Smile and Wave

(By: Jeremy Rae)

I was inspired to write this post after riding in Toronto last weekend. It was amazing to see how many cyclists were out on the roads, and notably the amount of women and visible minorities on bikes. Really good stuff. With all the extra people on two wheels as a result of COVID, cyclists have never had as much leverage to push for things like bike infrastructure and laws that will help keep us safe (we’ve already seen lots of positive change with initiatives like ActiveTO, kudos Brad). With that, however, comes the added responsibility to be good ambassadors and generally not piss drivers off. Here are 10 rules I (try my best to) follow while on my bike: 

  1. Wave cars through when it’s safe. If I can see around a corner before the car behind me can, I’ll give them a big wave to come around when it’s safe to do so. Usually, they really appreciate the “teamwork”. 
  2. Build good Karma with drivers on easy days. Rule of thumb: 1 friendly wave from a driver per 10km of riding. The goal is for that driver to go home thinking “that cyclist was nice and respectful and courteous today”. An easy one: If you’re waiting at a light and a car behind you is trying to turn right, move over to give them enough space to get by. 
  3. Riding two up is fine, unless there is a car coming in the opposite direction, or there is a turn in the road. Yes I know it’s often actually safer and smarter and legal to ride two abreast, but you know it pisses off drivers, so just go single file until they pass you. 
  4. Get the hell out of the way of Dodge Rams. Self-explanatory.
  5. A hard group ride/echelon is not an excuse to take up the whole road. Don’t get mad when a driver gets mad at you. You’re in the wrong.  In my experience, the larger the group, the larger the sense of entitlement to take up the entire road (ahem, Donut). Yes, it’s sometimes the safe thing to do, but recognize that it’s still inconveniencing everyone else around. 
  6. Wave at other cyclists. This should also be self-explanatory. Lots of cyclists are snobs, don’t feed into this culture. A nod of the head will also do. 
  7. Don’t accelerate to hop in people’s drafts. Not cool. Especially given COVID-19. 
  8. Follow the damn traffic laws. In the middle of a hard group ride or interval workout, I may more liberally employ the Idaho stop. However, on easy days, I make it a priority to make full stops. Drivers will gain respect for us if we stop with them at lights/stop signs, and conversely lose their minds if we don’t. 
  9. The lack of bike racing and competitive group rides has led to many people stepping up their KOM/QOM chasing. With that, I’ve been seeing lots of new segments popping up, many of which aren’t safe, go through stop lights or stop signs, or require you to speed. If you see any of these segments, know that you can flag them as unsafe on Strava which will hide them from people’s activities. A strava segment IS NOT WORTH the fine/crash/angry drivers who witness you ripping through a 4-way. 
  10. This one’s probably most important. When involved in an altercation with a driver, take the high road, smile and wave. Don’t argue. There’s no winning, no matter how in the right you are. If it’s bad enough, note the license plate and report to authorities. 

That’s it. Generally, don’t be an asshole. Remember that every time you get on your bike, you’re representing something bigger than yourself. We’re in the process of chipping away at decades of car-culture and car-centric behaviour, so just try your best to be a good ambassador out there.