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Gear Prudence: I have a trail etiquette question. Last night, as I rode home, I came upon a slower rider up ahead of me with a runner in front of him. Both were in the appropriate right lane, as was I. I was moving at a brisker pace than either of them, and as I approached—and in plenty of time—I loudly announced my intention to pass them. As I pulled around, he suddenly and without looking or signaling pulled out to pass the runner in front of him. As soon as he saw me next to him, he started yelling at me about right of way. I told him I had announced my pass and he screamed at me that announcing a pass does not change right of way and that, because he was in front, I should yield. So, who’s right? —Pretty Annoyed Strictly Speaking
Dear PASS: GP gets a fair share of trail questions, but in most of the them, the tension is between cyclists and runners, who are asked to share the same narrow space while traveling at vastly different speeds. The disagreement is between you and the other cyclist, fellow travelers forced into conflict over passing the slower moving runner. Who’s right depends on a few factors, but it primarily hinges on what calling out a pass actually means.
Is calling out your intention to pass tantamount to calling dibs? Is it a claim to the future occupancy of a certain space? Or is calling out a pass more like tweeting that you’re planning on going to brunch? Simply an announcement into the void of your intended course of action but ultimately meaningless? And to what extent does announcing your pass in advance free you from continued obligations to yield to the cyclist in front of you? These questions vex, and while we patiently wait for the UN to finally convene the International Convention of Multi-use Trail Etiquette, we must muddle through as best we can with these unclear definitions.
GP’s take is this: It’s good that you announced your pass ahead of time, and 9 times out of 10, you’re unlikely to experience any kind of conflict, as the other cyclist will wait to pass the runner until you’ve pulled around. Nevertheless, in this type of situation, it’s reasonable to anticipate that the cyclist in front of you also wants to pass the runner. Consider slowing up and getting behind him to facilitate that. If after a few seconds, there’s no movement on his part, then announce your pass and pull around. Sure it’ll cost you a few seconds, but it’ll also only cost you a few seconds. And if you have time to write GP for advice, how precious could your time really be? —GP