The Wiggle

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The Wiggle

Postby il padrone » Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:44 pm

This question came up in Cycling Safety and Advocacy, but I thought it would be valuable posting here as it is a valuable traffic technique for touring cyclists on the open road. No doubt many are already aware of the technique so apologies if it is not relevant.

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russell.bathard wrote:I think your idea of a wiggle for approaching trucks is dangerous and could cause an accident.

Not my experience at all - and that's only over the past 33 years :roll:

I'm guessing that you misunderstand what I mean. Allow me to explain.

First thing with trucks in traffic is to be predictable but also conspicuous. The best sort of conspicuity comes from your road positioning. Ride in your lane, about 1-1.5m from the kerb, wider if the lane is narrow or there is any uncertainty. In the city and suburbs truck-drivers will see you ahead of other vehicles due to their height. They will plan ahead and change lanes early to overtake. Hug the kerb and they will be tempted to cut close - very dangerous for you. Do you advocate getting off the road for every large truck passing you in town? Very slow cycling.

On country roads also keep a road presence. Usually the best guide is to ride approximately where the left-most wheel of a car would travel. Passing traffic can see that a correct overtaking move is required. However large trucks like to maintain speed where they can. If you are too far left and/or there is no oncoming traffic they are often tempted to just drive straight by, especially if you are riding a very predictable track along the white edge line. This was the problem I faced with my mates in 1979 - large trucks cutting us disconcertingly close by. We found out however about the wiggle - we were riding with a strong tail wind and could hear the trucks well in advance, about a kilometre back. If there were no oncoming vehicles, when the truck was about 200m back we found that if we did a bit of a wiggle on the road (just for a second) the truck-driver would completely change lanes and overtake us (ie. overtake as they are legally required to). Truck is not delayed, we are not threatened. Win/win.

The wiggle should be done when the truck is far enough back to take notice and act, not close where it is a hazard. This is the key, and a rear-view mirror is almost essential. Truckies are professional drivers and do not want to cause any problems or have a collision - they have a job to do. By wiggling, even just veering a bit wider then back in line, at the right time they are made aware that cyclists may be erratic* and they can then decide to move out to pass safely.

This knowledge is something I have used in managing overtaking traffic, especially but not limited to, heavy trucks. It works with almost all drivers of cars as well. The essential tool to enable this to be done is not some sign the truck/car driver cannot even read, but the rear-view mirror, to correctly judge the traffic approaching, its speed and distance.

So there you have it - the 'user manual' for The WiggleTM :wink: Use it wisely.


* I'd rather that drivers think I am just that bit erratic (which in reality we are, if a pothole appears or a gust of wind strikes) than that I can follow a rod-straight course at all times. All drivers need to learn to give a correct margin for safety. There is no hard rule here (which is why I am skeptical about the "Metre Matters" campaign) - 10cms is never safe but it all depends on the vehicle speeds and the circumstances.
Riding bikes in traffic - what seems dangerous is usually safe; what seems safe is often more dangerous.
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by BNA » Thu Feb 21, 2013 8:36 am

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Re: The Wiggle

Postby Tim » Thu Feb 21, 2013 8:36 am

I read about your wiggle technique some time ago IP and as all my riding is on country roads I do it all the time. It works. There is nothing worse than drivers screaming past at 100 KPH within millimeters of my elbow.
I normally ride in the left hand wheel track of where the cars drive but I found on my recent tour that this, combined with a wiggle didn't necessarily stop some drivers from attempting to push through, very close, even with oncoming traffic. On one occasion I had a car squeeze between me (in the left wheel track), move about a quarter of a vehicle width across the center lane and force their way through, at the same time as a car approaching from the opposite direction had to take evasive action, forced into the loose gravel shoulder to avoid a head-on collision. I became so scared of vehicles attempting to overtake me at the same time as oncoming traffic was approaching that at the sight of any oncoming vehicle in the distance I moved to the center of the lane, to prevent cars from overtaking me. I received several blasts from impatient drivers. I couldn't care less. I claim the full width of the lane if there is oncoming traffic, I don't care if it is legal or not and how many horn blasts I cop. I became sick and tired of cars trying to force their way through. On many country roads there just isn't enough road width for two cars and a bike side by side.
But yes, the wiggle works.
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