Cyclists aren't better people. Better people are better people.

Cyclists aren’t better people. Better people are better people.

 

There isn’t much to today’s post, other than to relate a moment of clarity I had. I already knew this, but a couple of days ago it became clearer to me.

For some cyclists, it is all to easy to believe that you are better than everyone else. That cyclists make better people.

I don’t mean that some people think that because they ride a bike they are doing more than others to be more green – I mean that they think they are actually better on some or all levels. Smarter, morally superior, a more important, more in-touch, more aware person. Better.

I know, it’s not just cyclists. It’s not anyone in particular. People in general are prone to overestimating their abilities and level of maturity (emotional intelligence) and believing that their attitudes and actions are grounded in correct beliefs of the highest order. Beliefs that are universally recognized – by anyone evolved enough to understand them.

All the while, we purposely underestimate others and, whenever their actions or attitudes clash with ours, we believe them to be in the wrong.

In the case of cyclists, it may, however, be partially motivated by the fact that while we do have a right to use the roads, we are continually pushed to the edge, often literally, with sometimes disastrous consequences. The attitude of superiority may come from a place of fear, anger, and feeling exposed and insecure, but, then, maybe not. I’m pretty sure frustration is usually a strong motivator…

Pearls before swine, by Stephen Pastis. Source

Pearls before swine, by Stephen Pastis. Source

I was out on a ride along the beach last Thursday, on a very nice autumn day. While on the return leg, at a roundabout just ahead a large truck pulled out into my lane and proceeded in front of me. I waited a while for it to speed up, which it didn’t, but instead sat at a cruisy 25kph (in a 50). There was a bike lane that he was not occupying, so as I was able to comfortably sit on 35kph+ at that time, I proceeded to pass him.

All good, right? Well, here’s where I actually made things worse. As I was unable to see why the truck would need to be going so slowly, I was annoyed, and felt that I was being unjustly held up. I think it’s important to note that a) it is obviously not an entirely reasonable position I was taking, and b) this is the same way motorists feel about cyclists (or slower drivers). If you think about it, it’s the same as a slow pedestrian holding up another on the sidewalk, or a big group of girls lined out side-by side wandering through the mall, or a slow person blocking the lane in the grocery store with their shopping cart. It doesn’t matter where we are, or what mode of transportation we are using, everyone at some point has felt the same.

So, as I passed the truck, I gave a little shake of my head.

Now, that, in and of itself, was not necessary. The truck could have had any number of reasons for going slowly, but let’s say that he didn’t. Let’s assume that he was just dawdling along at a snail’s pace. Should I have been annoyed? Well, should the driver following behind you as you ride on a single lane road?

Alright, so I was feeling annoyed that I was held up and displayed my displeasure at the driver with a shake of the head. A few seconds later I ejected some unwanted fluids from my mouth, as you do, and I suspect that the driver took this as a further sign of my displeasure with him, as it was then that he decided to accelerate up to my wheel and started shouting.

He (they) then got in front of me before the next roundabout, came to a stop at it, still shouting (I could see them in the side mirror), and I responded, with a scowl, “Ugh, just drive, buddy!”. As he eventually pulled away, I’m sure he was still carrying on to his mate about the whole issue, as I was, except that I wished I had calmly inquired as to why he was upset in the first place (I was going to downplay the head-shake if that came up, mind you…), and instead attempted a useful dialogue rather than the shout-fest that ensued.

This was a negative transaction in a few ways.

  1. I made assumptions on the drivers behalf, and felt that my wants were being denied unnecessarily.
  2. I made a passive-aggressive, condescending sign of displeasure purposely in view of the driver.
  3. The driver took offense.
  4. The driver likely had his negative opinion of cyclists reinforced.
  5. The driver used his vehicle to show his displeasure, which can often end in an accident (I’m not suggesting that the accident would be in any way my fault).
  6. Unprofitable shouting ensued.
  7. Both parties upset, neither party better off in any way whatsoever.

Now, I am determined to henceforth keep the superior head-shakes and the like to a minimum, but ideally I would like to relegate them to the past. It’s simply not necessary.

I am, of course, not talking about situations where people make obvious (more likely oblivious) or dangerous maneuvers that put you in any level of danger, as that usually justifies some sort of response, if for no other reason than to alert the offending party of their actions.

I am talking about the holier-than-thou attitude that cyclists can display towards others. The silent moralizing we can do. Others, who are using crude modes of transportation. Others who are not as fit. Others who are not riding the right kind of bike or wearing the right kind of gear. Generally, others who don’t fit the mold we expect them to.

Pearls before swine, by Stephen Pastis. Source

Pearls before swine, by Stephen Pastis. Source

Yeah, I know. People have always done this and they always will. I’m not an idiot, and I don’t expect that to change. It’s most certainly not limited to cyclists. I guess what I’m doing here is simply sharing my experience that for the part we cyclists play on the roads, perhaps we can do what is in our power to elevate it to a higher plane by not belittling those around us who we feel are in some way inferior or wrong.

This has nothing to do with safety, or whether or not you wear a helmet, or run red lights. It’s only got to do with being a dick just because you ride a bike. Just like anything else. That doesn’t make you any better, in and of itself.

I didn’t pass the truck because I felt that I was better than him, but I did shake my head at him to communicate that he was a stupid person for going so slow. I was already past him with a clear road in front of me, so there was absolutely no benefit to me for doing that other than to show my disapproval like a wise person to a silly one.

Riding a bike is (usually) positive and enjoyable. I’ll try to do my part to reflect that.

 

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