cultural force there (home to the Tour, after all!) and those who bike for sport, recreation or transportation have claimed the road as theirs. But they’re also sporty drivers, and don’t necessarily like to slow generously to pass a cyclist. So there’s friction. I wonder if you encountered any passive-aggression. Of course, it’s different being buzzed by a Fiat or Renault than by a Yukon or Expedition.

    Of course here in the states we’re dealing with outright aggression (on the road, in post comments) precisely because it’s not yet a part of the culture. But it’s coming. We may never embrace the sport side as the French have, but we’ll start to see an appreciation for the utility and recreational aspects.

  1. September 16, 2012 at 2:12 PM

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