Running Interference

Last week, I had an errand to run, so I reserved some time on Zip Car. I pulled out of the parking space, drove around the block, and there, right in front of me, was a cyclist climbing up a long, steep hill.


My first reaction was a gut feeling that he was going to slow me down on my errand.

Maybe I could pass.

But then I thought about it. How much was he really going to slow me down? By a few seconds? A minute, tops? Maybe I could pass him, but why make him feel pressured? It’s a long, tough climb. I know, I’ve done it, and it’s not easy. He was as far to the right as he could get, doing his best to get up the hill without impeding drivers trying to get up the hill.

I changed my mind. I decided I could wait. Instead of passing him, I held back. I gave him some space on the road, and some time to climb to the next light. Other cars behind me might have passed him, but they couldn’t pass me. So we all held back, giving the guy some space on the road.

And you know what? Nobody honked at me. Nobody tailgated me, or revved their engines, or buzzed me, or yelled “get off the road!” The other drivers just waited patiently, just like me, as we all climbed the hill together.

He got to the light, and I pulled up behind him and stopped, still taking the entire lane with my car. When the light changed, he pulled ahead, and I waited until he was clear of my car before turning right. At least he had a head start on a steep climb.

I’ve always given a safe distance when passing cyclists, but I’ve never deliberately used my car to help another cyclist negotiate a difficult stretch of road. Until last week.

And now it turns out, I’m not alone. It may even become a trend.

What about you? Do you help other cyclists when you’re driving? And if so, how?
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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Will Haltiwanger says:

    In general I help other cyclists by simply being a good driver. Passing when it is safe and following the rules of the road. We just had an incident where someone in a car decided to be friendly and pull along beside a group ride to wave and chat. The result was four riders going to the ER. If you are in a car don’t try to mix with bicycles, even if they are your friends. Pass safely and perhaps wave after. It you want to chat find a place to pull over and wait for the cyclists to come to you.

  • Smorg says:

    Don’t know if it qualifies as running interference, but I was out riding with a friend a while back and we were climbing back up to Mission Hills (in San Diego) via Jackson/Cosoy St. It’s a spiky and curvy little climb that maxes out around 12% grade and my friend, who is on the heavy side, was struggling mightily up it. I pulled over at a driveway on the curve and asked her if she needed a breather, but she was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to get going again if she stopped, so she refused. A car came driving up behind us just as my friend started zigzagging. I was pretty concerned that we would have a road rage episode as the road is very narrow… but the driver just hung behind her very patiently crawling up to the leveled out intersection, where she was finally able to safely pass. She gave a honk, rolled down the window and gave my friend a big thumb up for making it to the top without stopping. That had got to be the nicest thing I had seen a driver do to a cyclist all year. 🙂

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