Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Green Light, Black Dress

"The light's green dude."

I hadn't noticed the bicyclist who'd rode up behind me as I waited at the intersection, my attention was on the blond in the short black dress to my left across the street. He was right though, the light had turned green, and before I could say, "Sorry, thanks for the heads up," he was already past me, pedaling away.

As I turned my attention back to the road, it occurred to me how mellow our exchange had just been: "The light's green dude," not "Hey asshole, quit staring at sugartits and go!" I'd like to think this says as much about how bicyclists tend to interact with each other as it does about how easily I get distracted by the opposite sex.

If you ride, you know that on a whole, bicyclists are pretty friendly towards other bicyclists. We're more likely to greet each other with nods or "Good morning" and unlike drivers, much less likely to start screaming at each other if someone cuts us off. The main reason for this (I'd argue), is the medium of the bicycle lends itself to peaceful, less confrontational exchanges simply by virtue of the technology involved.

When the guy behind me told me the light was green, it wasn't an urgent message - I wasn't really blocking him and only had to move over a tiny bit for him to pass me up. Contrast this with being stuck in a car behind another car, where your options for maneuverability are severely limited. There probably isn't a driver in the world who hasn't fought back the urge to go completely batshit when trapped in traffic, sporadically tapping the gas pedal, blood pressure shooting through the roof. Between bicyclists on the other hand, there is no such thing as road rage.

Even when it comes to dodging other riders coming in the opposite direction, I rarely get angry. (Okay, there was this one time when a homeless guy and I accidentally got into a game of chicken in the middle of an empty street. Luckily, I'd had enough sense to see he was a little bit more deranged than me and backed off). West Cliff Drive for example, has tons of bike and pedestrian traffic going in both directions on the wide sidewalk and no one gets hurt. Bicycles simply don't bring out aggressive behavior.

There are exceptions of course, but this usually boils down to the presence of cars. Notice, you rarely have pedestrians and bicyclists trying to square off. Drivers on the other hand, when not honking or shooting at each other, are always quick to get furious at bicyclists.

Speaking of honking, it's interesting to consider how the gentle "ding-ding" of a bike bell is really meant for pedestrians and other bicyclists but not cars. That is to say, while bicycles engender a friendly and peaceful atmosphere, there's just no way for a driver to tell another driver in a polite manner "The lights green dude."

1 comment:

Fritz said...

I went through a phase where I got all uptight and legalistic toward sidewalk cyclists and wrong way cyclists, but I got better.

I've been distracted by skirts, too. *sigh*