Sydney Cycleways has put together a little video about gracious cycling to further explain their campaign (of sorts) to get cyclists to chill out.
I think a lot of people get arked up about this kind of thing, taking it to mean that a cyclist’s behaviour (being nice or not) has something to do with whether or not they deserve to be treated as equals on the road or whether they are deserving of infrastructure.
That’s bollocks, on both accounts. It’s ridiculous to jump to that conclusion, and it’s equally ridiculous to think that being nice to people isn’t the best thing to do.
It’s not about who is nice to who first. You don’t have to make sure that someone is nice to you before you are nice to them. It’s simply about making the roads a nicer place to be, which can only work if everyone start with themselves. A nicer place, with happier people. Happier people are more courteous. Happy people are more generous. Happy people tend not to think about only themselves as much as miserable people.
A happy road is a safe road, and gracious cycling is how we can contribute to this situation as cyclists for both our mental and physical well-being.
Obviously this is often extremely difficult to achieve, especially when your time spent on the roads is a bit like this (and this is ONE guy, which is completely and utterly unbelievable):
My fists clench (as well as my sphincter) when I see this, and I immediately get super angry at the audacity and pure recklessness of the motorists. That’s natural. That’s normal. That can even be reasonable, but if you stay in that mental space for longer than a few moments, or it becomes your default position all the time, just like Sydney Cycleways says:
If you expect ‘war on the roads’, you’ll find it. If you ride angry, in the red mist, you are likely to get distracted and make bad decisions or take risks.
Gracious cycling is like zen cycling; accepting the imperfections in the world and not allowing them to upset you, forgiving the mistakes of others. It actually makes you a safer and more effective cyclist.
Looking beyond yourself, your gracious action can and most certainly will have a positive effect on other road users. I always make a point of giving a quick wave to let drivers who wait to pass me safely know that I appreciate it. It shows them that we are on the same team. If a driver knows to do the right thing but is still annoyed at having to do it, a gesture of appreciation from the cyclist, who, let’s be honest, sometimes slows them down, however irrelevant that may actually be, can change the annoyance to realizing that they have done a good thing. It turns it into a positive, and positively re-enforces their good behaviour.
It’s a circle of goodness. Paying it forward, if you will (I hate that phrase, for some reason – maybe it’s too Hollywood).
Look, don’t expect to be perfect and happy and positive all the time – that’s not realistic. Do the best you can, but remember, everybody else is in the same position. This applies to most of the population, but there is still that small minority who are just terrible people sometimes. Unfortunately, we have to let the law deal with them. Around them all you can do is whatever you can do to be as safe as you can and hope for the best, which is sad, but that’s life. That will never change. Australia seems to have plenty of those people when it comes to attitudes towards cyclists, but with time, better policy, better infrastructure, and real consequences for dangerous driving (and riding), will hopefully reduce the number of those people on our roads.
So, what I’m saying here is basically this: worry about yourself, concern yourself with what you can change, and be gracious. Everyone likes to complain, but think about how much more powerful it is to hear a compliment. Carrots work better than sticks for the majority of people, so be the carrot. I’m not saying you should cower to those who feel that they are sticks – of course you need to stand up for yourself when threatened, but don’t let that be your default position. Be the carrot. Practice gracious cycling.
Header image: source