27 September 2013

Why 'being nice' won't solve that outgroup thing

This morning, I was trying to explain to my six year old why I had put lights on her bike, even though it was fully light, if a bit murky.  We had an interesting discussion and checked out how many cars had lights on, and if they were easier to see than those without (interesting fact: in Canada all cars have riding lights that are on whenever the engines on, handy for spotting a car that might start pulling out).

'quiet route'
But, the real reason was of course that I wanted to send a signal to drivers that while I might be foolhardy enough to let my 6 year old cycle to school, I was otherwise being as careful as I could.  Which is a completely ridiculous thought pattern.  Why should I care what they think of us?

The night before, we'd cycled home from school by the 'quiet route' - at my daughter's request.  She's right,
it is a lovely calming ride.  But the one weakness - and why I tend not to take that route more often - is a slightly dodgy intersection at the end of our road.  The roads are slightly askew, the sightlines often blocked by parked cars, and in one direction cars are coming off a humped bridge, which makes their velocity difficult to determine.

dodgy intersection
We cross this all the time on foot. It is equally awkward, but drivers are usually very understanding, and  stop and wave us across.  Last night, we tried to get across without inconveniencing the cross-traffic, but in the end cars had to stop in both directions before we could get across.  One of them then followed us down the road and parked near us. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure there was a fair amount of resentment directed at us.

Which made me think - we can do everything 'right' - lights, helmets, bells and whistles - but if the drivers are annoyed at our presence on the road 'holding them up', they're not going to think 'well, at least they were in hiviz'.   It doesn't bloody well make any difference. As a pedestrian crossing that road, I'm treated with respect. As a cyclist, I'm seen as an inconvenience (at best), and my behaviour's not going to change that.

If drivers are going to be anti-cyclist, then us trying to make nicey-nicey just isn't going to change anything.

1 comment:

Karen @CycleSprog said...

Hi Sara - That's a nasty intersection.
We have a very narrow stretch of road near us - it's impossible for vehicles to overtake for about 200m. Some drivers are really patient. Others rev their engines the whole time, virtually on the back wheel of the tagalong, and some try and overtake us, even though there is nowhere to go.
I try and remember it's them, not me, and they're probably like that with everyone and everything in their life. Other times I just get very stressed!!