I’m not much of a conversationalist, but even I know better than to try and start one while traveling twice the speed of my intended conversant.
As I vaguely recall from high school physics, something happens when velocity meets frequency with the end result of sound waves being stretched and smooshed as an object making noise passes by. It’s called the Doppler Shift and it explains why so many of my daily on-bike conversations sound like someone shouting “HEYWHARRRNNNDDERRRGRPH!”
If I manage a translation it often turns out they are yelling something about a bike lane, and how I should be in it. And by “bike lane” they usually mean “shoulder.” But along with making them sound funny, my slower speed offers me a different visual perspective — while they see a black blur I see a lane full of gravel, branches, roadkill, broken pavement, glass and other surprising objects. Once, a live turkey. Recently, an office chair. These were on the same road. Maybe the turkey is setting up shop.
There’s yet another perspective shift to consider. Drivers turning from side streets don’t expect anything faster than a pedestrian to be traveling in the shoulder. I don’t like surprising drivers. It tends to lead to things like me flying over my handlebars as they turn out in front of something moving much more quickly than they expected.
Thus, I find it’s a lot safer for myself and drivers (and turkeys) if I avoid the shoulder entirely. Maine law agrees with me here, and states that shoulder use is completely optional. In fact use of actual bike lanes, where they exist, is optional as well. This is fortunate as bike lanes are often full of the same debris you’ll find in the shoulders, or in a direct line of fire of parked cars opening their doors. Rather than play “guess if someone is in that car about to door you,” I prefer to keep my eyes on the road ahead for the safest possible ride.
With over 10,000 crash-free miles of biking around Portland, this strategy is working well. Most drivers don’t have a problem with it either. Sure, there are a handful who feel compelled to shout something as they pass me. But thanks to Doppler I don’t really have to listen to them.