Be Safe Out There

I grew up in a small farming town in Iowa. How small? When I go home, no matter where I go, someone greets me by name. Guaranteed.

This is the same kind of town where you’ll quite often wave to your fellow motorists – even if you don’t know them. It’s just a friendly, “Hey, neighbor” sort of thing.

I haven’t lived in my hometown for 15 years, but lately I’ve found myself waving at motorists while out on the bike. It’s that same, “Hey, neighbor” wave, too. As in, “Hey, there. Thanks for giving me plenty of room and not putting my life in danger.”

On one of my semi-regular riding routes, there’s a guy who always waves back … with his middle finger. He’s an older guy – white beard; kind of looks like an angry Santa Claus. Since I last saw him a couple of weeks ago, he got a new car. Good for him, I suppose.

At no point on any of my rides have I seen him and not seen the bird shortly thereafter. As far as I know, I’ve never done anything to upset him – the guy just doesn’t like cyclists. He’s an habitual offender, too. Last winter he was cited for reckless driving after an incident on the road.

And that, of course, means someone else did something to upset him. You know the script by now: Motorist gets upset, displays displeasure, cyclist(s) shoots it right back. Future cyclists are condemned to the same treatment, no matter their actions.

I have to wonder what touched the guy off. While bike gear is certainly tight and flashy, it’s hardly offensive (besides, I have nice legs). Ultimately, I’d be willing to bet it had something to do with having to wait behind one or more cyclists on the hilly, winding road. That’s understandable, I guess – nobody wants to be late. But in the big picture, those few seconds, or that minute or two probably wasn’t a big deal.

What is a big deal, however, is this driver’s lack of respect toward cyclists. He sees them not as a person, but as an inconvenience. An obstacle. Something in his way. The reality, of course, is that we’re people with families, careers, responsibilities – people with lives. But unfortunately, he’s not alone in that thinking.

Respect is a two-way street. If we as cyclists insist on being treated fairly, we have to follow the rules of the road. We have to ride responsibly. We have to be aware of our impact – individually and as a group — on everything around us.

Sure, sometimes there’s nothing you can do to make someone happy. They’re just not happy to see you.

Even so, that person gets the same wave from me. “Thanks for seeing me, have a nice day. (Even if you’re being fairly uncool right now.)”

The ultimate reward, other than not being buzzed? When the driver waves back – with all five fingers.

Random link time:

  • Garmin says its pedal-based power meter is coming in the fall. We’ve been hearing about it for more than two years. I’ll believe it when I clip into it.
  • Awww, poor ‘Bert.
  • This isn’t really surprising, is it?


4 Comments to “Be Safe Out There”

  1. mathguy 16 June 2011 at 8:44 am #

    If it’s the guy on the Trace, he’s been the turd in the punchbowl forever. Story I heard is that he’s always been a jerk to everyone, cyclists and noncyclists alike.

  2. Bikewritercat 20 June 2011 at 8:36 am #

    I agree that one’s actions on the bicycle tend to affect the response afforded all other bicyclists. But I don’t consider myself a role model; instead, I ride my bicycle as expertly as I can. Being a role model depends, in part, on the unreliable perception of others; being safe depends on my own actions. The irony is that a person who masters vehicular bicycling also ends up being a good role model. In that way, role model status is a happy outcome, but it’s an effect, not a cause.

  3. VeloCityGirl 20 June 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    Being a role model does not mean being a doormat, either. I agree that a friendly wave and general good “behavior” (following the rules of the road) are good practice. I always give a wave especially when someone passes after having waited for the appropriate opportunity. But sometimes vehicular cycling *is* going to delay a motorist (by maybe a minute or two, but it seems like forever to them). That doesn’t mean you should put yourself at risk or pull off the road every time someone might be upset by the delay.

  4. [...] while back I wrote about a particularly irksome motorist on one of the more popular northbound routes out of Omaha. Though he’d never done anything [...]

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