When you’re in a car, your windshield probably has a UV filter. This wonderful invention keeps the sun out and lets you see the world differently than people outside of your car. One side effect (albeit a good one) is that you can more easily see into other people’s cars, too. I don’t know the science behind this, but I remember driving and having no trouble watching other drivers pick their nose or sing with their stereo.
Bikers don’t have that luxury. When we look at your car, we see the above image: reflections of the sun and surroundings. So if you are trying to be generous by telling us to take the left turn even though we don’t have the right of way, you should be aware that we can’t see your hand motions. Instead, we have to sit there, wonder what’s wrong with the driver, and then eventually guess (because we’re never sure) that you want us to take the turn.
Don’t be overly polite.
This goes with dealing with drivers as well as bikers. If you are breaking traffic laws in order to “help” the other person, you are actually confusing everyone. When I stop at the left-turn lane with my arm sticking out and I see that oncoming traffic has stopped for some reason, I am forced to guess the reason that it has stopped. Maybe there’s an ambulance that I don’t see? Maybe there’s a funeral procession about to drive through? Maybe the driver has a manual transmission and forgot to shift down before leaving from a full stop. Bikers can’t read minds! And instead of being “polite”, the driver is causing unnecessary headaches for the biker, for the people behind them (who can probably see the wild hand motions and are probably wondering what’s wrong with the biker), and themself. The biker is going to take a lot longer to go from a full stop to moving, so it’ll take them longer to go than if the driver had just gone in the first place.
I hope I don’t come off as “Stupid drivers! Bikers are a better breed than you gas-guzzling earth-killers!” Instead, I think it’s a matter of perspective. Having never ridden a bike until the past couple of years, I always had certain preconceived notions, many of which have been shattered.
Also, I see plenty of bikers riding on the sidewalk, going against traffic, and doing all sorts of stupid stuff that annoys people. I get annoyed because they’re giving bikers a bad name! But I’ve found that most bikers are following traffic laws and doing what they’re supposed to; they just don’t stand out as much because they blend in with the normal noise of traffic.
featured image “One Third of Light Mixed with Two Thirds of Shadow” by Alexandre Normand