Thursday, 16 January 2014

A True Cyclist Makes Excuses To Cycle, While Wannabe Cyclists Make Excuses Not To.

Recently, I've been going through a bit of a tough time getting myself out on the bike. In the weeks before Christmas I had a lot of safety issues with motorists honking. I decided to address each one by stopping the bike and (with a smile on my face) asking what the problem was, in order to address the issue and maybe educate them a bit in a non-threatening way. This did not work at all - no one listened, no one wanted the little flyer I offered them, and one guy - a nice West Indian guy - started honking every single time he drove up behind me, just to say hi!

Also, for some reason, being friendly towards motorists seems to make me more nervous for some reason. It may be because I'm an introvert by nature, so the anticipation of one-on-one interactions with motorists adds a lot of stress. This asocial aspect of my personality is why I chose not to become a League Certified Instructor when I took the LCI course in 2010: I'm just not cut-out for interaction with humans.

So I, being the way I am, became a bit of a nervous wreck. I am not off the bike altogether: I have to take my daughter to school, and cycling is the best way, and even on days when my daughter gets a car or bus ride to school, I'm still cycling two miles to pick her up. But I am trying to cut back as much as possible and getting my wife to take my daughter to school on days when she can, to give myself a bit of a rest - maybe until Spring Break. I just need a breather.

One of the problems is that I'm going against one of my maxims, which says, "A true cyclist makes excuses to cycle, while wannabe cyclists make excuses not to."

I fear falling into the "wannabe cyclist" category.

So does anyone have any advice, stories, tips?


  1. Several years ago, I tried to engage an angry motorist in conversation. It didn't go well. It made me realize that you just can't have a civil conversation with someone who not in a rational state of mind. So I don't do that any more. I give "stay back" and "go around" hand signals or a friendly wave to break the tension, but I don't try to engage in conversation. I save my conversation efforts for people who are more likely to be receptive. Remember that "accept the things I cannot change" thing. Makes my travels a lot easier.

  2. Thanks for the tip. Oddly, none of the motorists I confronted were really "angry" per se. The angriest one was more intent on expressing concern for my welfare (though I'm not at all convinced that was his true motive). He was admittedly not "rational" as he did not seem capable of even listening to the points I was making. This was a common problem with all the interactions I had - no one listened, and that's a big part of why I found the experiment so disheartening.

    I guess I had this idea that I could change minds by being affable and informative. It's clear to me now that I cannot. It's a bit of a blow.

  3. You can absolutely change minds by being affable and informative. I certainly have. But you have to be strategic. You can't change a culture with brute force. Target receptive minds and let the infection spread from them.

  4. Hi, Ian.

    Take a deep breath, but as I told myself after a really bad bike crash and again after a really bad car crash, both of which could have been fatal, don't stay away too long.

    Human interaction gets easier with experience, but if you don't feel comfortable to the point where it drives you off the bike, just don't do it. Just ride your bike.

    I too am an introvert by nature, but having spent 30 years mentoring people in university and laboratory settings, I'm more comfortable with making connections. It wasn't easy. I used to almost throw up when I first started teaching as I did last minute preparation. But teaching teaches you one thing if no others- no one else is perfect, either.

  5. As Eli notes, many motorists are not interested in dialog.

    For many, I really think it's that they want to get where they are going as quickly as possible, and anything that hinders that process gets a yell. If I were in my car, driving at or slightly below the speed limit, such a person would likely fuss at me, although I probably wouldn't hear it simply because my car windows are closed.

    To be sure, there are a couple of folks out there whose attitude is summed in the expression, "My mind (such as it is) is made up! Don't confuse me with facts!!" Once such people have gotten by me, though, I've probably gotten what *I* wanted from the interaction, that being a safe pass. I'm happy for them to go on their way without further input from me, as I've not risen to their bait.

    I can see why one would want a break after having an abnormal frequency of such interactions. Remember, though, that such interactions are relatively rare compared to the number of motorists who pass in a benign manner.

  6. Most honking motorists do not represent "teachable moments."

  7. My best cure for cycling inertia is a solid week of regular car commuting. I get quite irritated when I can't ride in for whatever reason. Last week I took a break as the week before I nearly had a bad wipe out on black ice and got a bit spooked. Trust me, sitting on your butt maneuvering a giant metal can around crowded streets while stress hormones stew in your bloodstream gets tired real quick. I couldn't wait to get back in the saddle and spin the legs out.

  8. Thanks for the idea Jay, but I don't have that as an option, as I've never driven a motor vehicle.