What can drivers do to increase the number of people on bicycles?

If you see a ‘war on our roads’ and tend to spill your anger and vile about atrocious behaviour of cyclists or motorists all over your keyboard, then this post is not for you. Anyone else who is genuinely curious and open to other perspectives, please keep reading:

I’m a person who sometimes sits in a car, sometimes on a bicycle. I know the two worlds. I know what the two worlds feel like. And I know there’s a lot each and every one of us (yes, including me!) can do to make the people in both worlds feel a little better.

Does a person in a car have any interest in increasing the number of people on bicycles? Yes, we do. Every person on a bicycle means I’ll have one less car queuing up in front of me at the traffic lights (at the bowser, at turns, on the freeway – you name it). Every person on a bicycle means I’ll have a better chance of finding parking at my destination. Every person on a bicycle means someone else is helping to decrease pollution. Every person on a bicycle means our health system will be under less stress in the future because they are less likely to suffer from preventable diseases (think heart, diabetes, cancers).

The more people around me making the decision of swapping their car for a bicycle the better my drive will be today and the better my future looks in 20 years’ time.

If this motivates you to make others quit cars then follow these tips:

  1. Pay attention

When I drive, I accept that my vehicle can be dangerous to others (and to myself). It’s fast, strong and it relies on me who, even with the best of intentions, isn’t perfect. A minor inattention can have severe consequences and every time I drive I make myself acutely aware of this.

If you want to make sure more people ride then focus on what’s important, which isn’t the song on the radio, your phone call, nor the conversation with your passenger. Be there and pay attention.

  1. Accept reality

People who commute by bicycle usually feel the opposite of people who commute by car. When I get to work by car I’m often stressed, frustrated and upset about the world. When I ride I’m refreshed, motivated and genuinely happy.

I accept that the two worlds sound very different to the point of disbelieve and I also accept that there’s reasons why people chose either mode of transport.

If you want to be supportive of people who ride then accept that people chose their reality as much as they chose the colour of their shirts. Would you question someone’s fashion choice? I didn’t think so.

  1. More love, more patience, less anger

Honestly, I’m no stranger to cursing and cussing behind the steering wheel. Looking through that square window, beautifully sound proof, the profanities seem to be just tumbling out my mouth. And, hey, it doesn’t hurt anybody now, does it? Well, yes, it does. All my anger and lack of patience is a whole lot of negative energy that’s shifting my brain into awful mode. It’s self-perpetuating. The more upset I am the less resilient I become.

Dealing with people, even if they can’t hear me (and remember everyone can SEE me) is a lot easier if I let it go. I can’t control whatever silliness other people commit. The only thing I’m in control of is myself and the little car I’m sitting in. Even if I’m acoustically shut off from the world – everything I do is still a complete reflection of myself.

So, let your actions speak louder than the shouting in your car. Every single person on a bicycle (as well as in a car) will appreciate it.

  1. Stop the blame game

If you accept that patience and care is pivotal to making the world a better place then keep your finger-pointing in check. ‘He was too slow, she was too fast, he was tailgating, she jumped a red light, that car is parked across two bays, this one is blocking the driveway. I get it! We all make bad decisions in life for all sorts of reasons varying from almost understandable to ignorant and downright ridiculous.

I’ve been yelled at in my car. I’ve been yelled at on my bicycle. I’ve had rubbish thrown at me while riding. I’ve had rude gestures waved at me when driving. And, touch wood, fingers crossed, since I’ve had my driver’s licence for almost twenty years and have ridden my bicycle for almost 30 years never had an accident. Other people’s rudeness was just a moment of THEIR judgement on me.

I don’t need your judgement. You don’t need mine. I accept that you’re not perfect nor would I expect that I am. Can we agree on this?

Particularly, don’t tell a person on a bicycle off by honking your horn. It scares the living daylight out of them. If you think you’re perfect then practice perfection and let it go.

Do you have more suggestions of what we can do as drivers to make this world a bicycle friendly one?

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