This is the blog post that was forming in my head before all the excitement the other night. I was going to say-
Something very unusual happened on my ride today. It was really no big deal, but for the rarity of it.
I had a string of cars pile up behind me, waiting to pass! Yes, really!
Some say that as a courtesy and as a gesture of goodwill, cyclists ought to move aside from a primary lane position to facilitate faster traffic getting by them. If it is safe to do so, they often add. But how many automobiles in queue does it take to evoke the "courtesy doctrine"? There is some dispute over this.
Many cite Pennsylvania and California statutes that mandate operators of slow vehicles yield when five or more drivers of faster vehicles pile up behind them. I guess those laws are saying that one's Right-Of-Way (ROW) is equal to 20% of everyone else's Right-To-Proceed-At-Or-Above-The-Posted-Speed-Limit. (RTPAOATPSL) When enough driver's RTPAOATPSL of .2, taken together, exceeds your ROW of 1, your ROW disappears and you are now violating the ROW of overtaking motorists!
Why five? Is three slowed vehicles too burdensome because it would force too frequent pull-offs? Is five delayed drivers suffer-able while six delayed drivers is a tragedy? I think such laws are preposterous. They are the result of political compromises and then the one size fits all mandate is forced onto the public.
In places that such laws exist, it is no longer a matter of courtesy, but a matter rights under the law. It is not a courtesy to pull aside, but an obligation. Such is the effect of laws. Law, being such a blunt force, is a poor guide when seeking enlightenment on matters of courtesy, don't you think.
Perhaps a better guide as to when pulling aside is a courteous thing to do is the amount of time a vehicle must wait behind you.
I suppose, if it were a hill crest ahead causing the motorist to be unable to pass you in a safe manner, there would be no need to pull aside, as our progress to passing lanes can be clearly seen and accessed. The trauma for the motorist by such a delay would be milder than if heavy opposing traffic were keeping them from passing you.
But if opposing traffic were steady enough that it were unlikely that a motorist's RTPAOATPSL could be resumed within 30 seconds, pulling aside might be in order. Keep in mind that this arbitrary span of time is less than most signal light cycles, which is a common, acceptable, and expected delay performed at a complete stand-still!
I do not think I have ever caused any vehicle a 20 second delay, let alone a half minute. The actual necessity to pull aside may come up from time to time for a cyclist who exercises lane control, but it is a rare and unusual situation.
In April of this year, there was some discussion of being "cautious" even though the law is clear that I am not compelled to do so. The imaginary example of impeding traffic for endless miles was usually trotted forward. So I began to take a more careful observation of just how many automobile drivers queue up behind me.
From then until the other eventful day, the highest number was two. The unusually long string of cars that momentous day was three! [Gasp!] The huge traffic pile up managed to dissipate in about 20 seconds.
In my experience, cycling on narrow roads impedes other road users, but less than the impedances caused by non-bicycle traffic. The worries people have of interfering with traffic flow when cyclists take their rightful place on the public by-ways is unfounded.