I am always surprised how many cyclists are afraid of cars and their drivers, or have downright animosity to them. I prefer to see drivers as partners in a big game called Traffic.
It starts with the wording: “Share the Road” implies sacrifice. I prefer to think of other road users as “partners” on a team, not competitors fighting for our “share” of a finite amount of road space. After all, we all have a common goal: Keeping traffic flowing smoothly and safely.
Partnership means being aware of each other and communicating clearly. Turn signals indicate our intentions to other traffic. When we approach a “four-way” stop, we can wave a waiting car to proceed before we come to a complete stop. Not only do they get to go earlier, but our wait will be shorter, too.
When a car approaches from behind on a winding country road, we can wave them past when we see that the road around the next bend is clear. This allows them to move more efficiently, and it creates a bond between driver and cyclist that can only be beneficial. (Be sure that the road really is clear before you do this!)
Partnership means obeying the spirit of the rules more than the letter, and not cutting in front of traffic because we can. It means stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks, because we know what it is like to be at the bottom of the “traffic food chain.” (Most pedestrians are drivers, too, so use any opportunity to impress them with your consideration.) It means moving to the right when it’s safe for traffic to pass, but “taking the lane” when it is not.
Partnership also means looking out for one another. If an oncoming car needs a little room to pass, we can move over to help them out. The next time we make a mistake, we’ll be glad if others take up the slack. If a car wants to merge, we can let them in.
When we approach a red traffic light, do we really need to pass the waiting cars on the right and move to the front? If we stay behind, fewer cars pass us when the light turns green, and everybody can proceed with a minimum of stress. If we think of each other as partners instead of competitors, traffic will flow more smoothly and safely for all involved.
If we act with consideration and respect, then drivers soon will see us as partners, too, rather than nuisances delaying their progress. I see this happen more and more in Seattle, where drivers wave “thanks” when I move over to let them through on a narrow street, or smile when I thank them for waiting until I clear a narrow section. These little exchanges greatly contribute to my happiness during my urban rides.
Enjoy the ride, partner!
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