Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The "Wave".

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but it's just been one of those weeks at work. The big push has been finishing up our new line of Metro bikes...and as of today, specs and graphics are about 99% complete. I'm really excited about these hip, urban commuter type bikes; it's going to be fun to see what people think about them. We also have some fun stuff on tap for our cruiser bikes...I know not many people who read this blog are much interested in cruisers, but these are going to offer up something pretty different. So many cruiser companies (including Haro with our Del Sol line) have tried to emulate Electra bikes...and we came to the conclusion that we just can't compete with them. Electra does some pretty damn nice cruisers with loads of personality...and our new cruisers will have a whole different personality. No, I can't go into details at this point, but I can say they have been fun to work on and I can't wait to see some samples.

But enough about work. Let's talk about the "wave". You know the's that little hand gesture you make to other cyclists you pass on the road (or trail). Sometimes it's in the form of a full-blown wave and accompanied with a friendly "good morning" (or afternoon). Or it could be in the form of a one-finger (and hopefully not the middle finger pointed straight up) off the bars wave. Sometimes it's just a simple head nod. I mean, all of us cyclists are a family so we're supposed to acknowledge our brethren on two wheels in some fashion, right?

Motorcyclists, much like cyclists, are a tight-knit family. When you pass another motorcycle, whether it's coming the other way at you or you are passing in the same direction, you wave. Yes, there is sometimes the silly sportbike vs. Harley snobbery where someone on a sporty won't wave to a Harley rider and vice versa, but that's pretty rare. It's just what you give the "wave" to your fellow rider. You're family, after all. I have actually found myself getting bummed if too many riders pass by me and don't return the wave to me.

I've noticed recently that when I'm on my bicycle, the "wave" is becoming somewhat of a lost art. I don't know, maybe I'm just growing more sensitive to it, but it really seems like fewer and fewer cyclists do it. Are these newbs that haven't gotten then memo yet? Just this past weekend, I did 2 fairly long rides and saw lots of other cyclists. Some of the riders I encountered were just plain in the zone or something and didn't even look my way. OK, if you're into your moment, so be it. But the most puzzling folks I came across are the ones (and there were several) who I'd wave to, and they would simply just stare at me as I passed and not return the wave. This behavior seriously had me wondering if I had perhaps forgotten to put clothing on and was riding along naked or something.

I notice the same behavior on the trail when I ride MTB, too. The past few rides I have done, the hikers and horse people have been much friendlier than many of the other cyclists I'd encounter on the trail. The vast majority of the cyclists would just ride by without any acknowledgement at all. Often times, as a result of this lack of communication from some cyclists, trail etiquette suffers. I can't tell you how many times I've been climbing up a steep, technical section of trail only to have someone bomb towards me and expect me to yield the trail to them, without saying a word. What's up with that? Isn't the rider riding up the hill supposed to have the right of way?

Am I alone or do any of you also experience this and feel the same way? Does it seem like some cyclists you see on the road and/or trail just aren't aren't as friendly as they used to be? As cyclists, we truly are a lot like family. We're a tight community bonded together by rubber, metal, open roads, a penchant for pain, and a love for the great outdoors. Just as you wave to the neighbors on the street you live on, isn't it simply a nice gesture to acknowledge the other members of your community who share the same passion as you do? I do.

Regardless, I can rant and bitch about this all day long, but I won't give up in protest. I'll continue to give the "wave" and acknowledge other cyclists I see in my travels. If they wave back, that will make me feel good; validated even. If they don't, no worries. I'll just take satisfaction in knowing that I really wasn't waving at them anyhow. I was merely waving at their bicycles.

Now go ride your bike (and wave at the other riders you see, would ya?).


Anonymous said...

Well spoken. And please don't stop at other cyclists; those on 2 feet walking their 4-legged friends can benefit as well.
Be a blessing and you'll be blessed!

Eric Stobin said...

i couldn't agree more with your sentiments. i have lived in 4 distinct areas of the usa and notice that it can be different by geographic region. for example, i have only been in Seattle for 5 years and ride on the Burke-Gilman trail often. This trail gets heavy use by commuters, but it's rare to get a wave. maybe i get one out of every 8 or 10 at best. there are just a lot of hardcore commuters and road bikers here that think just because they pass so many people that that don't want to bother with waving. while i have made peace that i will continue to wave at times, i now know not to expect a wave back, especially in areas where people usually keep to themselves. perhaps my wave is my silent blessing of compassion that they will eventually feel connected to the family that is called 'cyclists' in all good time? i guess i should just pick my battles, becuase i can certainly deal with the lack of a wave more than i can someone whizzing by me very closely without a verbal warning of 'on your left' is bicycle etiquette a lost art form and/or dying breed? what do you think, Jill? i ask those who share these similar values to stand up and graciously educate those who lack this knowledge and share it. this way, each cyclist already armed with this knowledge can actually be involved in co-creating a more harmonious group of cyclists?

who knows, perhaps after they learn to 'give the call' they'll be waving at you!?! (or even getting involved in bicycle advocacy at your local chapter!)

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change!

I enjoyed your rant, DH Jill!


wrw said...

"Like Will Smith sang, 'Nod your head!'"
Rider safety does not recommend taking ones hand off that handlebar to greet another.
'Head on a swivel' riders, courtesy still counts!
Latest dangerous move, viewed a youth weaving his bicycle across the road, TALKING on that cell phone.

jill hamilton said...

Anon...yes indeed! I go out of my way to be pleasant to hikers and horse people. I used to have horses myself, so I know how it is. Plus, the horse people possess great trail closing powers! it just pays to be nice.

Eric...nice to see you here! And yes, agreed. "On your left" you think would go without saying since it's a safety issue...but nothing surprises me these days.

wrw...nod, wave, verbal greeting...whatever works for the rider. Not all riders will have the skill or be in a situation where it's prudent to take a hand off the bars to wave. Acknowledgement really is my point.

MRussell said...

[wave] Hi [/wave]

I wave, usually out of surprise in seeing another cyclist.

When are you getting your T-Shirt? Can't let MasiGuy have all the fun...

[wave] Bye [/wave]

Anonymous said...

I always like to honk my little "Honka Hoota" horn, because it sounds so cheerful and silly. It frequently manages to break the concentration of the urban time trialers enough to surprise them into waving, at which point you can see them thinking "What am I doing? This isn't shaving split seconds off my time!" I love that. I see the same pedestrians almost every morning on the trail, with the same dogs, and we always exchange a wave, nod, smile and/or "Good morning." It's nice. Val

PacMan said...

I agree with you on the yielding the right of way issue on hills. I usually feel like I'm the only one who knows that trail rule.

As far as people not returning waves or hellos--I have noticed that the percentage of return is a whole lot less the closer you are to the trailhead. Whereas when you are waaaaay out there on the trail, where only the hardcore/serious riders are, is when you encounter the "friendlys". Maybe the weekend warriors and not-so-enthusiasts just don't get it.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a trail snob, but we all know the posers from the rest.

Coelecanth said...

I don't wave. Sorry. If someone waves at me I'll acknowledge it with a smile and a nod but I never initiate. Why? Damned if I know. Part of it might be not wanting to be obligated to do it every time. I'd prefer to just not do it at all rather than feel like I'm doing something wrong on the days when I'm not in a mood to be civil. Which is pretty much every morning commute. :) Or perhaps I'm just a curmudgeonly old fart.

Each year there are more people on bikes than the year before. When I first started commuting year-round there were three other people that took the same route I did every morning. I could tell from the tyre tracks left in the snow on the bridge. That was over a decade ago and now even on days where it's -20c and the snow is blowing the tracks are uncountable. Perhaps this is why waving is becoming less common, because cycling is becoming less elite. Perhaps people no longer feel like the "members of a tight community" because that community isn't small enough to be tight.

Tim Jackson- Masi Guy said...

I wave, I nod, I finger salute, I even yell "howdy" or say "good afternoon"... I'm such a dork. I love to blow through group training rides and say hello to everybody I pass as they struggle to ride a straight line. There are lots of "elite" riders around here and I just love to burst their bubble by chatting with them on a steep climb... in my big ring... acting like an ass. I tell jokes during races too...

We're riding bikes people! If you aren't having fun, drop the damn thing and shoot it dead... then run for the nearest car dealership, or loony bin.

CS-H kemyooter said...

I think about 2 years ago I was that bicyclist that didn't acknowledge, I suppose I was a bit like "coelecanth" only it seemed I had to make more of a conceptual effort not to nod and look ahead so I could ignore an on-coming cyclist. It is so much easier to just nod or shoot a smile, even if you are passing 30 people in one stretch.

What concerns me the most about people habitually NOT acknowledging their fellow cyclists is that when a cyclist is in need of some help (like with a flat or mechanical) they will just pedal by without out asking if they are doing alright. Unfortunately, I experienced this all winter long here in Seattle. My commute is 50 miles round trip and in the dead of winter I leave in the dark morning and night. Of course there are not a lot of people commuting in the winter - so I had a couple flats here and there and had 5 cyclist whizz by me on every occassaion and not one asked if I was doing alright - it was dark/cold/raining and not even one "hey." Even if I don't need any help I would just love for someone to be human.

So get out of that damn habit of not acknowledging one another, because we are all going to need a spare tube at some point and we don't need to be tackling our fellow cyclists to get one. Plus, it is just a natural human reflex to acknowledge other human beings whether we are on bicycles or not.

Thanks for the post Jill.

Coelecanth said...

The great thing about living with the city planner who's tasked with bikey projects is you can get some hard numbers.

So, in 1994 10,000 trips a day were taken on bicycles. I'm assuming this is durning summer. Today there's 25,000.

Does this support my idea that cycling is now too common to be a tight community? Haven't the faintest, but it's interesting.

Scandi said...

Hooray for the wave! Trackin back: