We are all familiar with irate motorists who seem to begrudge us the road space we need to cycle safely. On the other end of the spectrum, though, is the aspect (true or not) of “Minnesota Nice,” which shows itself when motorists stop in the middle of the road to let cyclists cross the Street. This would be fine (and legal) if we are crossing at a crosswalk or an intersection where the cyclist has the right of way. But this is definitely not okay in other instances. Remember that even if YOU can see that one driver has stopped and is waving you ahead, the cars coming from behind the Good Samaritan likely wouldn’t see the driver’s ‘wave-through’ and might try to pass!
One of the participants in a recent bicycling seminar was a police officer from Miami-Dade in Florida. She told of a heart-wrenching incident in which three children on bikes were waved across a busy road by a driver who had stopped his/her car in mid-block. Unfortunately the driver of another car in a different lane did not see the children and struck them as they were crossing the road.
Just tonight I read online of another incident of the same type in California. In this case the child was killed. “The attorney said the boy was walking home from school when another driver stopped for him in the intersection and waved him across. [A second driver] allegedly tried to swerve around the car to pass, and then struck the child.”
The principle here is that no other person can change the rules of the road for YOU, whether you are riding, walking or driving. This is also why we discourage other cyclists from calling out “clear!” at stop signs; why is this done except to encourage rolling through the stop signs? It is your individual responsibility to stop and look for yourself, regardless of how many in the group may have rolled through that stop sign without injury.
If it is not safe to cross, then wait. If a motorist stops to wave you through, and they should not have stopped, then I suggest waving back cheerfully and shaking your head. Some drivers have been so persistent that I’ve had to get off my bike and turn around before they would finally relent and continue on their way.
Let others stop and wave, or yell “clear” all they want, but it is up to each of us to follow what we know to be the rules of the road.
(Originally published in the Twin Cities Bicycling Club Activity News: September 2001)