Familiarity Breeds … Well, Politeness Actually

I was chatting with a prospective neighbour the other day – another cyclist, who is contemplating moving down from Nairn.* He was mentioning that they suffer a bit from boy racer syndrome up there and drivers can be a bit aggressive around bikes, and I was saying how little I experience that around here. And then it struck me that a good half of all the drivers I encounter on my daily round – and more like 80% on the papershop run – are either people I know, or people who have seen me out on the road hundreds of times before and have got used to my being there. It means that the little courtesies I extend to them (pulling in at a farm gate if the road is too narrow to pass me, acknowledging a good pass with a wave, doing my damndest to pedal quickly up a hill when someone’s patiently waiting behind me) get paid back down the line – like the tractor that always gives me masses of room by practically pulling off the road every time it encounters me, which as it’s generally pulling a very rural-smelling trailer-load of something, I’m extremely grateful for.

As a case in point there’s a bloke who drives a pickup truck which is often parked at a forest entrance on the way down to the papershop. The first time I encountered him, he practically ran me off the road – not maliciously, I don’t think, he just didn’t leave me very much tarmac to ride on. I saw him parked up shortly afterwards and I was tempted to give him a piece of my mind but his dog was barking at me and it was one of those leg-at-each-corner bulldogs that clearly had cyclist murder on its mind so I just said good morning and let it pass. Since then I’ve encountered them both on the road often enough and while his dog would still clearly take a lump out of me if only it could work out how to wind down the window, these days he now gives me all the room I could ask for and we exchange friendly waves of greeting. Clearly as the months have passed, I’ve gone from being an anonymous obstacle on the road to an actual person who needs some space, and no need to deliver a little lecture about it either. Well, either that or he’s worked out just how wide his vehicle is…

Of course this cuts both ways – a bit of obnoxious behaviour on my part would not be quickly forgotten either.  So I ride as courteously and considerately as I can, and hope it does all pay forward in the end.

* This being Bigtownshire, where we don’t really do degrees of separation, we quickly discovered we had been standing about 200 yards apart during the Tour of Britain this year.

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3 Responses to Familiarity Breeds … Well, Politeness Actually

  1. commuterjohn says:

    Completely agree, In neighbourhood surroundings you meet the same mass of people you and a nod and a wave soon gets you an easier ride to and from work.
    Also this must leach out a bit in other areas during the inevitable car v bike storys and if one person says ‘not all cyclists are like that’ then we are in with a chance.
    Inner city rat races are another thing altogether but they all come from a neighbourhood somewhere.

  2. oftpaster says:

    A bit of a tangent: when my son was about 4 (years ago) someone remarked “Nairn is turning into the Blackpool of the north”. My son looked thoughtful and said “but I’ve never seen any black pools in Nairn”.
    I always remember that when somebody mention Nairn.
    btw – completely agree with you on the good behaviour breeds better behaviour philosophy.

  3. disgruntled says:

    I should add, that this only works when you’ve got a limited number of drivers (and cyclists) to deal with, and it’s fairly restricted in its scope – I still get told often enough about what ‘cyclists’ do as if I’m somehow in charge of them and could stop them from riding two abreast if I wanted to…

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