Stranger Danger and Truths about Cycling

28 11 2012

Aggressive friendliness. Sometimes, it’s the only way.

Jon sent this blog.  It’s right on.

Loads of excellent stuff in the blog, but my favorite excerpt is pasted at the bottom.  Growing up in Texas, it was unimaginable to pass someone on the street and not say hello, or at least acknowledge their existence.   When I went to college in Philadelphia, my surprise at the understood mutual obliviousness was only surpassed my the passerby’s surprise when I chirped out a “Hello” or a “‘Mornin’!”.  In Boulder, I attribute this stranger anxiety to all the transplants that have come here from other parts of the country.   I still wave, nod, smile, and/or greet any stranger going the other way like always. But for the chronic abusers, I’ve resorted to what our friend Matt refers to as “aggressive friendliness”–direct eye contact, obscenely cheery smile, and an inappropriately loud “HELLO!”.  I’ve taken this approach to the lady who walks her dog on exactly the same route every day.  She passes us every morning,  at exactly the same time I take my daughter to school every day.  HELLO! GOOD MORNING! HOW ARE YA?!  Once, I got her to glance and eek out a twitch in the corners of her mouth.  Most days, she pretends we aren’t there.   It’s a work in progress.






Guess it’s pretty obvious which side of this issue we fall on, yeah?

Mountain bikers, you may be excused. Overall you seem to have the kindness thing figured out. Roadies…pull up a chair. This one’s for you.

Here’s the scenario: You’re out on a ride and see a cyclist or few coming toward you. Being a steward of the sport, you greet them as they pass. Sometimes it’s a full on “Hello!”  Sometimes it’s a wave. Sometimes it’s just eye-contact and the little lifting of the hand off the bars thing.

Sometimes you get a nice greeting or a wave back. Nice. That small but bonding gesture. Then there are the ones who ice you.



Really? And I’m not talking about the times where they may not have heard you. I’m talking about eye-contact, multiple greetings and…nothing. Sometimes even a scowly-face.

Working on the middle-east crisis, handling the nuclear power plant crisis in Japan, fighting a raging forest fire, fixing a problem at the international space station – these are the kinds of situations where dead-seriousness and scowly faces are completely cool. Understandable. But riding a bicycle on a Sunday afternoon in perfect, Southern Californian weather? Nope.

Why should this bother us? Are we that needy? No. And honestly, most times we just let it roll off our backs. But overall, it’s about manners. When you think about it, technically, people don’t have to say please or thank you. They don’t have to smile at one another. They don’t have to respect one another’s personal space and well-being. But it’s what makes life tolerable. It’s called civility and it’s really, really simple.

Roadies who actively race have the worst track record when it comes to this kind of thing. There’s a certain club on the west side of Los Angeles that has cultivated a culture of acting superior to all others on the road.

Lighten up, fellas.

I love and respect our sport too. Between us, we’ve been doing it at a pretty high level for over 40 years. But we do it because it’s fun. Period. And yes, we race, too. Racing and kindness are not mutually exclusive.

And let’s break it down – we’re both out there putting our next-to-nothing bodies into the mix against multi-ton steel cars on tight roads. Oh, and we’re in form-fitting lycra.

In the great food chain out there on the roads we’re pretty down there. Seems like we need some solidarity.

So as you pass this little online article, let me be the first to wave and say “Hello.”

Hope you wave back. 

Read more about Truths of Cycling.

It’s worth the read.



2 responses

28 11 2012

When I moved into a new neighborhood years ago I made cookies and brought them to neighbors, to introduce myself. Most of them looked at me like I was insane. One kept asking me what I was selling. I am the Golden Retriever of friendliness to strangers. That’s probably why I keep getting in trouble.

28 11 2012

Never stop making cookies and offering them to perfect strangers.

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