To Nod or Not to Nod–Just be Cool

Editor’s note: In a world of all too often conflicts between cyclists, cars and pedestrians, creating a community is critical to all, sometimes the smallest of gestures make the biggest impacts

By Sarah Rutherford

In Colorado, we live in a cycling mecca where we’re lucky enough to be able to ride outside all year. On one of those amazing crisp days, I rolled out for a decently long ride with an attitude full of sunshine and rainbows. The sun was out, the sky was blue; I could almost hear the incidental music of my personal movie score starting to playing in the background.

As soon as I hit the path I encountered my first fellow cyclist. I gave a broad smile accompanied with a head nod in acknowledgment of this most perfect day and the fact that we were both so lucky to be out in it. I got nothing back. It was like I just passed a hologram of a person on a bike giving me a glassy-eyed blank stare unable to engage with an actual human being. Whatever… I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they were having a horrible day or they were so deep in thought because they were solving the world hunger crisis at that very moment.

My second chance at human interaction was soon to follow but this time I changed tactics with a subtle hand wave and smile. Instead of being completely ignored, this time I was stared down by a gentleman with a predatory gaze like a lion before it pounces on its next meal. It was so intense, in fact, that I looked down to see if my jersey was inappropriately unzipped. Again, no wave, nod, or smile attached to that stare. I tried several more times to elicit amicable responses with other cyclists but to no avail.

What is wrong with us as a group that we can’t acknowledge one another for being in the same place at the same time doing the same thing? No one is working that hard or going that fast on the C-470 bike path where they can’t manage a nod. Speed isn’t even a good excuse since motorcyclists succeed in giving a wave to their two-wheeled comrades while flying down the highway at full throttle.

At my day job, commonly brought up topics of daily discussion are the lack of community and basic decency along with a growing scarcity of manners. As cyclists, we have an ever-expanding community to lean on but we treat each other like dicks out on rides. You don’t need to wave like you’re waving at your mom on the first day of school but a little acknowledgment of “I got your back” goes a long way.

No one is that cool that they can’t be nice to another person. I think even Peter Sagan, a guy who actually IS that cool, would give a little flick of the head to others. I will give you that there are a few exceptions when niceties can be overlooked: while racing, descending a steep grade, cornering, and if you crashed. Outside of these things you’re just being a jerk.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Here’s the chance to be a ripple of kindness and courtesy that has a far-reaching effect on others in the cycling community breeding a sense of respect and admiration.

5 thoughts on “To Nod or Not to Nod–Just be Cool

  1. I usually get a response or a nod. If not it’s also fine. I have caught others waving at the last second and didnt respond as I’m fiddling with something or deep in thought/pain. I usually just nod and open a hand on the bars or if I see a big smile and wave they get a return smile and wave. If not it’s fine. It’s not about me.

  2. I find more riders nod or wave back on my weekday rides. What most distresses me is how many riders pass without a sound. It’s rare to get an On Your Left or Great Day. This is not just a matter of courtesy but of safety.

  3. Sometimes being nice to people is letting them be themselves, ride/exercise in peace, and stop trying to force them to fit into your behavioral norms and expectations. I’ve never met anyone that I truly felt was a nice person who was upset by not getting a return/equivalent gift/gesture – they give without any expectation of return. Just because people don’t behave the way I expect or that I would like them to doesn’t mean they are jerks – they are just different, and that’s perfectly fine. I’m sorry the other riders weren’t as nice to you as you would have liked them to be. I hope that someone is nicer to you today and, more importantly, you be you. Keep smiling, keep nodding – for you, not for them. The joy is in the giving. If my smile or nod makes one person just one iota more happy, then it’s worth hundreds of smiles and nods that I may not get in return and it won’t stop me from being me.

  4. I am a long time cyclist. It never used to be this way. I think these unfriendly riders are new to the sport, and probably don’t have much social graces to boot. I always acknowledge fellow cyclists, joggers, homeless people and even triathletes.

  5. As a recumbent triker I always acknowledge fellow riders as I pass if they respond well and good if not it looses nothing in being friendly to all the other folks you meet on the trail anyway. With all the controversy due to the crash last week on the Cherry Creek trail I would like to suggest moving at the flow of traffic, yea you can go faster but there is no sense in it with the traffic on the trail you don’t get there any faster in the long run and running the real risk of that kind of a crash is just not practical, as the advertising campaign slogan went “Arrive Alive”.

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