Monday, June 23, 2008

An epiphany on the bike path

For years (I confess) I have noticed and fretted about who waves back and who does not.

I almost always wave. I wave at all kinds of riders. I feel that our cycling creates a certain kinship. I wave. Most riders evidently sense no such kinship; they seldom wave.

Stupidly, I note their non-waves and keep loose track of who responds and who doesn't. Decades, I been doing that. No kidding.

Just the last couple of rides, I've changed my program. I still wave, because it feels right to me. But I've stopped monitoring responses. Here's what I do.

I ride along. I see a cyclist approaching. I watch until I'm confident that he or she is not a threat. Then I take my eyes off that cyclist and wave.

I wave because it feels right. He or she waves back or doesn't wave back, whichever feels right. Wave or not wave, I don't see it.

We all do what we feel is right. I don't wave for effect, for a response, after all. I wave because I'm old school and always have waved. They don't 'cause they aren't and haven't.

I'm happy with my new program. If you're a frustrated, old school waver, try it on your next ride. Look away. You'll lighten your heart before your legs warm up.


Tom said...

I wave. I find that some non-wavers have begun to wave back. One guy always manages to wave to me first.

To be honest I often wave to drivers that wait for me to pass when are they stopped and wanting to come out on the road I'm on. I am thankful for their patience.

sda said...

I'm a waver. Always have been. Found myself keeping tabs as well. I like this approach though, I'll have to try it.

Maynard said...

Jeez, sda...

If it works for you, please let me know. Thanks for writing. I felt precisely like the Lone Ranger, keeping tabs.

And Tom...

I occasionally wave at a nice driver too. There's not so many of them that your arm gets tired, huh?

Khal said...

This reminds me of an old (the column, not the author) Patrick O'Grady essay: Wave Dynamics, published in in 1995.

I wave. I don't usually worry any more about who waves back. Life is too short to worry about such stuff.

sda said...

What have I been able to discern from keeping tabs? Here is a summation of my long term observations:

Tourists always wave. I think it is because they really want to stop you for directions or for where they can find water.

Recumbent riders always wave, but I think its only because they want to make sure you see/saw them. While I'm not totally up on today's technology (I retired from the bike industry about 8 years ago), those things appear to run not just on pedal powers but also with a supplemental amount of eccentricity, or in some rare cases, self satisfaction.

Motorcyclists have been waving recently. We fall into the same category of vulnerable road users. They often initiate it as well. Solidarity. I like it.

Some folks in cars wave too. But only if I initiate it. I like to wave at people in old Volkswagens, so it is usually this motoring demographic that I typically interact with. Maybe not a balanced representation - but I have yet to have a hummer owner return the wave. I'm not talking the one finger wave here either, although that would be just as satisfying most times.


Short Term observations from the last 5 cyclists that didn't wave (all from last Saturday or Sunday - in and around Fort Collins):

1 was what appeared to be a relatively new (but older) cyclist who was struggling UP the steep grade that I was going down. He gets a pass.

3 were serious cyclists - evident from their team kits and lack of helmets. Obviously out for a very serious training ride while everyone else was ..... at the race that was taking place right there in Fort Collins. They were obviously professionals preparing for a very big event sometime later this season, so I don't blame them for not waving at a shlub has-been like me. Pass.

The last one was a regular dude who was in the process of getting passed by a full size Dodge towing a cabin cruiser to the local reservoir. In the name of self preservation he also gets a pass.

Everyone else waved.

club-velo said...

I'm gonna hafta try this new plan of yours, Maynard. I've been known to say to my riding buds that "the next guy that doesn't wave back is gonna get a smack!" and that can't be good.

I've always wondered why and how most motorcyclists seem to feel more kinship w/ me than fellow cyclers.......

The whole "waving thing" is weird as I trundle around in my old Jeep Wrangler too. The other Jeep guys always wave. I feel sort of silly actually, but how can I not wave back? (If they only knew that most of my reasons for driving that silly thing are most un-Jeep-like maybe they'd ignore me.)My wife never fails to smirk.

My theory is that recumbent guys always wave 'cuz they're hoping you'll ask them about their bike. An evangelical bunch, those guys! Self-important and heart-rate obsessed "racer guys" are far to busy being fast to wave...especially the new-ish ones w/ the latest frame and the Full Team Kit.....or maybe they aren't comfortable taking a hand off the bars. (Whoops...slipped there! Repeat - "Just wave". "Don't keep tabs" Just wave".)

This is gonna take some work.