I’ve noticed a number of well-meaning experts touting the use of pool noodles by cyclists to keep motorists from passing too closely. I believe this is bad advice that may be counter productive and potentially dangerous. Here’s why.
Years ago I was given a jersey that read “3 Feet To Pass” and had graphics of a big arrow and an automobile passing a cyclist. I thought it was pretty cool. My first ride in it dampened that enthusiasm. It seemed like an inordinate number of vehicles passed dangerously close (by the way, this was before cell phones). I figured it was a freak occurrence. That changed the next time I wore the jersey and noticed another increase in close encounters.
PEOPLE HATE TO BE TOLD WHAT TO DO
I figured that my close encounters were motivated by the message on my back. People don’t like to be told what to do. And people who dislike cyclists really hate to be told what to do by cyclists. I was giving stressed-out drivers one more reason to hate me. I only wore that jersey on mountain bike rides after that.
The noodles may be worse than that jersey. Aside from getting in the way when riding through tight spots or forcing other cyclists farther out when passing, they appear as a target to the type of driver who already has an issue with cyclists. And hey, I hate those drivers as much as any cyclist, but that driver is the last person I want to piss off as they close in on me at 45 miles-per-hour. Don’t be surprised if you experience more automobiles coming as close as possible to the end of that noodle.
I believe a far better and more effective defense (and far less offensive) is to always run a high-density flashing red light on your bike’s seat post. These little lights can be seen by drivers from an amazing distance. They catch a driver’s attention without seemingly igniting some deep-seated hatred for a rider merrily spinning along. I linked to CatEye, but there are plenty of choices at your local bike shop. The good lights will set you back $30 to $50. That’s a deal in exchange for a little extra peace of mind.