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Opinion: What happened to 'on your left'?

Published July 15, 2019

Talking with my ex-wife last night, this question came up. As healthy Boulder homeowners, we have nothing “real” to complain about. And yet it’s our civic duty to be outraged about something.

The gist of it: In our twenties, our 52-42/13-21 days, when we passed other cyclists 50:1 over being passed, we were faithful “on your lefters.” Now we’re in our sixties, and the 50:1 is reversed. Is it too much to expect verbal payback from the youth? 

Apparently it is. I’d guesstimate that 1 in 20 passers give me an OYL. Women are generally more polite and communicative, by a 3:1 ratio. Boomers like us who developed the OYL habit decades ago are more likely than youngsters to announce their presence.

I used to dread the OYL, especially in my “transitional” years when I went from pass-er to pass-ee. Now, I thank people when I get one! And I’m careful on my e-bike to always give a ring when I pass. Plus a silent apology for the motor.

So why is OYL dying out? I get that riders going 8 mph faster than me aren’t in my space long enough for a verbal cue to work. No problem there, as long as they give me, say, three feet.

But on 15 mph limit bike paths, c’mon. I’ve been riding for 60 years, so I can cope with a fast pass. Less certain cyclists, not to mention pedestrians, can get totally spooked without some kind of warning.

So what can be done? Does anything need to be done? Is it such a bad thing if OYL goes the way of tire savers and safety levers? Of all the things we need to address concerning cyclist behavior, does OYL even make the cut?

I’m interested in y’all’s opinions and experiences here. I’ve ridden with people who growl “on your right” when they don‘t get an OYL. That doesn’t work, unless you want an argument or a middle finger. My every-bike solution: Get a bell!

The newly anointed retail editor of BRAIN, Keener's opinions represent only him and not BRAIN, PeopleForBikes or any other entity he represents.

Even Keener's fancy titanium road bike has a bell.

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