Thursday, March 8, 2012

Courtesy on a Bike

As soon as the temperatures sneak above 40F the racers come out in droves along the roads of my commute. University of Vermont teams practice pace lines. And Green Mountain Bike Club members of all ages ride the straights of Spear and Dorset Streets. Sometimes there's a group, other times single riders, some obviously trying to catch the pack. Thankfully, there's a growing number of commuters too.

I've ridden these roads for 10 years and a strange phenomena never fails to emerge early in the season: lack of communication. You see, I have to train the riders to be polite. To verbalize. By that I mean to acknowledge my humble presence. Whether they're coming toward me or passing, they're mute. No "hi" or "howdy" or even an "on your left" warning. Heads are bent. Tighly knit forms bobbing, intent and introspective.

So I take a different tact. I make it my personal quest to initiate the exchange. Blast 'em with kindness, so-to-speak. And I persist, time after time, until a month goes by and I begin to get feed back.

It's not like we're isolated behind the wheel of a car. We all enjoy the weather, the simple pleasure of a ride. Spinning wheels. Alone or with friends. Fast group ride or slow commute. Bikes are bikes. There should be a baseline of camaraderie. Speed is no excuse; if you breathe you can say "hi". We're talking Vermont here, not New York City.

I have a license plate that reads "Annie" prominently displayed beneath my seat. It's my signature. My message to those behind, a simple sign of bike love. And when they pass—as they invariably do because I'm slow—many will say, "Hi Annie, nice day huh?"

But as I said, it takes time. One person will respond. Then another. Pretty soon the results astound me. Though for whatever reason, there will be holdouts who can't utter a word. For those, a hand wave or wagging finger will suffice. I'll take what I can get.

Mission accomplished for another year.


  1. As soon as the temperatures sneak above 40F the racers come out in droves along the roads of my commute.

    And over 50F the fixie riders come out, right? ;-)

  2. Good on you for initiating the exchange. Most riders are friendly where I live, it is in the big cities they do not say anything and it feels weird to have no acknowledgement when you are used to a wave, smile or hello from a fellow cyclist.


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