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A few sources suggest that mounting a foam pool noodle on the back of your bike can help stop drivers from passing too closely. Such noodles are available at my dollar store, unlike spring-loaded bike safety flags.

See photo.

But I fear that both the flags and the noodles may be illegal.

Anyway. I am considering carving such a noodle so that its tip tapers to a "sharp"-looking point. (Pool noodles are hollow. I guess I would carve the noodle asymmetrically.) I would mount it like in the aforementioned photo, except that I would have it stick out less: only a couple feet (30-50 cm) towards overtaking traffic. I'm not sure how I would mount it on the bicycle. Maybe I'd use a bungee cord.

  1. Still, imagine that a sadistic driver used his car to push the carved point towards the edge of the road. I'm no physicist, and am not sure what might happen to my moving bicycle. What are the possible outcomes? (Note that if the noodle was illegal, and if my entire bike was damaged, I might not even be able to get compensation.)

  2. (Optional:) Also, in general, do you think it'd be safe for me to mount such a noodle on my bicycle?

  3. (Optional:) Do you have any alternative suggestions which are still frugal, but are more safe?

Related: "How can I prevent cars from passing me too closely?"

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Why exactly does the pool noodle need to be carved into a pointy pool needle? – amcnabb Jun 13 '13 at 21:08
can you host the photo to somewhere more accessible. Facebook links are not always the greatest. – Jean-Bernard Pellerin Jun 13 '13 at 21:25
If a sadistic driver is 2 feet from you using the noodle to push you off the road, the least of your concerns is the noodle pushing your bike to the side. If that's really a concern, mount the noodle with a single layer of tape that will break off under pressure, or mount it in a piece of PVC pipe that would let the noodle move to the side. – Johnny Jun 13 '13 at 21:41
@amcnabb: If I didn't carve it, then a sadistic driver could push the noodle to the side. I don't know what effects that would have on a moving bike. – unforgettableid Jun 13 '13 at 22:43
@Jean-BernardPellerin: I don't own the copyright on the photo. You don't need a Facebook account to view the photo. Why are Facebook links not always ideal? – unforgettableid Jun 13 '13 at 22:43
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Your question really seems to boil down to:

  1. Is using such a noodle illegal?
  2. What are possible outcomes if a driver still passes me too close?

My answers to this;

  1. We don't know. This is something that most likely will be dependent on the laws of your country. So I would suggest you to find out something about "allowed transport techniques on a bicycle" where you live.
  2. Possible outcomes are from nothing happens to an accident with the car.

I can understand that you are scared that a car has passed you so closely and that you want to do everything so this never happens again. This will not be possible. Some car drivers will always try to pass you. I have seen car drivers who drove up onto the sidewalk or onto an elevated tramway just to pass me.

Think about the question of an angry driver: "How can I pass a bicycle which is very broad/in the middle of the road/...?"

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+1 and accepted. Good points. Still, I think that attaching something to my bike might help. Maybe I'll attach a (washable) black marker pen to the end of a noodle. Some angry drivers might not be scared of the noodle. But they might be scared of the marker, and might leave me some space. (Unless their car is black.) – unforgettableid Jun 21 '13 at 23:45

The three-foot extension noodle is absolutely obnoxious and a genuine safety hazard (for starters, how is another cyclist supposed to safely pass her?).

The original point of these noodles, as I've seen them, is to cut one as wide as the widest part of your bike so cars could better gauge how much distance they needed to pass you. Perspective distortion and the small width of handlebars can make it less obvious to a driver how wide your handlebars actually are, and the neon color is to accentuate the visibility.

If you cut the noodle to the width of the widest part of your bike, you don't have to worry about someone using it to push you. You also shouldn't bother "sharpening" it, because the point is to indicate "Here's how wide I actually am". If anything, you'd want to square off the ends so it looked more like a |----| shape to accentuate the dimensionality of it.

Cut to the proper size, it's also very unlikely to be considered illegal as it's not materially changing the effective dimensions of your bike.

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Thank you for your answer Ryan. I want an extension noodle because I want all drivers, even angry drivers, to leave me at least six inches (15 cm) of space when they pass. Preferably more. If a driver is angry that I'm on the road at all, then a handlebar-sized noodle won't force them to leave six inches. So I don't want a gigantic-extension noodle, but I don't want a non-extension noodle either. – unforgettableid Jun 14 '13 at 0:35
I'd be surprised if drivers are passing you with only 6 inches to spare - their mirrors should be slapping you on the elbows if that were the case (and you'd have a good case to report them for hit-and-run). If a driver is aggressive enough to pass you that closely, I'd be surprised if any flexible attachment on your bike will make them behave any better and if they are angry because you're on the road, they'll be even angrier if you make your bike wider than it needs to be. – Johnny Jun 14 '13 at 1:26
@Johnny: It's only ever happened once that I recall, a couple of days ago. Their mirror didn't touch my elbows, but it came within a few inches of my handlebar. Also, note that a safety flag made of hard plastic would indeed help: as Anaheim pointed out above, drivers avoid doing things that will scratch their car. – unforgettableid Jun 21 '13 at 23:34

do you think it'd be safe for me to mount such a noodle on my bicycle

No. You will slap pedestrians' butts and children's faces with it.

share|improve this answer
-1. I wrote above: "I would have it stick out less: only a couple feet (30-50 cm) towards overtaking traffic." To clarify: I would not make it stick out towards the sidewalk at all. – unforgettableid Oct 31 '13 at 5:09

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