Monday, January 14, 2013

how I stopped hating and learned to love other bicyclists. no, really!

My bicycling accomplishment of 2012 was not bicycling to work, I've done that for years now.  My achievement was not bicycling on rainy days as I don't mind getting wet and it was not bicycling on the cold --- I like cold weather.  My achievement was not bicycling in the heat because I like hot weather also or bicycling with the girls, cause the kids are alright! 

My accomplishment was to end (I hope) getting annoyed with other bicyclists.

Why do I think this matters?  It doesn't matter a lot, admittedly, but I think it matters a little.  I want the road to be friendly to bicyclists (I am a bicyclist) and  many annoying riders are young or inexperienced and me scowling at them doesn't encourage them to continue to ride.  I want them to continue to ride.  I object generally to bicyclists on pedestrians or bicyclists on bicyclists.  We non-car people are not a threat to each other and we should keep our focus on getting cars safer, not fighting over the little road scraps that the cars choose to throw our way. 

I started my program of "all bicyclists are as ok as I am, possibly even more ok than I am" by root causing my annoyance.  I found it had a few basic components and some were very unflattering.

1.  I didn't like bicyclists who were faster than me.  Like a horse who flattens her ears back at another horse that tries to get to the trough first, I got annoyed with anyone who passed me.  Woops.

2.  I didn't like bicyclists who surprised me in unpleasant ways.  I'd come around a corner and nearly collide with a salmon.  I'd get scared and then get angry.  This one has been hardest to handle but I mostly deal with it by keeping in mind that my two collisions with bicyclists (one with an inexperienced bicyclist, the other a bicyclist running a stop) came to nothing.  We dusted ourselves off and moved on.

3.  I didn't like slow bicyclists who blocked my way.  This one is uncomfortably close to how the cars treat me.  Woops again :/  Now I wait my turn and enjoy feeling speedy when the way is again clear.

4.  I didn't like bicyclists who behaved in what I considered to be a rude manner.  If you ran a red light or a stop or jumped up on the sidewalk I got a bee in my bonnet.  Sure there was no one on the sidewalk at the time but sheesh, ride in the street right?  Right?  Fixing this required getting in touch with my inner jealousy (I used to ride that way and kindof miss it some days) and also acknowledging that there were enough gray areas to how I ride (if there is no one at the stop sign when I arrive, I tend to just slow down and go through) that I should probably keep my yap shut. 

What have I gained at the end of my program of tolerance? 

My rides are happier.  I'm off my high horse and less judgmental.  I work on the assumption that people have a reason for what they are doing (I usually do) or they are just very inexperienced in which case they need to be encouraged to continue riding.  When I see something that frustrates me I've coached myself to silently thank the other person for being on their bicycle as I really believe that the more of us there are the more likely the cars are to take notice and behave a bit better.  You can even make a case that the weirder bicyclists keep the cars on their toes, more reason to thank them.
(Peter Dejong/The Associated Press)  A man parks his bicycle in a crowded lot near Central Station in Amsterdam on Oct. 31.


  1. In the case of 3, you were 1. And vice versa...

  2. I'm going to work on this- especially #4, I'm slow enough and non- competitive enough that neither #1 nor #3 bother me much.

    I draw the line at bikers endangering pedestrians. I'll continue to call out bikers who blow through a crowded crosswalk, or try to ride on busy sidewalks.

    1. I have about zero pedestrian interactions, and the same for the bicyclists around me. I think this comes down to where you ride vs where I ride. SF, Boston, NYC are way more urban, more peds, more possibility for friction. I am suburban/town. Peds and bicyclists are very separate most of the time - sidewalks and bike lanes respectively. So rudeness from bicycles tends towards cars not peds.

      It supports the argument that separate is best for cars, bikes, and peds.