Salmoning etiquette

October 21, 2013

Or, rules for breaking the rules.

(A definition of bike salmoning.)

When I go grocery shopping I often ride to Fresh Pond Mall in Cambridge. Getting there on Concord Avenue is easy; there’s a nice cycle track that’s almost entirely unbroken, adjacent to a sidewalk, together they are 12 feet wide.

Unfortunately, on the return I’m supposed to ride on the other side; the “cycle track” there is cut by many driveways, usually full of dirt and debris, and just plain less pleasant. So instead, I salmon on the nice side. I have a two-part logic to justify this. First, 12 feet wide is the same width as the Minuteman Trail (in places the trail is only 10 feet), which accommodates bidirectional walking and cycling with only an instruction to “keep right” (which is even vaguely followed), so it should be possible here, too. However, because some Bright Boy at the Cambridge Planner’s office decided to invent their own rules and post them (and even encode them in asphalt and concrete), people often follow posted rules that make suboptimal use of the space. Second, I have rules for breaking rules that make it “okay” (okay if you subscribe to my rules, that is).

Rule #1 is that when salmoning, you yield to everything, because you’re breaking the rules.

Rule #2 is that other people should not even imagine that they need to break the rules to accommodate your breaking the rules.

Rule #3 is that when in doubt, give priority and deference to pedestrians; if any crash should occur, it’s not the pedestrian bringing energy and momentum to the crash.

Rule #4 is that you can stop if it is necessary to maintain rules 1-3.

So, normally you ride in the cycle track, not the walkway, since pedestrians should not even need to think about what you might do. If there’s an oncoming bicycle, no pedestrians, then you use the walkway, leaving plenty of room for the bike. If there’s oncoming bike AND pedestrians, then you stop, in the walkway (now you are a pedestrian, and you are where you belong) till the traffic clears. And if there’s an oncoming bicycle in the walkway, maybe you stop, because two wrongs not only doesn’t make a right, it does make the chances of a crash through misunderstanding a good deal higher.

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