Deep into the dark season, we cycle. Through rain and wind and the varying stages of grey and black skies, front and back lights blinking, scarves wrapped around our faces, rain pants tested, fingers numb with cold… We could stop riding in the winter and sit on the bus, longingly watching cyclists zoom by as we crawl along at a snail’s pace, stopping every few blocks for passengers. Or we could drive, and find our stress levels rising as we sit in traffic, circle the block looking for parking, and watch the cyclists pass us by. But lack of exercise and fresh air makes us crankier than water and dark skies. And we quite enjoy the swirling leaves and sky’s ever changing moods.
I find myself waving frequently at my neighbors and at strangers who stop for me at stop signs. Often, they wave at me to go ahead. Used to be, I would motion, “No, you go ahead, really. I’ll stop.” But then I realized that when someone offers me kindness, it’s my responsibility to graciously accept. Besides, when you’re on a bike, momentum is your friend, and I think that the motorists waving me through must understand that. Probably they themselves bike from time to time. I always smile and wave in gratitude. And since this happens numerous times a day, I’m always smiling and waving, waving and smiling, happy, happy, happy as I pedal along, until I arrive at work or a meeting or home feeling pleasantly hungry, energetic, even buzzed.
And when they don’t stop for me, or behave aggressively, rudely, or obliviously, I chant in my head, “I do not have a death wish, I do not have a death wish.” Then I take a deep breath, and let it go, whatever it was.
No matter how we get around, we should model good behavior. When driving, yield to pedestrians and cyclists, slow down, hang up, and chill out. Refrain from over-generalizing or judging all cyclists by the few bad-behaving jerks and recognize that every cyclist is one less car on the road. And when we’re biking, always wait for red lights, yield to pedestrians, and wave and smile at the slightest act of kindness and to spread the joy of cycling, a spot of beauty brightening up the darkness of winter.
Do you ride or drive in the winter? How does it affect your manners?