Message to "On your left" bicyclists (too mild for the Pit)

This has come up, usually in the form of Pit threads, many times before. This is addressed to the many smart and logical cylists on this forum, but especially to Mr. Ay Ah, whom I encountered yet again this morning.

It has been firmly established that most cyclists are intelligent, thoughtful, law-abiding citizens who are above reproach. It has also been firmly established that most pedestrians are slow-witted morons who lack the ability to rub two brain cells together. Got it.

But please, for the love of Og, when you clearly state “Hello and well met, good fellow, I am a cyclist who is about to pass you on your left, so I advise you stay to the right to avoid a collision”, could you please a) Say it some time BEFORE you pass, b) use your outdoor voice, and c) use more than two syllables?

We morons who are too stupid to react properly to your clear and unambiguous directive are not mentally swift enough to understand your mumble. I’m sure that in your head you are being perfectly reasonable, but to the outside world you’re just mumbling incomprehensibly under your breath.

This morning I heard someone behind me say “Ay Ah.” In a soft voice. I wasn’t sure if he was directing it at me, but it kind of sounded like someone who knew me and was saying hello. I actually turned to my left to see who it was. It absolutely did not sound like “On your left”, which it turned out to be. Luckily he was already past me by the time I reacted. This is not the first time that this has happened with this guy.

So please bicyclists, if you find that every pedestrian that you almost collide with is a complete moron, it’s probably your fault. And if it happens to you on a regular basis, get the fuck off the sidewalk where you don’t belong in the first place.

Thank you for your attention.

And when I use my outside voice(which is really loud) from a distance back, you jump to the left into my path.

Let me guess – what you shout is “(something something) LEFT!”?

What would happen if instead you shouted “Stay to your right!”?

I shout loud and clear-“ON YOUR LEFT”. No mumble.

Don’t know what would happen if I tried “Stay right”.

So, either:
(1) the pedestrian wants to be hit by the bicycle, or
(2) “On your left” does not convey the intended meaning to the pedestrian.

Perhaps they just hear the word “left”, and think it means, “Please move to your left.”

I think that’s exactly it. It comes out as “(Do something) left.” The operative word in that directive is “left.” If you say “Stay right”, then the pedestrian will hear “(Do something) right” and move accordingly.

Unless they think I’ve said “on your right” and they move to the left.

I’ve got a nice, loud bell on my bike. Does that work for everyone?


You’d think, but I still have people step right in front of me (on the signed bike route, not the sidewalk) and one guy very indignantly told me to use my voice because it was easier to hear over the traffic.

I wonder how those wedding pictures turned out.

On the bike path that I use, I’d say about 30% of the people ***move to the left *** when I try to warn them. Most of them are in their own little worlds, and I imagine that I’ve startled them out of whatever reverie got going on.

I guess what they hear is “…LEFT!”, and reflexively jump to the left. At that point, what I usually say is, “No, your OTHER left!”

Sure. When I’m walking down a sidewalk I’m often lost in thought. I’m not preoccupied with wondering which side a cyclist is going to sneak up on me from. It happens seldom enough that I’m normally free to think whatever I want.

It’s the cyclist’s job to bring himself into my awareness, give me a clear directive, and leave plenty of time for me to react appropriately.

If you’re on a sidewalk then the cyclist is at fault as he/she should not be riding faster than walking pace.

Some(most?) locales prohibit bicycle on sidewalk except for youngsters.

On multi-use paths, maybe pedestrians should be facing facing traffic just as on the road.

Definitely true of the sidewalks where Mr. Ay Ah was. He shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

I get this problem a lot more with joggers.

So walk on the left?

Assuming the cyclist is riding to his right, you would be on the same side facing the cyclist.

Yes, your left.

Don’t most people understand that passing happens on the left? So, on a pathway, don’t most people walk on the right, then? If you hear ‘On your left’, or even ‘…left!’, can’t you guess that someone is going to pass you, on the left, as is normal for all other things (i.e. driving)?

Maybe I’m just lucky. Here, most of our pathways have yellow lines down the middle. Most people walk on the right side of the line, so when a cyclist needs to pass, they holler or ding the bell, and cross the line to pass (if clear in the opposite direction), just as traffic would do.

ETA: Passing on the left in North America, I should clarify.

There are people who I’m sure[sup]*[/sup] are good drivers who totally zone out when they are pedestrians on a path. Yellow lines down the middle? Wouldn’t stop them from walking five abreast and taking ten seconds to notice that someone wants to get past.

There are also bicyclists who ride where they shouldn’t and don’t realize the people zone out when they become pedestrians.

  • However, the OP and I are in Boston, so we can’t be sure sure.

I don’t frequent many mixed paths, but in general, yes, I stay to the right.

The problem with mentioning which side you’re passing on is partly one of awareness. In the cyclist’s mind, I imagine that he or she is thinking “I’m obviously on a bike, there is an obvious pedestrian ahead of me, so I will make my intention clear, and all will go well.” But the pedestrian’s thinking is “I’ve got to get that TPS report out by lunchtime, and I have to remember to use the new cover sheet, and then I have to call… is someone talking to me? They said something about lef…” By that time the cyclist is already past.

No matter how clear you are, it’s still going to take a second or two for it to even register with the pedestrian, and a lot can happen in that second or two.

I for one wouldn’t get the “on your left” if it were addressed to me (it is totally unknown here in Germany AFAIK). As the pedestrian I’d probably hear “something left” and move left. After all when you are unexpectedly addressed by someone you tend not to clearly understand the first few phonemes. (isn’t that the reason for the pretty information-free first words in most phone/conversation protocols?)

What works for me, and for most other pedestrians here: hear a bicycle bell behind me - automatically make sure I am on the right side of the path. Why does it seem to be “on your left” in the US instead of ringing one’s bell?

BTW one idiotic thing that I sometimes find myself doing: for separated pedestrian/bike paths that I mostly ride on a bike on, I walk on the bike side when on foot - because that’s the lane I am used to.

Yes! This is especially true when you’ve never heard the person speak before. Everyone has their own voice idiosyncracies, and it usually takes a few works to “tune in” to it. The “on your” is generally going to go unheard.

“Hey, bicycle coming up on your left” would probably be much more understood.

What the world needs is a digital bike horn where you can custom record your own personal pedestrian warning.