I've been "shoaled" and I just don't understand it. I've never done it myself. Is there anyone in our midst that is a shoaler or shoaler reformed?

I believe the definition is: passing the faster rider (that just past you) at the light while he/she is politely set back from the intersection and waiting for the light only to be passed by the faster rider once more after the light changes. (please correct me if I'm wrong)

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It's worth noting here the origin of the term - it came from a BikeSnob NYC post in 2009. Shoaling isn't just getting in front, it's getting in front and in front and in front until a shoal of bicycles has built up and juts out into the intersection. It's worth reading the post because it lends great humor to something infuriating.

Nice. Should have assumed it was BikeSnob who created the term.

Edit: Some good suggestions in the comments, such as, "shoaling a shoaler". I've thought about it but have never had the motivation.

Wow. That was beyond awesome.

I didn't know the origin/definition came from BikeSnob NYC, but that figures! I'll check it out if it's still online, but I myself define 'shoaling' a bit differently, a bit more broadly, I'd like to think:

'Shoaling' is not about "one cyclist compulsively moving to the front" at a signalized intersection -- whether he/she does so repeatedly or not.  (Though if the cyclist does this repeatedly, I usually simply resort to humans' ability to speak, and simply say in a nice way, "Hey, I'm going faster so let me stop here in front and take off first, cool?  That way, everyone will stay safer."

'Shoaling' -- for me -- refers to the whole complex interaction of many cyclists (with different riding styles -- very skilled and experienced, enthused but not-super-skilled, cautious beginner, super-timid first-timer, etc. -- and different kinds of bicycles -- cargo, trailers, tandems, BMXs, road racers, folders, etc.) collecting/interacting at signalized intersections.  Unfortunately, there is not "one rule" for all cyclists to always follow for all situations.  'Proper' (i.e. safe) behavior depends upon the situation and the person / people present. The only rule is: to "be mindful of all people and things around you" -- i.e. "be considerate", i.e. "put safety -- yours and all other cyclists and pedestrians -- ahead of all other concerns".  That said, this does not mean that you abandon or forget all other goals/concerns that you have.  A cyclist -- I mean, "we" cyclists, since we are talking about shoaling, which involves groups of cyclists -- can accomplish several goals at the same time -- if we are mindful, observant, respectful, careful, cautious, and communicative.  If you want the 'best and safest behavior' from yourself and other cyclists at signalized intersections, then constantly pay attention, notice other riders' speeds, styles, etc. Read (like a book) the cyclists and the other roadway users around you, and also all the traffic controls and conditions of the road, very carefully and constantly.  Adjust your 'interpretation' of the road and those you share it with constantly as conditions change.  Is this focused, constant attention too much to ask, eh?

I'm in agreement with those who shoal in a limited capacity.

My approach: if there is just 1 cyclist at the light and it is clear that I am faster I will shoal. It makes some sense to pass someone when traffic is stopped instead of moving. This would include Divvys, folks on Dutch style bikes, and those clearly not in a hurry (dress clothes, hauling something, distracted by phone, etc.)

More than 1 cyclist: Do not shoal. Too many variables. Someone might be faster or whatever, but just too much going on. You might shoal 1 and the other starts moving in your way, whatever.

This is what I don't understand... someone who shoals a large group of cyclists. You know some are going to pass, and re-pass, and re-pass.

I regularly shoal groups of stopped riders on milwaukee most notably at the intersection of desplaines and kinzie. Again sounding arrogant, I know what I'm doing in these spots as everytime I've done this, I have not been passed.

When I am driving in the city in my German sports car, I will shoal anyone who is obviously slower than me, which is most people. Obviously if I pull up to a red light behind someone in a Hyundai Accent, or even a Honda Accord, they are slower than me, so I just drive around them and stop in the intersection, or drive up the wrong side of the road, or whatever. After all, I am faster than they are! So obviously I should be able to be ahead of them. On the other hand, when I am driving my Japanese appliance car I am more selective in deciding who is slower than me, so sometimes I will actually just pull up and wait behind them.

The difference is key. I never signaled when I had my BMW, but always in my old Mitsubishi truck.

Some people just don't get it, there's a clear hierarchy in place on the roads!

Luxury car drivers often seem to resemble the Give Me Compliments guy...


The turn signal stalk is a placebo device on all BMWs from E21/E28/E30 onwards.

Also, "Porsh" drivers are the worst.

Funny, I had an E28. Perhaps that explains all my wiring woes with the rear harness. :P

You could be right, maybe fastness trumps rudeness. Maybe it should be called Trumpness: the quality of feeling entitled by self perceived superiority.


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