Thursday, June 28, 2018

Shoal Me The Money

I've already mentioned this on the Bike Forecast this morning, but so significant is the news that the CBC has covered shoaling that it warrants addressing here too:
Particularly significant is the fact that Canadians have tempered the act of shoaling with their trademark politeness by including the act of simply pulling up next to somebody as shoaling:

"...rather than line up behind Mary, Bob wiggles past in front of the queue, next to Mary."

This runs counter to the spirit in which I coined the phrase.  "Shoaling" specifically refers to the act of stopping in front of somebody.  Moreover, it's called shoaling because then the next person pulls over in front of that person, and then the next person pulls up in front of that person, etcetera ad nauseum and so forth.  The resulting mass of humanity then starts curving in the direction of traffic as it enters the intersection, and the entire mechanism resembles a sandbar, or shoal, hence the word.

Another aspect of shoaling touched upon in the CBC piece (and which I addressed briefly in the Bike Forecast) is the common perception that it is sexist behavior, to wit:

​"I often get shoaled by men. I don't wear the full gear, I look like a regular person on a bike — I guess maybe because I'm a woman," Dollin ventured.

More often than not, Dollin said, she'll easily blow past the offending shoaler without uttering a word. 

I'm sure this is plays a role in plenty of instances of shoaling.  However, overall, I don't think shoaling is gender-specific.  I myself have been shoaled by women countless times.  Alas, I've not kept an accurate count of the total number of times I've been shoaled or the gender of each shoaler, but anecdotally I'd say I've been shoaled just as often (if not more often) by women.  If this is true (which is a big "if," since as I say I have not properly logged this data), and inasmuch as there are fewer female cyclists than male cyclists owing to the lamentable gender gap inherent in our preferred travel mode, then it would logically follow that women shoal with greater frequency than men.  

Of course trying to say one gender shoals more than another is counterproductive; it's a distraction that only breeds infighting and will bring us no closer to solving the problem.  It is vital that we unite regardless of genitalway, preferred pronoun, etc. and acknowledge that every road user is prone to shoaling.  Indeed, in the photo I took just after the one used in the Gothamist piece, you'll see that particular shoal includes both a woman and a person on a skateboard:

To be honest I'd almost prefer skateboarders to shoal me since when they're behind me I worry that they might attempt to skitch.

Skitching is way worse than shoaling.

(Although now half the people on skateboards are using motors this is becoming less of an issue.)

Another common conception regarding shoaling is that it's competitive behavior; i.e. the shoaler arrogantly considers himself or herself athletically superior to the shoalee.  On the surface of it this would appear to be common sense, and I know I've often drawn the same conclusion.  However, upon deeper reflection (as a semi-professional blogger I ponder these issues so you don't have to) I've decided this common conception is indeed mostly a misconception.  Rather, I've come to the conclusion that the shoaler is not thinking competitively precisely because he or she is not thinking at all.  The shoaler is clueless, existing in a state of complete oblivion regarding velocipedal etiquette, and instead is concerned almost entirely with preserving forward momentum and going as far as possible without having to stop.  In fact, it is the shoalee who is the competitive one, and the very fact that the shoaler takes affront and puts the situation in a sporting complex is supporting evidence of this.

Additional evidence that shoaling is not inherently competitive is that, as all competitive cyclists know, you are at a greater competitive advantage when starting from behind as it's the perfect scenario in which to launch an unexpected attack.  Furthermore, shoaling behavior is commonly (indeed near-universally) exhibited by children, to wit:

This is further evidence that shoaling is the product of naïveté rather than cunning or cold calculation.

Alas, if only the CBC had thought to consult me, the world's foremost authority on shoaling, circling, salmoning, and all other forms of cycling behavior, they might have been able to give the great Canadian public far greater insight into this bizarre phenomenon.

I daresay one of Canada's trademark apologies is in order.

Oh wait, I've already gotten one:



Anonymous said...

I apologize for taking a podium position.

Shoaling Fred said...

You need to go past the other cyclists waiting at the red light, AND move directly in front of them AND have trouble getting started when he light changes AND pedal at a snail's pace so they pass you, and you can repeat the whole sequence over and over again at each light.

Comment deleted said...

Should I feel bad for grabbing that juicy empty spot that students always seem to leave right before the crosswalk? I think they are afraid of making eye contact with pedestrians or something.

Québécois said...

Nous sommes moins polis quand les gens nous refusent notre héritage et notre droit à notre langue maternelle.

Québécois said...

Mais je m'excuse d'avoir ajouté un travail de traduction au modérateur du commentaire.

mander said...

Sorry for the Top 10 finish everyone!

Anonymous said...

Thou Shan't Shoal if you ain't got no acceleration or if you ain't gonna jump the green. Ye shall shoal only if you are willing to wait in front of the crosswalk without upsetting crossing pedestrians or getting hit by a crosstown bus coming in for a drop off. If stoping next to someone, please stay far enough so they can't smell you.

Serial Retrogrouch said...

...This morning I saw a non-motorized skateboarder skitching a motorized skateboarder. I was going the opposite direction... if not, I would have tucked right behind them.

HDEB said...

Motorized skateboards lack style ; )

1904 Cadardi said...

Maybe it's just the picture, but it looks like you've stopped about half a block before the intersection. That would explain why you get shoaled so often.

BikeSnobNYC said...

1904 Cadardi,

No, just stopped at the crosswalk instead of in it like a civilized human.

--Tan Tenovo

janinedm said...

I agree with Shoaling Fred. Usually, I think think people stop in front of me because they like to stop in the crosswalk or at the far end of it. I like to stop before the crosswalk to let all the pedestrians have their due since it is a sport and the teams are 1) dummies who not only drove into Manhattan 2) everybody else and I want my team members on foot to have a peaceful journey across the street. There's an element of noblesse oblige to my usually not minding. I threw shot put and discus in high school and college and those events are basically tests of acceleration from a full stop using your legs. I hate shoalers in rush hour, though. I'm not trying to get stuck behind an oblivious person. They're usually oblivious in more than one respect.

Anonymous said...

a true Canadian doesn't say 'sorry'. The proper terms is 'soory'.

James said...

I got moving shoaled the other day: I was waiting for traffic to turn at a green light, when the last oncoming car passes me. I start to pedal and am promptly passed on the left as I'm turning by biker (woman in this case) who passes close enough that we rub shoulders. I give a little what the hell shout and she responds with, well you weren't moving!

janinedm said...

I just remembered that last night, I invited a guy to shoal. Me and my friend were riding slow (I wouldn't say her bottom bracket is broken, but it was suspect), and a very polite food delivery guy was behind us obeying all decorum, so we turned around at the light and were like, "get in front of us and get that money, man!" He was adorable as he rode off.

Also, I have edits on my previous comment. 1) I had originally written "dummies who not only drove into Manhattan, but decided to drive into Manhattan" (I was up late)

Olle Nilsson said...

Nothing like riding on a shared ped/bike path and getting shoaled by pedestrians. I keep thinking "must be a speed walker" and they keep proving me wrong. Oblivious? Maybe. Selfish? Probably.

David Suto said...

Can we call side by side shoaling virtual shoaling? It feels exactly like shoaling if you stop at a light and use the curb as a foot rest and then someone squeezes in next to you so that pushing off the curb will likely cause you to rub shoulders or depending on who is faster cutting across someone's front wheel potentially putting someone under a car or truck in the adjacent lane.

Maria said...

Here in sunny/rainy bikey Portland< Oregon, we have the opposite of shoaling. We have green boxes for bikes, no, not green colored coffins as car after car creams cyclist after cyclist, but a pretend box painted green at each intersection. The purpose is to encourage cyclists to get in front of cars at a red light, allegedly so the cars can see the bikes and not right hook them. However, Portland cyclists being the polite plaided bebearded cyclists that they are, instead of all congregating within the green box, they line up behind the first rider there, creating a 10-20 person line of bikes.

Some guy from upstate said...

I think I'd be happy to get shoaled, since it would mean there were other bike commuters. Outside of the four mile stretch of bike path, I might see two other bikes in my 15 mile city-to-suburb morning commute. I know there have been occasions where I've pulled up next to another bike at a traffic light, but I can't remember when.

Matt said...

Feeling kind of left out here...don't think I've ever been shoaled...and if I was nobody told me and I didn't even get an after-shoal smoke or anything!

Steely Danzig said...

This may date me, but I remember Tan Tenovo and Jeff Spicoli battling for the Redondo Beach Pretty Big Wave Campionship in 1983. Spicoli barely nudged out Tenovo by throwing hot coffee on him in what can only be described as an “epic” showdown.
You’re not that Tenovo are you?

Hee Haw the barista said...

The mentality of the shoaler is that they are faster than the shoalee, and thus must get in front so that the slower shoalee does not hinder the shoaler when the light changes.

Don't ask me how I know this.

Yes, but who coined scranus? said...

The CBC tweet says you coined the term "shoaling", is this correct?

I believe you're responsible for salmoning, but if you also came up with shoaling, well, that would make you a "significant cycling figure" (which simply means we're entitled to subject you to even more ridicule).

But tell me, what's with all the aquatic terminology, do you have a degree in marine science, or something?

Dooth said...

I've been shoaled and virtually shoaled by some pretty interesting folks. Al Franken comes to mind. He was on an old timey city bike. Fenders, chain guard and all. This was back in the early nineties. I was probably riding the Specialized Stumpjumper with the custom, glows-in-the-dark neon yellow paint job, with the one piece stem and handlebar painted like a Jackson Pollock. I do remember Franken smiling at it.

Anonymous said...

A female shoaler is called "Shoaleen". Sung to the tune of Dolly Parton's "Jolene".

Hearts and Minds said...

Ass-shoals. I endure such behavior daily.

wishiwasmerckx said...

Holy smokes!

We got a comment form Frilly Chick today for the first time in I don't know how long.

Asis typical in a mostly boys, pre #metoo place and time, she got sexually harassed pretty regularly, and she was always a good spot about it.

Frilly Chick, it's good to see your avatar again.

skydave said...

Where I come from, we have green boxes on the other side of the crosswalk so you can get ahead of the cars *and* not block the pedestrians!

BikeSnobNYC said...

Yes, but who coined scranus?,

Of course I coined salmon, of course I coined shoaling, and of course I am an important cycling figure. Maybe the most important.

As for why they're aquatic, it's bad form to mix metaphors.

--Tan Tenovo

Anonymous said...


BeerDrivenCyclist said...


Your new Tan Tenovo sign off keeps making me spit coffee... out my nose! Stop. Stop it now. I'm finding it hard not to imagine you as a porn actor... That concerns me.

Anonymous said...

I'm with upstate, My being Shoaled would mean there's more then one person going the same way as me. I did Shoal a Fred one time, because I could tell he was (surprisingly) Obeying the traffic signal and not just running the light as I was intending to do. At the last moment, traffic prevented me from going through, so I stopped in front of him. No problem though, he proceeded through the intersection blocking the traffic behind him and I proceeded on the adjacent bike path. - Mas

Chazu said...

In a certain mid-Atlantic city that is home to certain personalities that dominate the news these days; entire lanes are reserved for "Buses and Bikes Only."

The lanes are clearly marked with those words, along with illustrations of busses and bikes.

Not only have I been shoaled by automobiles in the "Buses and Bikes Only" lanes, I've received death threats from the operators of those automobiles because of the fact that I was using the "Buses and Bikes Only" lanes whilst aboard my Gunnar Crosshairs bike cycle.

Of course, the last time that happened was nine (9) years ago. I've since abandoned my decades-long urbane sophisticate facade for the greener pastures of suburban flyover hell on the fringe of rural flyover hell, where I can ride for tens of miles without being overtaken by a single automobile. And as I understand it, an entire crop of new, younger, urbane sophisticates are now dominating the streets of said mid-Atlantic city, and thus I expect most shoaling these days is a matter between cyclists, not between cyclists and motorists.

And in conclusion, I decided to search for the word "shoaling", and look what I found.

Tan, I think someone owes you royalties dating back to 2014.

dnk said...

I have eaten
the shoal
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

leroy said...

Commuting this morning up First Avenue, I was shoaled by a guy on a road bike in full kit.

I too commute on a road bike and, on hot days like today, I too don the Fredal lycra vestments with the clippy pedals.

But I don't have a teardrop aero helmet like the guy who shoaled me.

When I stopped giggling at life's absurdity, I considered drafting him (thus proving Mr. BSNYC's point about who's the competitive nerd in the shoaler/shoalee scenario).

I didn't because, as the saying goes, "poor etiquette, poor skills."

Actually, I'm not sure if that's a saying.

If it isn't, it should be.

Ride safe all!

1904 Cadardi said...


Then it was the picture, which means it's a little scary just how far in front of you the shoal ends.

I was shoaled by the same woman several times on the same poorly timed traffic light infested stretch of road. After the third time I followed her between lights and noticed when she had slowed down to a walking pace she would move her hands from the brake hoods to the tops, clip out and drag her cleat on the ground, usually hopping a couple times, until she finally stopped. At least that explains the shoaling.

Dooth said...

Check out dnk with the wcw poem riff.

Don’t shoal me
Cuz I’m close to the edge

I’m trying
Not to lose my head

Anonymous said...

I thought that was 'shoal' in the context of the collective noun for fish (not salmon).
Ah well - I'm going to try mounting Di2 shift buttons on the downtube for the full retro experience.

Grete said...

Gregor Samsa awoke to find himself transformed into a hideous shoal.

Bradtothebone said...

The canadien version is called Grey Pouponning

Spokey said...

i feel left out. i think i only reached the same intersection with another cyclist once this year. and he didn't shoal. just blew through (was a 4-way stop) almost becoming a vulture happy-meal courtesy some suburban or other behemoth.

like todaze. only saw a kid riding on the sidewalk.

Fred LeFred said...

The us-canada border is still open (ok, harder to get back into USA but you get my drift) so come north and visit.
If you ride our pre-eminent gravel bike event you could win your weight in our national condiment: Maple Syrup.