Tag Archive for being human

A simple act of roadway courtesy

I have always believed in riding courteously, remembering that sharing the road is a two-way street. And that I have no less — or greater — right to it than anyone else.

So I didn’t think twice when I pulled up to a red light at a narrow intersection, and noticed the car behind me had its blinker on. I simply lifted my bike and made a couple quick sidesteps to the left so he could get by and make his right turn.

What happened next surprised me, though.

As he rolled past, the driver lowered his window, waved and said “Thank you; thank you very much” — sounding so much like an Elvis impersonator that I could barely keep from laughing.

Still winded from the sprint that got me there, the best I could manage in response was a nod and a smile, combined with a friendly wave. But he got the idea.

And just for a moment, we truly saw each other, not as adversaries competing for the same limited piece of pavement, but as real human beings.

Whether he’ll remember that the next time a cyclist is blocking his path, I have no idea. Or whether I will the next time an impatient driver follows too close or cuts me off.

But it only took a simple act of roadway courtesy, and its acknowledgement, to make me truly visible to another road user. And to lift my spirits for the rest of my ride.

And the rest of my day.


Enci Box makes the case against Class 1 bike paths. L.A.’s best bike plan probably isn’t the one LADOT proposed; meanwhile, LADOT pleads poverty as an excuse not to attend future Bike Advisory Committee meetings. Will Campbell Embraces the Brilliance on a recent ride near Jefferson and Crenshaw. Flying Pigeon explains how to make your own Jasbeschermers clip; if you can pronounce it, you probably already know what it means. Making negligent driving fatalities a crime in the DC area. Bike Portland offers an in-depth examination on the lack of bike insurance. A candidate for mayor of Columbia, MO says vote for him “Because most Columbians drive cars and not bikes.” Denver lowers speed limits and adds bike lanes and traffic calming to around Washington Park (see LADOT? It can be done…). Hagerstown, Maryland includes cyclists in designing their new bike plan (see LADOT? It can be done…). The Orlando newspaper wants to know if cyclists have a right to the road. A look at 10 years of bike culture in America. Your Japanese-made bike now probably comes from China, but look for an increase in U.S. made bikes. Cycling casualties — serious injuries and deaths — in the British city of Leeds increased 10% in 2008; somehow, that works out to a fifth, according to the headline writer. Finally, this is why you never leave your sleeping children in your bakfiet; evidently, that’s just what they do over there. But at least the thief was honest responsible.

Being human

We’ve all seen it a thousand times before.

The other day, I pulled up next to car at a red light, and when I looked over at the driver, his finger was unselfconsciously inserted deeply up his nose.

And oddly, it occurred to me for the first time that I’ve never seen a cyclist do that.

Not that we don’t have our own questionable habits. But not only have I never seen a cyclist pick his or her nose, I’ve never seen one floss, shave, put on makeup, change clothes or — yes, masturbate — or any of the countless other things I’ve seen people do behind the wheel that are usually best performed in far more private settings.

Wrapped in a two ton cocoon of steel and glass, drivers have an illusion of privacy. Even though they’re surrounded by windows on every side, they feel separate from the world around them, free to do things they would never do standing on the street corner just a few feet away.

At least, I hope they wouldn’t.

On the other hand, we cyclists are well aware of our exposure. In fact, we revel it, taking pleasure in our intimate experience of the unique sights, sounds and smells that envelope us as we ride, as if the world itself were wrapping its arms around us.

We never, ever feel that sense of privacy that so many drivers seem to take for granted. We understand that anything we do while we’re riding can, and probably will, be seen by someone else.

So why don’t drivers see us?

I don’t mean that in the standard careless driver, “I just didn’t see him” sense, that seems to offer a universal excuse for virtually any driver who runs a cyclist to the ground. Even though the law in every state requires that drivers be alert and aware of conditions and vehicles around them.

No, I mean why is it that so many drivers can look at a cyclist, and fail to see a fellow human being?

Take the Good Doctor, Christopher Thompson, who dedicated his career to saving lives, yet had no problem sending two people to the emergency room — insisting in a 911 call that they weren’t really hurt, despite nearly severing the nose of one rider and separating the shoulder of the other.

Or the drivers we discussed yesterday, who couldn’t have cared less about knocking one rider off his bike, or deliberately cutting another off in traffic.

Or countless other drivers, across the city and around the world, innumerable times each and every day. Somehow, they look at us, and don’t see a student on his way to class, or a worker struggling home after a long day. They don’t see a wife, a mother, a husband or a father, a son or a daughter. Someone riding for their health or their passion, for the good of the earth or the good of their community; someone who’d stop to help a stranger or an animal in need.

They don’t see a person who is loved. Or the empty bed or seat at the table, the gigantic hole that would be ripped through the world if just one person didn’t make it home from their ride.

They don’t see a fragile human being. They just see another cyclist.

And they feel justified in hating us.

Simply because we ride a bike.

And we’re in their way.


More on the bike plan:

Steven Box reports on The Department of DIY’s initial efforts to create our own, better, bike plan; Dr. Alex reports on neighborhood councils demanding an extension of the comment period, and Ubrayj responds to a student reporter, saying the best part of the city’s new bike plan is that it contains the words “bike,” “bicycle” and “bike lane.”

And Damien Newton offers a great update of the process up to this point, noting that BAC Chair Glenn Bailey has been promised that comments will be accepted until the final plan is released next year.


A visit to Linus Bikes on Abbot Kinney. Travelin’ Local reports on a website to report, track — and presumably, fix — roadway, bikeway and sidewalk problems. San Diego riders are encouraged to attend a meeting on new road standards this Friday. The latest bike friendly communities have been announced; you can download the full list here. A writer in New Hampshire says waiting 15 seconds to safely pass a cyclist is time well spent. Opus notes that he can’t test a new product that allows a rider to lock his helmet with his bike because he can’t find a place to lock his bike. TreeHugger looks at bike locks, including the new AXA Defender offered at Flying Pigeon. A rider notes that some drivers can’t see him, but evidently they can still hear him. A lawyer claims a champion Aussie rider who ran over his former riding partner doesn’t deserve jail because he didn’t actually flee the scene, but ran to get help; evidently, they don’t have cell phones Down Under.

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