Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Let's all be more friendly

I'm trying to get my head around the behavior of  cyclists in Connecticut, or perhaps this is a larger New England phenomenon.  The situation - I'm poking along on a commuter bike or 3-speed laden with groceries and someone kitted up rides by me on the left.  First issue - no verbal communication that they are about to pass on the left, which is a straight up safety issue.  Secondly - more of a pet peeve - they don't even say hello.  I try toss a cheerful howdy as they churn away, and some can't even be bothered to say hi even then.

Seriously.  What's up with that?  This occurred three times this this summer, and I was on a different bike each time.  First occurrence was on Silver Lane at the intersection with Main Street.  I was on my 3-speed Schwinn Traveler with baskets full of groceries and stopped waiting for the light to change.  As the light turned green and I stepped on the pedals, I was passed by a road cyclist going full speed just as I crossed the stop line.  Not even an "on your left" to give warning that I was about to be shelled in the middle of an intersection.  Not cool.  What if I was a drunk homeless guy?  I could have swerved left and caused serious harm as I wobbled my way up to speed.  For your own safety, announce your passes.

The second occurrence was on Main Street, approaching Silver Lane.  Poking along on my Schwinn Super le Tour built up as a single speed fendered commuter complete with rack and panniers, I was passed by an older fellow out on his daily constitutional.  He blew by with no "on your left" and I decided to catch up and say hi.  He proceeded to take a right at the next red light, turn left into a store parking lot, and continue straight.  The maneuver was all sorts of awkward and dangerous.  He was very intent on not stopping, but was a bit sheepish about blowing the light.

The latest happened tonight.  While riding out to meet up with a friend to ride in Manchester, again on Silver Lane - actually Spencer Street on the Manchester side.  Damn that street, it was the only common factor aside from males riding road bikes. On my Kona commuter bike with panniers I was heading up a hill and a fellow ripped by.  I said hiya.  He ignored me.  At that point I decided that I was confused and needed to go to the internets to help me clear things up.

I don't think it's cranky of me to expect at minimum a verbal communication (or bell) from a cyclist approaching and passing on the left.  Unlike cars, many bikes don't make any noise at all.  I also might not see you with a quick glance over my left shoulder as you could be directly behind me.

Above and beyond, I will also think better of you as a human for saying hello.  In my opinion greeting fellow cyclists in the otherwise bike commuter sparse Connecticut helps build cohesion in the community and in my personal experience makes the ride more pleasant.  When we, cyclists, are regularly in danger on roads not designed for cyclist safety, those personal connections and pleasantries with our human powered compatriots keep things positive.

Does this guy look like a jerk?  Very excited to say hello.  
Wise Beat Bike Blog readers - I welcome your comments and tales of personal experience.  Do I just look like someone that should be shunned and passed as quickly as possible?  I have included a recent photo for folks that don't know me personally.  I'm on a commuter bike wearing something not unlike the stuff I would wear to work or on local commutes.   Do you say hello or make a point of announcing your pass when you come across a fellow cyclist or bike commuter?

Did a quick Google on this since I'm sure that this isn't the first time it has been considered.  Appears that it isn't just a Northeast thing.


semiotheque said...

I don't often say "hello" but always make eye contact and a little nod to acknowledge people -- walkers, other bikers, whoever. I feel like it's nonsense to pretend we don't see each other. Nodding but not talking strikes me as a sound balance between my taciturn New England roots and the decade I spent in the very friendly Upper Midwest.

But yeah, passing is a maneuver that requires two people and the tiniest bit of synchronization. Bikers who won't make some effort to alert me to their presence are just plain rude. I totally get not wanting to interact with strangers on the street. But introvert that I am, I think safety is much more important than not wanting to talk to someone.

Mr. Chris said...

It is all the spandex cutting off the blood to the brain. I got this treatment this morning going over the Founders Bridge. Riding no handed, "swimming across the river", better than Martin Brooks (http://vimeo.com/29106106). Here I was having fun, enjoying a nice ride across the river and boom, black spandex blur... Ended up meeting again at Main St. Apparently he took the long route there.

Mr. Chris said...

And... I always give two friendly rings on my bell, even if riding no handed.

Tony C said...

I heart bells!

CB2 said...

3 times this Summer? More like at least 3 times a day. It's just the way people are these days. I'll ring my bell, say hello and smile; maybe a nod, but more likely eyes fixed forward or a steely glare.

dario said...

I don't like such lemurs myself. But, hey, people cycle for different reasons and, sometimes, the best and the worst of one's character is expressed on two wheels, just like car drivers. Keep on waving and greeting, if it makes "you" happy. And, I agree, bells are nice.

Unknown said...

I'm a big fan of bells as well. I get so much shit from people for wanting to put one on my road bike. The unofficial road bike rules are so dumb. I'm not always loud enough when I say, "on your left" but everyone can hear a bell.

Also, I am a fan of at least the nod and smile. I try to say hello as much as possible but if I am climbing up a hill, it's more like a grunt of acknowledgment.