We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Gear Prudence: My commute takes me across intersections that regularly get blocked by inconsiderate drivers who get stuck in the middle of the intersection as the light changes because they were simply in too much of a hurry to wait the 30 seconds of the light cycle and would rather inconvenience everyone else who is trying to move perpendicular to their route. Aside from how to deal with the rage this instills in me, what’s the proper protocol for crossing an intersection when you have the green light, but a car is sitting right in front of you? —Bicycling Looking Ornery, Consistently Knowing Enormous Difficulties
Dear BLOCKED: Everything anyone has ever needed to know about dealing with being inconvenienced by awkwardly placed cars can be grokked through a careful re-examination of the Foo Fighters music video-qua mockery of breath mint advertisement for the song “Big Me.” You can either, with some puckish mates, hoist the vehicle to a more appropriate location less directly in your path or, conversely, open one of the car doors, trod forth, and caddishly traverse through the back seat of the vehicle. With either approach, though, you would be somewhat inhibited by your bicycle, an obstacle about which the Foo gave us little guidance.
Kennedy-era (the VJ, not the president) musings aside, you really have but three choices: 1) Wait for the driver to clear the intersection, 2) cut in front of the car, perhaps inhibiting the driver from forward movement if the traffic in the intersection clears, or 3) ride behind the car and maybe put yourself in a position where you impede the movement of others, namely drivers. Regarding the waiting option, there’s nothing wrong with patience, but it does seem a bit unfair that your progress is impeded by someone else’s callous disregard for good sense and civility. Consider this option only if you have something genuinely worthwhile to do, like popping a Mentos, dramatically rolling your eyes, and wistfully sighing at your plight. As for the “go in front” or “go behind” options, either is germane. Pick the one that most assures your safety and/or allows you to continue on your way most expediently. Often, the box-blocking driver will also be impeding pedestrians, and out of deference to them (and also because it’s generally faster not to cycle near pedestrians), it’s better to cross behind the offending car so as to avoid them. Never fret about potentially slowing a driver inconvenienced by a box-blocker. You’ll likely need less space than a driver anyway, so get to the front and through the intersection as quickly as possible. In situations where order breaks down, it’s best for the cyclist to get out of the way, even if that’s the most self-interested thing to do anyway. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who blogs at talesfromthesharrows.blogspot.com and tweets at @sharrowsdc. Got a question about bicycling? Email email@example.com.