By Alan Schietzsch
Who let Mr. Hyde loose? So what is it that can make one annoying motorist turn us into car hating, intolerant ranters on bikes? Yes, that one bad driver really riled us up, and they must be blind not to have noticed us at that intersection. Then on some other occasion, somebody with a trailer gets impatient and passes you with a roar in a really stupid place. Suddenly the world and its cars are all against you. You start to notice the smell of every exhaust that passes you.
What happened to the idea of being at one with your bike doing whatever riding you enjoy ? Do we really want all these people to influence our moods ?
Do you have two Mr. Hydes? Actually a confession: I’ve got another Mr. Hyde hidden away.
He comes out when I’m driving a car and guess what? – he rants at some cyclists. You know – the ones that veer across the road without signalling. The ones that come up the inside at speed from miles behind, when you are signalling to turn right and cause you to do an emergency stop as you are turning right. The ones that are riding side by side out past the shoulder line for miles with no obvious reason on a road that’s really difficult to pass on. The people that make drivers hate the innocent and responsible cyclists.
Really, these two Hydes need to get together and sort themselves out! Moderate, reasonable cyclists should speak out, to bad drivers, and to bad cyclists: as cyclists we should expect car users, responsible for a potentially lethal machine, to be very careful and to look out for us and our safety. But the trouble is that we allow the extreme people on the “car side” of the argument to push us into an extreme view on our side. It serves no useful purpose – there will always be extremes on both sides.
We need to engage with the moderate reasonable people on both sides and not let the extremes dictate what we do, feel or say. It doesn’t really serve any constructive purpose.
Don’t convert more extremists: If you wave madly or stick a finger up at a driver who simply made a mistake, or wasn’t quite concentrating, or just didn’t see you, you might convert them into a bike hater. Do we want that ? Yet it’s a challenge to stay calm when your life is threatened by someone carelessly chatting on a cell phone or reading a newspaper on the steering wheel while aiming several thousand pounds of metal inches from your unprotected body.
There are the good guys: I had something happen recently that restored my faith. On a social ride I was feeling the pace (hadn’t been out for weeks) and the group I was with got ahead half a km and then turned off to the left and waited for me.
A hundred meters or so from the intersection, I was still head-down, plowing on, and I heard a car behind. Expecting it to pass, I carried on, but the driver must have seen my group ahead, been unsure if I was going to pull out into the middle and he waited until I got to the intersection and turned, which I wasn’t expecting.
I made sure I gave a very friendly thumbs up and wave. It felt much better than when I exercise the old middle finger. This upcoming year I hope to take my own advice, and have a happier season!