I've made reference to the term "curb bunny" frequently, and I've used this great picture to illustrate a victim of CIC (Cyclist Inferiority Complex), but I've never really explained what a curb bunny is, or why I disparage them.
A curb bunny is a cyclist who "rides as far right as POSSIBLE", meaning that they ride as close to the curb, or the road edge, as they physically can, usually within a foot or foot and a half. This behavior is a symptom of the Cyclist Inferiority Complex, and cyclists do this for two reasons:
- They think this is what the law says they are to do,
- They try to give cars as much room as possible to pass.
practicableIf the curb/road edge is uneven, or full of debris, or has drainage grates, then it is not feasible to ride in that area, nor is that area usable for a bicycle to operate safely in. It may be physically POSSIBLE to ride your bicycle there, but is not a wise PRACTICE to do so. State Law also says that if a lane is of "sub-standard" width, a cyclist may command the lane, or "take" the lane. The Texas Department of Transportation use to define a sub-standard width lane as anything below 12 feet in width. TxDOT now defines 14' as the minimum width that an automobile and a bicycle can "share" a lane (meaning to travel side-by-side in their usage).
1 : capable of being put into practice or of being done or accomplished : feasible practicable plan>
2 : capable of being used : usable practicable weapon>
So, a correct understanding of the law should convince cyclists that they don't need to be curb bunnies.
However, I am convinced that Reason #2 is the primary cause for curb bunnies. The inexperienced, and/or under educated, cyclist's greatest fear when riding on the roadway or street is being struck from behind by a motor vehicle. This is also BY FAR the least likely collision they will possibly have (and not the deadliest, either). The incidence of occurrence usually involves a cyclist riding at night with little or no illumination or reflective material, or it involves a DUI motorist or cyclist. When you remove the darkened cyclist scenario, the incidences of rearward collision become so rare as to be almost statistically insignificant.
Simply put, it is not a reasonable fear for cyclists, and it is nothing to be overly concerned about.
However, there is another rearward collision that is worth being concerned about. That is the "making contact while passing" incident. In this case, the cyclist may be brushed by a side mirror, or nudged by a fender, as a motor vehicle passes. The cyclist may fall immediately, or may lose control of their bicycle and fall very soon afterward, with very serious injuries, including fatalities. These occur with considerably greater frequency than the straight rearward collision.
Riding next to the curb or road edge is the primary cause of this type of collision. Curb bunnies invite their own doom by riding this way.
Here's what happens: A cyclist is riding on a standard street, either with an 11' or 12' lane width. They are riding as close to the curb/road edge as possible, with their left edge being as close as two feet from the curb face (or even closer in some cases), and their right side only six inches away.
An overtaking motor vehicle sees the cyclist giving them as much room to pass as possible (very different from "practicable"), and proceeds to pass the cyclist without moving to their left to give the cyclist more room. The motorist continues in a straight line, passing within a foot or less of the cyclist. This is an unintentional "right-of-way permission" the cyclist has granted to the motorist.
The educated, and/or experienced cyclist knows to ride a minimum of three feet out from the curb face. Not only are there far fewer debris in the cyclist's path, the pavement is smoother, and their are also fewer potholes (which develop easily along the gutter pan/asphalt seam) to have to deal with.
As a motorist overtakes a cyclist who is riding three or more feet into the lane (I ride a minimum of four feet out), they see that the cyclist IS NOT giving them permission to pass without deflection. The cyclist is maintaining their lawful right of way, and "negotiating" with the motorist how the pass will be executed. This is not discourteous cycling, it is simply safe vehicle operation. In this situation, I might shift my position one foot to the right (thereby being three or four feet from the curb, instead of my usual four to five feet), and signal the motorist to pass. They still have to deflect, but by yielding a foot, I have communicated that I am giving them some extra space to complete their pass, while leaving myself enough space to take any necessary actions.
The motorist deflects their path, pulling out to the left to pass, just as they would any other slower-moving vehicle. They will either move into the adjacent lane, or straddle it, as they pass. Once clear of the "slow moving vehicle", they will pull back into the right hand lane without incident. All clear, all safe.
There's an amazing bonus to this action: reduced tensions. Invariably, cyclists whom I have taught to ride like this, will discover that horn honks, finger wagging (and waving), and shouting all decrease or disappear. By taking an action many cyclists fear is discourteous (taking their lane), they discover that exercising the laws of right-of-way actually increase motorists courtesy. Why? Because they are no longer afraid that they are going to hit you. You have stood up for your rights as a vehicle operator, and 999 times out of a 1,000, the motorists recognize and appreciate the fact that you have successfully negotiated right-of-way with them.
Try it. You'll like it.