Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Juking the Cars

I was going to call this post "Vehicular Jiu-Jitsu", but technically Jiu-Jitsu implies using the weight (and momentum) of your opponent against him, and in terms of weight and momentum, the cars have all the advantage. So I realized I was really thinking about another "J" word, from American sports (it's used both in American football and basketball): Juking.

The online slang dictionary defines the word thus:

juke |joōk| informal

verb [ intrans. ]
1 to cheat.
2 to not meet someone as planned; to "stand up."
3 to fake out or to feign [sports].
4 to dance provocatively.

The applicable definition here is #3. In basketball, to "juke the defender" means to fake a shot (to get the defender to leave his feet) and, while the defender is in the air, drive by him. In football, the "juke" is a weaving or swerving pattern used by receivers to lose their defenders. In both cases, the offensive person make a move to get the defender to hesitate, and then takes advantage.

It happened in traffic the other evening, coming home. I was trying to move into the left lane in traffic to get into a left-turn-only lane. I had my arm out, and two cars had passed me by (the second one made me a little angry -- he had plenty of time to see me and give me room.) The guy in the third car was going to try and sneak by (I was "just a cyclist", after all) but I crowded him, swerved ever so slightly into his lane and he backed off. He didn't want to -- he gave me quite the dirty look as he passed me by on the right. When I saw what he was driving, (a Mercedes S-class) I gave myself a couple of bonus points, as I suspect he wasn't used to getting backed down by drivers in lesser cars, much less a cyclist.

Welcome to the juke, fella. Don't be angry with me just because I maneuvered you into doing the right thing.

This ability to make a split-second judgement about what a driver is doing (or likely to do) is one of, if not the most challenging aspect of vehicular cycling.

Particularly in this situation -- drivers wouldn't dream of overtaking a car slowing down with its left turn-signal on, but many, many drivers think they can sneak by a cyclist doing exactly the same thing. Although it helps to be taking the lane pretty aggressively, I've still had drivers zoom by me when I'm full in the lane with my arm out. I can't explain this level of motorist negligence.

I don't know how this is taught in the LAB classes (as I've not been able to attend one yet, but that's another story). I think it is one of the most "athletic" aspects of VC, so the athletic analogy is well-suited here.

NB: The image above is from a very cool web page illustrating "Self-Defence with a Walking-Stick," originally from a 1901 edition of Pearson's magazine.


Jett said...

Fun discussion illustrating Vehicular Cycling.

I haven't officially attended a LAB class either, but I do get many opportunities to talk with cyclists about what it means to behave like a motorist. The example you bring up is excellent for this discussion.

Let's pretend for a moment that the cyclist is not only behaving like a motorist, but actually is a motorist.

If the cyclist had moved over into the lane before the motorist had approached, the motorist would simply assume the cyclist was last in line all along and there would be no resentment about getting in front of them.

If however, the cyclist appears to be "breaking in line", then what they can expect to get isn't usually called "courtesy". ;-)

Signaling a turn is great, but if it might indicate a lack of fore-thought, then the chances of courtesy are dependent on the maturity of the motorist and is no longer in your hands.

This example extends to the situation where the cyclist did not get a break in the traffic and never got to the left lane. Following VC, I do the same thing I would do in a car. I make a right turn at the intersection where I wanted to make a left and then at a convenient location, I make a U-turn or other series of turns that gets me going in the right direction.

The connection you make between taking the lane and feinting is interesting. Vehicular Cycling means doing what is expected whereas feinting is doing what is unexpected. I like the contrast.

Anonymous said...

Had the same problem yesterday but the traffic was so dense that my typical juke seemed too risky. Did as Jett explained, a right coupled with a U.

The problems in these situations are compounded when riding with my young sons on busy roads. They have learned the right+U works and we use it often.

Donny said...

I like the idea and I'll try it out. I avoid a Right+U at most costs, preferring to do a "box turn" if I can't get into the left lane.

Jett said...

My car has a tight turning radius, but I can't manage the box turn in my car ;-).

Sorry, couldn't resist the opportunity to "juke" the thought train we were riding.

Donny said...

Trains don't have to make U-turns or box turns. They don't make a lot of turns in general... >_>