Life in the Bike Lane

Flotsam, jetsam and a steak knife
By: Tom Frady
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Section 21202 of the California Vehicle Code states, in part (and I paraphrase):

When riding a bicycle slower than automobile traffic, a rider must stay as far to the right of the roadway as safe (there are some exceptions).

So, why is that rider not hugging the edge of the road out on McCourtney when I pass him in my car?

There are a number of reasons cyclists may legally move to the left but I want to discuss one that may be less obvious to drivers.

Look at the photo. 

I had no trouble collecting this flotsam (or is it jetsam?) during three short rides.  I did not pick up rocks, broken glass, thorns, pieces of lumber, pieces of cars or anything too large or gooey to put in my pocket. 

I also left potholes in place. 

I don’t even know what some of this stuff is but any of it (well, maybe not the quarter) can puncture a tire, flip up into spokes or make a wheel jump violently to one side, causing an accident.

If hit just right by a bike wheel, some of these objects can be shot into oncoming traffic or another bike rider. 

The farther to the right a rider travels, the more junk there is to dodge, plus there is a drop off from the pavement to dirt.  

The rider is usually the arbiter of what is a “safe” distance to the right edge of the road or a curb.  While not spelled out in the vehicle code, it is reasonable to assume a distance of three feet, plus two feet for the width of the bike. 

The way a bike works, there is inevitably a bit of side-to-side sway while riding.

I think many drivers would be amazed at what dangers lie on the road. If some of these bolts, screws and unidentifiable objects are falling off cars, I would be concerned about the integrity of the vehicles. 

Judging by the number of individual work gloves I see, I assume much of this jetsam (or is it flotsam?) flies out the back of pickup trucks. 

I have found tools (wrenches and screwdrivers) that live on my workbench today.  I can’t explain the steak knife, though.

High-traffic stop lights are a veritable treasure trove of wheel-balancing weights, odd pieces of clothing and large bolts. 

And how does loose change end up in the street? 

A group of experienced riders point out and call out such obstacles to the riders behind them.  This is why you might see a line of riders move off the shoulder (where they are not required to ride, anyway), out of a bike lane (you know, where the trash cans are on pickup day) or away from the edge of the road for a short time.

I looked up “flotsam and jetsam.” There are specific maritime differences, but generally, it’s a collection of miscellaneous items or fragments of little importance. That fits. 

Tom Frady is a Lincoln resident and avid cyclist and driver.