It takes very little effort to say thanks to fellow road users while you’re riding a bike, but the reward can be a big one…
– A blog and videos by Rob Arnold
There are rules in place to ensure that there’s collaboration on our roads by everyone, no matter what their vehicle of choice is. Alas, that doesn’t always mean it’s a happy, functioning place where there are no incidents. A lot has been written about the rider-vs-driver scenario that we’re all too familiar with, but let’s come at it from another angle. Instead of focussing on the negative, I thought, I’ll do a video that acknowledges the positive interactions.
‘Yo! Thanks!’ Sometimes you might utter some such sentiment while in traffic. You might also raise a hand and lift a thumb after a driver passes, giving you the space on the road that allows you to feel safe and in control of your bike.
Perhaps a driver has respected your place on the road and waited momentarily until the time is right to overtake. When that happens, and they do pass, maybe you give a nod of the head and a wink to suggest, ‘Cheers mate, that means a lot to me… sorry to slow you down, but I appreciate what you just did.’
There are myriad things that happen in traffic, countless interactions have taken place over time and most of them go unnoticed; why would we remember every car that passed us while we ride a bike, and later offer comment about it? We don’t, otherwise that’s all we’d be talking about.
Although I’ve been explaining some negative situations in traffic of late, it’s also important to recognise that most of the time there are either good or better examples of how people interact on the roads. Collaboration and courtesy can go a long way. When these things are at play, we all get to our destination without a need to fret about the risks of riding in traffic.
Of course, there are plenty of examples of rotten behaviour and some have been shared this week by readers of RIDE Media. These stories can be found in the comments of videos on YouTube or posts on Facebook, and they relate to dangerous situations that have happened without any ramification for the ‘perp’.
But thankfully, it’s not all bad out there. Actually, there’s quite a lot of good. And that’s what this blog is about.
When a driver does the right thing, it’s easy to say ‘Thanks mate’.
It might be etched into law that a motorist has to give a cyclist a metre of space when passing (at speeds under 80km/h, or 1.5 metres when driving faster than 80). But that doesn’t mean it always happens. We all know that the ‘metre matters’ law is a good thing, but we also have plenty of stories about this relatively new rule being ignored.
When it does happen, it’s easy to acknowledge the good behaviour and offer a little thanks. And small gestures offer big dividends.
If we want respect on the roads we’ve got to give a little in return, and that means riding our bikes to suit the circumstances.
There are laws that make it perfectly okay for cyclists to ride two abreast in traffic, to take a lane and to use the roads in a way that makes it safe for riding. But that shouldn’t translate to confrontational situations in which a bunch is holding up traffic, or frustrating drivers on busy roads.
Instead of adamantly insisting on your rights as a road user, it’s easy to ride single-file should circumstances suggest that would be safer, and to allow a bit of flow in traffic. Most riders recognise that this is a safe and obvious way to help maintain positive rider/driver interactions. To forsake your rights and adopt a practical alternative to a group ride is an example of collaboration and courtesy. It keeps things moving and negates aggression. And everyone eventually gets to their destination.
All this should be obvious. If you show respect, you get respect. It’s a simple lesson that will serve you well in all kinds of circumstances, not only in traffic.
Be kind to one another and life will be much more enjoyable. But we know it’s not always that way.
As bike riders we have all experienced something upsetting… or worse. There is the prospect of danger on every ride, but there will also be more positive, collaborative exchanges while we’re in traffic. And, finally, that brings me to the sentiment of the video that’s embedded at the top of this blog.
When something good happens to you on the road, you… well, you feel good about it. You think, ‘Oh cool, they gave me plenty of space – that’s great. Thanks dude!’ (Or words to that effect.)
When someone does something that makes your ride a little safer, it might be because their actions are written into law. But that doesn’t mean we need to ignore it and just assume that it’ll happen again and again. As we all know, one driver might give you ample room, the next might squeeze you into the gutter. And another might even attempt to hit you with the side mirror (or worse).
There are plenty of options for how interactions in traffic will go. They can be good or bad… somewhere in between, or at either extreme (ie. excellent or devastating).
The point of this article is that acknowledging good behaviour is a worthwhile exercise.
‘Yo! Thanks!’ It costs you nothing and takes minimal effort. A thumbs-up gesture, or a nod of the head, or perhaps just a pinky finger lifted from the handlebars when you’re in the drops and speeding along in pouring rain… they are all little signs that you can offer to driver that say, ‘Thanks mate, I appreciate your courteous driving.’
This column was prompted by a brief thought early in a ride on country roads at the beginning of the year. ‘Thanks mate,’ I said quietly to myself while lifting a thumb as a driver sped off into the distance. And then I thought, ‘I might do a little how-to video…’
The title of the video spells out my intentions: ‘Story of my ride / cycling etiquette: how to say thanks while riding…’ and, yes, it is an attempt at a bit of humour while telling the story of my ride from near Carwoola to Canberra.
If you watch it, you’re not likely to learn anything new. You might find that my advice is obvious. You might not share my sense of humour and you may think I’m being patronising or flippant, but I’m not.
What I’m saying is quite obvious. If you say ‘thanks mate’ – for whatever it is that a driver has done to make your ride that little bit safer – then it goes a long way. It is a display of courtesy from you (because of the courtesy that was given to you) and it recognises the benefits of good collaborations in what might otherwise be dangerous circumstances.
When a driver sees that a rider is grateful for good behaviour, they are likely to repeat the gesture the next time they see a cyclist in traffic. Your quick thumbs-up not far from Carwoola might benefit another rider down the road in Canberra.
It is all quite obvious, but I’ll conclude with a few words that could have been this entire blog. Quite simply: a little thanks can go a long way. Respect begets respect.
Enjoy your ride. Be safe… and be grateful. Cycling is a wonderful thing to do and it’s even better when it’s done with collaboration and courtesy.
– By Rob Arnold