Being nice to people makes you feel good! Well, for most people it does. I suppose if you're an "outlaw"-type biker who likes nothing better than cruising down beside cars and kicking their doors in, then you probably won't agree! But if that's you, then you probably won't be reading this anyway! But, at least for most people, if you are nice to someone, you do your "good deed for the day", it does make you feel a bit better about yourself. And if they acknowledge your good deed, then it makes it an even more pleasant experience. A pleasant interaction with another person - even if you never actually meet them - makes for good feelings all round. And of course if you are the recipient of someone being nice, considerate or courteous, then you appreciate that and again, it makes you feel good about people! And when this happens while you’re on the road, it adds to the enjoyment of the trip.
The extreme opposite of this is road-rage. And I've never known anyone who actually enjoys road-rage! I've known people who have been on the receiving end as well as on the giving end, and it is isn't a pleasant experience for either! So if you avoid road-rage your trip will be much more pleasant. And if you exercise a bit of courteous behaviour towards other road users then you'll make the trip even more enjoyable!
Now, I'm not pretending to be some sort of saint here! Like everyone I suppose, I get frustrated with people sometimes. My pet hate is people who drive about 20km under the speed limit, and when they come to a corner, slow down to about half the advisory sign's speed. And sometimes I will verbalise my frustration; usually with something like "Come on, drive it or park it, one or the other!" I say it, but it's more a case of verbalising my frustration; mostly to myself (or if I'm driving, to everyone else in the car). I don't lean out the window waving my fist and shouting! (And if I'm on the bike I say it more under-my-breath; talking too loudly only fogs up the visor!).
If you think about the physics of bikes and cars you’ll realise there is potentially great danger with road-rage if it is against, or from, a car. Taken to it's extreme, they can end up with a dented door or a scratched mudguard, but you can end up with a wrecked bike and a trip to hospital! So it's a situation best to avoid!
But let's get back to being courteous, which is what this is all about. Being courteous not only makes the trip more pleasant, it also aids the flow of traffic. Think of the "zip" principle of merging traffic, for example. That's where each vehicle lets one other vehicle merge infront of them. That makes for a smooth flow of both lanes as they merge. The pity of it is that they had to make a law to enforce this! It makes good sense, and really is the most efficient way of handling the situation.
There is a small town that I often ride through. The main street is actually a major highway, but it's a tourist-type place and so there is always a lot of people and cars around. The main street has a 50kph speed limit and this tends to further compress the traffic. There are several side-streets but no traffic lights. So you often get cars (and sometimes bikes) lined up in the side-streets wanting to join the main highway, but having to wait until there is a break, or rely on someone being courteous and letting them in. If the traffic is heavy, and if no-one is considerate, they could be stuck there for hours! I often let people in along there. Mostly I don't even have to brake; it's just a matter of rolling off the throttle and usually giving them a wave to come out. It really doesn't make any difference to my progress, but it sure helps out the person stuck in the side-street! Okay, so there is always the possibility that the car you let in will turn out to be one of those "drive 20kph under the speed-limit" types, but this is a major highway so the chances are you'll get stuck behind one of these anyway, whether it is someone you've let in or not.
Being courteous like this also raises the image of motorcyclists. Many people still have a bad image of anyone who rides a bike, and being courteous towards them makes them realise that we aren't such a bad lot after all! And that has to be a good thing for the motorcycle community in general! And if they give you an appreciative wave in return, well there is that "pleasant interaction with another person" thing again!
I've been talking about being courteous and considerate to others, but there are times when you can be on the receiving end; when people are courteous and considerate to you. I suppose it’s a case of “what goes around comes around”; you can’t really expect others to be courteous to you if you aren’t courteous to others! I’ll give you a couple of examples of people being courteous to me.
I often ride up a mountain pass that is narrow and winding; a good (and popular!) biker’s road. Getting stuck behind a car can spoil the fun a bit though; especially as I often have a reluctance to overtake (see the item on “Overtaking” in this section). A couple of times I’ve been approaching the start of the pass following a car and the car has pulled over and let me past just before we got onto the pass itself. It could be that they have been scared of having a “mad biker” behind them (bikers have a bit of a reputation on this road!), but I have taken it as being considerate; and given an appreciative wave accordingly.
On one occasion I was going down a winding mountain pass (different one) in a line of traffic that was following a car towing a trailer with some farm machinery on it. Naturally, he was going pretty slowly and there was a fair cue of cars behind. When he came to a clear area on the side of the road he pulled off and actually stopped, allowing the traffic to pass before pulling back onto the road and continuing his journey. That was considerate; he didn’t have to do that – especially as it meant actually coming to a stop and waiting till the traffic went by. Sadly though, from what I could see of the cars infront and behind me, I was the only one who gave him a wave of thanks.
The appreciative wave is a good thing to do. And I’ve experienced it from both sides of the bike / car combination. One day I was in the car in a line of crawling traffic. A bike came up the left of the line of cars and pulled in fairly close infront of me. No danger, and only what you’d expect a bike to do, except it was a very definite “I’m cutting in here infront of you” type move. As I said, it was no more than I would have expected a bike to do, but something inside me thought “Cheeky bugger!” But as soon as he pulled in he gave me a wave. I hadn’t even needed to slow to let him in, but he still gave me a friendly “Thanks for letting me in” wave. And that something inside me suddenly changed it’s attitude to “Nice guy!”. So you see, being courteous works both ways.
So, the tip from The Old Bloke is this, be courteous and considerate; it really doesn't cost you any significant time, it improves the flow of traffic, raises the image of motorcyclists, and generally makes for a more enjoyable time on your bike. And anything that makes the ride more enjoyable has to be a good thing!
Now, in case you think that this is just the ramblings of some old bloke who’s gone a bit soft-in-the-head, I’ll end with a quote from a 21-year-old motorcyclist by the name of Stefan Kent, who was quoted in an article on road-rage in one of the national newspapers. He said: “The rules of etiquette apply on the road as they do in life – be friendly, courteous and considerate”. If everyone, including ourselves, took that advice we’d all enjoy our time on the roads a lot more!
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