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Is it rude to stop in front of bikers stopped at a red light if you're generally slower, which will probably mean they will pass you again? What if you are generally faster so it saves you having to pass them?

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Seems to me what's rude is passing ahead of bikers already stopped at the light. Whoever arrives first should remain in front until the light turns green, and then the faster riders can pull ahead. –  Carey Gregory Aug 26 '13 at 23:57
    
I've found that when you have the opportunity to line up next to other cyclists - as we do in in most of the UK city junctions (See the image at the bottom of nidirect.gov.uk/cycling-skills-and-safety-turns-and-junctions) - then often slower cyclists (folders, MTBs) will stay far left and commuters/messengers will stay right to air immediate overtaking when the lights change. –  Mere Development Aug 27 '13 at 8:03
    
This isn't really my specialty, but I'd observe that often the problem is assuming that all other bikers are like you, in terms of strength, skill, and sense of urgency. Eg, my legs are weak enough that starting is difficult, so I attempt to both provide room for myself to wobble a bit and for others to comfortably move around me. But too often in a crowd, even when I'm stopped well back, others will stop right next to me or whatever. So I think #1 is to try to be aware of/tolerant of the skills and limitations of others. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 27 '13 at 22:04
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2 Answers

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Yes, it is rude to stop in front of another cyclist at a red light, especially if they are faster than you. That much is certain.

As Carey says, the best thing to do is to just come to a stop behind the already stopped riders. If you do decide to shoal, at least have the courtesy to be faster.

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+1 And how can you tell which of you is faster? If you're the faster one, you can always pass after the intersection. –  freiheit Aug 27 '13 at 16:02
    
I guess technically correct, but it doesn't bother me when slower people cut in front of me when I'm stopped for lights/signs. Probably a good thing because it happens all the time. It's easy enough to blow past them again when we get going again. –  Brian Knoblauch Aug 27 '13 at 19:34
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@freiheit If you're actually are significantly faster you've probably been watching them out in front of you for a couple minutes and obviously gaining on them. It's not that hard to tell if they're going 10-15mph while you're going around 20mph. –  Jefromi Aug 28 '13 at 5:23
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The number one rule is be considerate to other cyclists, motor vehicles and pedestrians.

Regardless of speed, it is inconsiderate to stop directly in front of a cyclist who is waiting for the lights to change, however there are different situations that could occur so saying to stop behind them is open to exceptions such as:

  • If there is a cyclist box present (or space otherwise) at the lights it is ok to pull up next to them.
  • If you are approaching the lights as they change and still have momentum you shouldn't be expected to come to a stop behind an already stationary cyclist. This is dependent on the infrastructure at the intersection and the volume of both cyclista nd vehicle traffic. It would not be recommended in a narrow bicycle lane where there was no option but to pass too close to another cyclist.

Whilst where you stop is important I think it is equally or more important to be aware of other cyclists (primarily in front and beside you) and not cut them off if you pass them. When you take off give any other cyclists plenty of room before you pull into single file. Cutting people off is probably the worst offence, especially as the first person at the lights will likely have the preferential line.

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Disagree with the bit about not having to stop if you still have momentum. One of the most frustrating forms of shoaling is when someone you've just passed, and are clearly much faster than, catches up to you at the next light as its changing and pulls in front of you. Don't be that guy. More often than not it's dangerous too if sharing a bike lane or similar --- I'm certainly not expecting someone to try to squeeze past me as I kick off from the curb, but it happens a lot. –  John Doucette Aug 27 '13 at 18:52
    
Another comment about the momentum thing: If you still have momentum while the rider in front of you stopped you probably were too fast and too little observant of traffic. –  johannes Aug 28 '13 at 1:24
    
Agree with @JohnDoucette about momentum -- I think a lot of cyclists use momentum as an excuse to disregard many traffic laws, which makes the road less respectful for everyone. –  lmjohns3 Aug 28 '13 at 7:07
    
@JohnDoucette - I no longer commute but spent a couple of years commuting in London. Often there was a dozen cyclists at each stop so I never felt there to be an expectation of a cab rank, first in/ first out, system. There would be all levels of riders at the lights and many arriving all the time. The only system evident would be stronger riders moving closer to the middle of the road. I would never expect a powerful rider who was clipped in, if they could get safely past me, to slow to a pause to let me go. –  DWGKNZ Aug 28 '13 at 8:42
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@DWGKNZ That actually makes a lot of sense for the situation you describe. Maybe modify your answer to include "in very high traffic situations" or "when suitable infrastructure is available"? In moderately sized North American cities a more common situation is a lone novice cyclist passing dangerously close in the tiny bike lane we've been afforded. It's quite hard to pass them afterwards, because usually there's a constant stream of traffic in the lane proper. –  John Doucette Aug 28 '13 at 15:41
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