Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Biking as assertiveness training

From http://noimpactman.typepad.com/blog/

I’m learning something about life from biking everywhere (an element of the no carbon-producing transportation part of the No Impact Man project). It used to be that when I rode around Manhattan, I would chastise myself for getting mad or shouting at drivers or pedestrians. I would think I was becoming one of those rude bikers who thought they were entitled to run red lights and have the waves of pedestrians in the crosswalk part like the Red Sea before Moses.

And I am still not rude in that way. In my view, if the pedestrians—or vehicles—have the right of way, they have the right of way. I try to be polite. On the other hand, I seem to have subconsciously decided, since getting hit from behind by a car, that getting mad and shouting is, at times, appropriate. It has the effect of keeping me, and other people, safe.

Pedestrians sometimes cross against the light without looking (there is no auditory cue from a bike to tell them to). I shout, “Watch out!” I brake. They look. Together—at least so far—we avoid colliding.

Drivers have the habit of honking in order to get in front of bicycles, only to get past and stop dead to make a turn, leaving the biker with nowhere to go. When I see that situation emerging, I shout, “Hey! Hey! Don’t turn in front of me.” Often, they don’t (but I still use my brakes, just in case).

A few times, I’ve been riding in the bike lane, and a driver, not looking, began veering toward me to avoid some obstacle in the middle of the road. I’ve banged on their window to let them know I’m there.

It’s not like me. I always want to be polite and charming. Being overly accommodating is actually a fault of mine (I want everyone to like me). But riding bikes in traffic, I’m learning that sometimes the best thing for everyone is for me to be aggressive. It’s a paradox—to be kind sometimes means to be rude and abrasive. Isn’t that funny?

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