# riding in traffic

Final exams are over. Time now to say thanks for all your comments and
respond to a few.

A short time ago I wrote;
> Should one ride with traffic, as on a bicycle, or facing traffic as a
> pedestrian.

Beirne Konarski replied

BK I’d say ride with the traffic, like a bicycle. A unicycle is just like a BK
slow bicycle, and the common wisdom there seems to be riding BK with traffic is
best for a bike, although I don’t remember the exact BK logic, except that it
may spook drivers less.

The “logic” is based on the relative velocities of a bicycle and a car. If a car
and a bike were to collide, and they are both traveling in the same direction,
then the force of the impact is a function of the difference of the two vehicle
speeds. However, if the two vehicles are traveling in opposite directions, and a
collision occurs, then the force of the impact is a function of the sum of the
vehicle speeds. For example: Imagine a car traveling at 30 and a bicycle at 10.
If the two vehicles are traveling in the same direction, the relative difference
in their speeds is 30 - 10 = 20. If the two vehicles collided then the force of
the impact would be based on 20. but if the bike and the car are traveling in
opposite directions, and they have a head on collision, the force of the impact
is then based on 40, (30 +
10). The same dynamics apply to pedestrians as well as bicycles, but supposedly
the pedestrian has a better chance of avoiding being struck by a car if he
walks facing the traffic. Also a pedestrian’s speed is slow enough that a car
passing at 30 has a speed relative to the pedestrian of approximately 30,
regardless of the pedestrian’s direction. (Whew, I’m supposed to be on
vacation!)

Myself I like the idea of avoiding being struck by a car altogether.

Maybe I could have phased the question; which side of the street to ride on to
avoid getting run over, cause an accident, or otherwise disrupt the flow of
traffic. Most everyone mentioned driver response to seeing a unicycle, for that
I’m am grateful. I wish to add an addition comment. When I used to ride a
bicycle regularily, I had a small rear-view mirror to watch for traffic from
behind. I would know when a car was approaching from behind me without having to
turn my head to look back, but I found that most drivers would be hesitant to
pass, unless I acknowledged the driver by turning my head to look back at the
car. I’m not sure yet how this experience translates into unicycling, but it
seems to be worth consideration.

Mark

Just my 2 cents worth: I prefer riding on sidewalk as I am usually traveling
closer to pedestrian speed. But when I do go onto the street, it’s usually
because the sidewalk is blocked for some reason or other. When on the street, I
follow the conventions for vehicle traffic (USA: ride with traffic, as far right
as is safe and practicable.)

Dennis Kathrens

Re: riding in traffic

> [bikes ride with traffic to lessen the speed differential]

>From what I’ve heard, you’re actually more likely to get killed in an
accident (you on the bike) being overtaken than hit from head-on. Some speculate
that it’s because when hit head-on you tend to get tossed out of the way while
when overtaken you wind up under the wheels. Anyway, the reason bikes ride with
traffic is that that’s where other road users expect to see them. A car waiting
to turn right from a side street onto a busy road, for instance, is going to
look left and wait until there’s no traffic coming. The driver is not
necessarily going to look to his right before moving out into the lane. If
you’re coming from the right in the opposite direction from what’s expected,
you’ll get creamed.

I’m on this list wondering if I want to get a uni, and have no experience riding
them in traffic or otherwise. But I gather so far that 9 mph is pretty fast for
a uni, and so I’ll offer this comment. I usually travel on a bicycle at speeds
slightly in excess of 20 mph, and am comfortable in traffic that way. Rarely,
maybe because of mechanical problems or a desire not to splash myself on wet
roads, I’ll keep my speed at 12 mph or so. At that speed traffic is really
scary. Maybe it’s because I’m not used to it, but overtaking cars seem to be
going a lot faster. And their drivers, waiting to turn in front of me, are a
lot more likely to cut me off when they realize how slowly I’m moving. I don’t
think I’d like cutting my speed by another 25%.

Back to lurking…

–Eric House

Re: riding in traffic (fwd)

Forwarded message:
> From: Qdot@aol.com Date: Thu, 11 May 1995 21:08:28 -0400 Message-Id:
> <950511204214_115622431@aol.com> To: unicycling Subject: Re: riding in traffic

> Maybe I could have phased the question; which side of the street to ride on to
> avoid getting run over, cause an accident, or otherwise disrupt the flow of
> traffic. Most everyone mentioned driver response to seeing a unicycle, for
> that I’m am grateful. I wish to add an addition comment. When I used to ride a
> bicycle regularily, I had a small rear-view mirror to watch for traffic from
> behind. I would know when a car was approaching from behind me without having
> to turn my head to look back, but I found that most drivers would be hesitant
> to pass, unless I acknowledged the driver by turning my head to look back at
> the car. I’m not sure yet how this experience translates into unicycling, but
> it seems to be worth consideration.

left is just plain unexpected. I do most of my commuting on the sidewalk, but do
a little bit of street riding. One of the most dangerous situations is when I’m
on the left and approaching an intersection with a street on the left. Most
drivers make at most a quick look to their right, and spend the rest of the time
looking to their left, waiting for an opening in the traffic. Then they make
their turn. My commute speed is 8-12 miles an hour, fast enough to get in front
of the person while they are looking the other way.

Beirne

## Beirne Konarski | Subscribe to the Unicycling Mailing List bkonarsk@mcs.kent.edu| Send requests to unicycling-request@mcs.kent.edu “Untouched by Scandal” | Unicycling Web Page: | http://nimitz.mcs.kent.edu/~bkonarsk/

Re: riding in traffic

Hello all,

I am new to your list, and to unicycling. In fact, I got my (first) unicycle
four days ago, and I’m hooked. So far, I can ride forward pretty much
indefinitely (a few wobbles which I can usually iron out but which occassionally
develop into a dismount but anything else is in the future. I have never
seen a unicycle being ridden in Canberra (pop ~300,000) except in shows, so I
was most surprised yesterday when a bloke came out of a house I was practising
opposite and lent me a copy of Jack Wiley’s Complete Book of Unicycling!

Anyway, I have neglected introducing myself to this list but I couldn’t let pass
the comments on riding in traffic. Of course, I can hardly speak from unicycling
experience (yet) but my sole form of transport unril now has been a bicycle and
I have strong feelings about which side of the road to ride on.

> > Should one ride with traffic, as on a bicycle, or facing traffic as a
> > pedestrian.
>
> Beirne Konarski replied
>
> BK I’d say ride with the traffic, like a bicycle. A unicycle is just like a BK
> slow bicycle, and the common wisdom there seems to be riding BK with traffic
> is best for a bike, although I don’t remember the exact BK logic, except that
> it may spook drivers less.
>
> The “logic” is based on the relative velocities of a bicycle and a car.

No, that’s not the logic. There are two bits to the logic. Firstly, roads are
not particularly places for cars—they are nice smooth surfaces that let people
move around easily. Most people choose to do this in a car, but not everybody
does, and the minority of non-car travellers are just as worthy road users as
car-drivers. If you want to drive a tractor, or a horse-drawn buggy along a
public road, then good luck to you. Similarly, riding bicycles and unicycles is
also fair game. Of course, it is polite to ride in such a way as to let faster
traffic pass, but it is only politeness, not obligation.

That being said, there are good reasons to agree that everyone on the road
should ride on the same side. It means that it is much easier to make turns,
manoeuver around slower traffic, etc, if it can be safely assumed that all the
traffic sticks to the correct side of the road. For instance, in Australia we
drive on the left. To make a right turn, it is only necessary to check that
there is no oncoming traffic, by assumption that no-one will overtake in the
‘wrong’ lane. Deliberately riding against the traffic is okay until you meet
intersections, and then it will get damn dangerous. The only way to make riding
against traffic safe is to decide to give way to all traffic (this is
effectively what pedestrians do). Okay, you can do this but why bother when you
could ride on the correct side of the road and take your rightful position as a

Even deciding to be an on-road ‘pedestrian’ is not trouble free. If for some
reason you are riding against the traffic and there is no room for you and
oncoming cars to pass, you are in trouble. You might be able to leap off the
road, as long as there is no hedge, wall, etc in the way. Not too good. On the
other hand, if you are riding with the traffic and a squeeze point is looming,
you just move from the side of the road into the middle so that no cars can
pass. You mght get a few horns, but you won’t get run over (at least, not is
Australia!)

Hmmm. A bit of a rave. Must have pushed a few cyclist buttons, eh.

Cheers,

James Gifford <James.Gifford@anu.edu.au

Re: riding in traffic

In a message to the unicycling list, James Gifford wrote:

[A bicyclist-eye view of the road, arguing we all have as much right to used the

> On the other hand, if you are riding with the traffic and a squeeze point is
> looming, you just move from the side of the road into the middle so that no
> cars can pass. You mght get a few horns, but you won’t get run over (at least,
> not is Australia!)

Here’s where I disagree. While it is fine to argue that, rightfully, we can
take the whole lane to ourselves, I don’t want to be the one conducting that
argument from a hospital bed. I do not feel safe riding down the middle of a
lane (even here in Australia!) and hoping that the car behind me (a) sees me in
time and (b) is feeling sufficiently mellow to consider the rights of the other

I also reckon that if I ride (or walk) at 8km/hr in the middle of a main road,
it will be me the cops pull over, not the angry drivers behind me. Despite your
arguments of the rights of bicyclists, there is still the issue of whether
unicycles are legally allowed on the road at all.

I am still of the opinion, stick to the side of the road which is most visible
and most out of the way, but preferably the “pedestrian” side of the street.

Regards,

Julian

– Julian Orbach (julian@cs.uq.oz.au) – University of Queensland,
Brisbane, Australia