Bike Jargon Watch: Shoaling

CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter/ I get shoaled in Copenhagen

Bike etiquette is important in crowded cities.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has a Mandate set in the Broadcasting Act stating that its programming must “actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression,” and “contribute to shared national consciousness and identity.” So naturally, the CBC had to cover one of the critical issues of our time: Shoaling.

Giacomo Panico of CBC Ottawa describes the act of shoaling in a fancy taxpayer-funded video:

More simply, shoaling is the act of riding up from behind and stopping in front of someone. I learned this from Eben Weiss, also known as the Bike Snob, who invented the term back in 2009 along with many other fishy ideas. But the CBC did not contact him. The Bike Snob writes:

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.

The Bike Snob doesn’t think that people are being malicious; they are just not thinking at all. Being an older, slower rider, it has been done many times to me and I never thought about it to be bothered, particularly with the more polite Canadian version.

Panico reads an element of sexism into shoaling; bike commuter Philiana Dollin tells him:

​"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 figure just them seeing my butt in their face is good enough," she said.

Anti-CBC tweeters are outraged by this and by the whole discussion.

I disagree. I care. I pay taxes that support the CBC and I even eat soy. As the roads get more crowded with cyclists and pedestrians, we have to pay more attention to etiquette and getting along. We have learn to take criticism too; I once was passed on the curbside in a bike lane and it really scared me, almost into losing my balance; people should never pass on the inside. When I caught up at the next traffic light and politely complained, she completely lost it on me and started screaming, picking up her bike as if she was going to throw it at me.

Another time, totally without thinking, I rode my bike through a gap in a line of people waiting to get on a streetcar. An old lady punched me really hard on the arm; I have never done it again. Doing the right thing, and learning from doing the wrong thing, is important.

Eben Weiss concludes by saying “I daresay one of Canada's trademark apologies is in order.” He is right. And while Canadians may be boycotting American ketchup, bourbon and “preserved meat of bovine, other than in cans or glass jars,” in response to the Trump Tariffs, we will never boycott the Bike Snob. As a Canadian, I unreservedly say: