In Which I Coin A New Term: Passtard

From an otherwise awesome 20-mile early Saturday morning bike ride while in San Diego last week, I was reminded for the 26,235th time that there are right and wrong ways to pass a bicyclist.

In this case, both of the following examples of good and evil occured near the end of my ride on 6th Avenue heading up from downtown to Balboa Park for my first look-see at that amazing place.

The white truck in the following photo — bless its driver’s considerate heart — does things the right way in moving by me on my bike.

You can tell the vehicle has moved left enough to semi-straddle the broken white line of the lane divider in order to increase the space between us and thus pass me more safely.

But then there’s the driver of the blue SUV in the following quick video clip, who blasts past me with at most two feet between us and none of the spatial awareness or consideration demonstrated by the driver of the white pick-up:

It is infuriating — moreso because that driver is not the only passtard, I am too. Conditioned from all my years of urban cycling I unconsciously slot myself firmly in the door zone in an effort to minimize any inconvenience I might be to the vehicles coming up behind me. Try as I might to change that ingrained behavior by taking more of the lane, I inevitably end up pulled almost gravitationally back along the doors in the lane, which basically allows such clueless drivers to go by me so dangerously rather than go around me.

Now here’s the thing about my predilection for riding in the door zone — for which I’ve taken some criticism in the past: First and foremost, I don’t do it lazily. Instead, I always aim to substantially minimize the risk of getting doored by being hyper-aware of the parked vehicles ahead of me. Sure it’s a risky place because of those motorists that pass me so poorly on my left and the doors that might get flung open into my path from the right, but I literally clear parked cars that I’m approaching of any driver’s side occupants. If I see anything resembling a person’s silhouette, I move to the left, sound my bell, or both.

Whether motorists pass me this way on purpose or accidentally I’ve gotten better at remembering my contribution to the encounter and excusing those who buzz by me. When this blue SUV did it, sure… I entertained visions of catching up with the vehicle at the next red light and putting my fist against one of its windows, but then I realized we’re both to blame.