Friday, July 4, 2008

Waving. Again.

Last weekend on my motorcycle journey in WY and MT, I waved at everyone on a motorcycle and watched to see who'd wave back. I saw almost nothing but Harley riders, hundreds of them solo and in groups. Overwhelmingly, they DID wave back.

And I wasn't on a Harley. I wasn't on a Japanese bike, but at 140mph closing speed they probably thought I was. They waved anyway. Had they been able to identify my bike, (it's British) they would not have felt the same kind of scorn they exhibit toward Japanese bikes. At some H-D rallies, someone trucks in an old Honda. For a dollar, you can hit it with a sledge hammer.

But I don't believe they could identify my bike. Maybe they figured it was Japanese. I wore a helmet. Most of them did not. Still they waved. Ninety percent waved. No kidding. Nine percent of cyclists wave.

Why is that?

I don't think rider egos work the same way on powered two-wheelers. How else can you explain it? Is there some sort of competition among bicyclists, a cooler-than-thou ranking going on?

I wear cycling clothing but not head-to-toe matching team kit. I ride several brands of bicycles and notice no difference in the returned-wave ratio. I wave when the bike path is busy and on streets that don't see a cyclist once an hour. Same result.

If an obese plumbing contractor on a chromed-up Fat Bob who smokes, drives an F250 and hates imported motorcycles waves back at me on my Triumph, why won't a guy about my size, dressed like me, riding a bike just like mine and with a lifestyle almost identical to mine wave back? Huh?


Anonymous said...

When I'm on a ride, I wave at all cyclists heading the opposite direction...racers, tourists, commuters, hipsters, even idiots on recumbents...they all get my respect. If they don't wave back, I turn around, chase them down, and grab their bars like a second-place finisher at a T-town Keirin
. That usually convinces them to be friendlier to other cyclists. Just my way of making the roads more pleasant.

Jim Feeley

Anonymous said...

Hey Maynard,

I really don't keep score on whether other cyclist wave back to me. I do know that since gas prices have gone up I have detected a slightly more civil attitude from car drivers - maybe it's my imagination, but it seems so.

Why I had a car driver at a stop light wave at me when I pulled up in the other lane. Maybe that's the metric we should be measuring.

Keep writing, Maynard!


Maynard said...

Thanks, Jason...

I'm going to start noticing if drivers wave... Maybe a $4/gal we're not the Martians they thought we were. Maybe they're thinking Lycra and not Lexus...

Anonymous said...

Hi Maynard!
One of your themes has been cycling utopia—consideration and respect and complete streets for everyone. What if we all belonged to the same group? What if everyone waved? Would that lessen the value of a friendly wave hello?
That you wave to cyclists and moto's and then measure their responses seems to say at least as much about you as it does the other riders who may or may not wave back. A friendly wave translates as hail and well met--an inclusive greeting and welcoming sign. If it's not returned that could mean a tribal dis--a lack of respect for your bike or whatever quirk led to a perception that labeled you as other and not friend.
You're thoughtful and insightful and sensitive and have a lot of endurance since you've been riding for so long (and writing about it) for decades. Out of curiosity--since you've been writing about waving from at least as far back as your Bay area days 20 years ago--was there a time when you used to wave at cars--in a friendly way?
Cycling has its tribes—fixies, recumbents, racers, tourists, commuters, free riders, bmx, free riders, cross country racers, triathletes. When a friend called a recumbent rider in a wool jersey and knee high socks with a vintage Bell helmet and double rear view mirrors a ‘fred’ I pointed out that from a certain automotive perspective all cyclists are freds--lesser beings slowing the progress of faster, bigger, seemingly more worthy and important vehicles. Some drivers see all cyclists as freds and freidas--custom Seven riders, ‘bents, and pro riders—doesn’t matter, for those drivers we should all be off the road.
Still, there are some drivers who don't judge cyclists as less equal or less worthy. Sometimes they’ll slow down, give a little extra room, hand out an ice cold can of Coke in the middle of Nevada. Sometimes a driver will just wave. Sometimes there’s not a lot of time to communicate and there’s no time or room for waving.
Sometimes when traffic is backed up there’s a little more time. A huge Escalade pulled alongside during a slow roll up to an intersection and the blacked out window rolled down. The first response was flight—time to grab brake and jump curb to avoid mayhem. But the driver commented that she like my 'costume' and wondered who'd designed it. Not what I'd been expecting. I told her that, actually, I'd designed the jersey and we sold them at the bike shop. It wasn't what I'd expected.
What if everyone sharing the road got a wave--at least a hand lift off the hood for those who don’t actively try to take us out? Should it matter what vehicle we’re using? We’re all sharing the road together, responsible for each other's safety and part of a greater community. What a crazy idea it would be to wave at the truckers, suv's, sport cars, motorcyclists, and the cyclists? With all that waving wouldn’t the return wave response index go up bit? And with all that waving going on who would have time to count?
Keep riding and writing, Maynard!


Khal said...

Nearly wiped out by waving today. I was headed down into Los Alamos Canyon and waved at a guy climbing out. Hit a rick dead-on (its been raining lately and I saw a lot of debris in the oncoming lane next to the mountain--missed the rock in my lane. I had one hand in mid-wave and nearly went over the bars. Had to reach back, grab the bike, and pull it back under me. Whew. But at least I was polite.

Maynard said...

Attaboy Khal!

No effort, no risk is too great...