Rolling downhill toward an intersection this morning, I made the usual check over my left shoulder to determine if I would need to stop before crossing the automobile exit chute at the upcoming roundabout. There was a small, white sports car coming up fast. Then a weird thing happened.
He slowed down and waited.
He corked traffic for me and held two cars behind him. And he did it early so that I’d know I had plenty of room. With no eastbound cars coming through from the other side, I was good to go as he returned my “thanks” wave.
I still don’t know what’s going on lately, but I like it. I wrote in December about seeing more consideration from drivers, and I expected the phenomenon to evaporate as we gained light and the weather warmed up. Instead, I’m still seeing a surprising number of people behind the wheel who are being nice to me when I’m on a bike.
Don’t get me wrong. We still have our share of bad—even malicious—motorists on Anchorage streets. I routinely get buzzed by drivers too lazy to move a couple of feet to the left. But I feel encouraged to see so many others anticipating my needs and overtly yielding the right of way, or going out of their way to give me extra space.
Do I dare allow myself to believe it could be a sign of growing acceptance? No doubt a few drivers are operating in a heightened state of awareness after the death of a local bike commuter earlier this month. The friendly behavior could still fade as summer approaches.
I can’t help but wonder if some of those friendly drivers work in offices with bike commuters.
Non-biking co-workers have told me that when they hear of a bike rider getting hurt, they think of me, and hope that I’m OK. I think that’s because the more we ride to work, the more we humanize the image of bike commuters.
Maybe for some people, a figure on a bike is becoming a reminder of a person they know and like. The woman they sit next to in the office, or the guy they went to lunch with yesterday. That can buy a cyclist a little extra space, or a little more patience from the person behind the wheel.
Or maybe I've just been on a lucky streak and I'm grasping at a fantasy.
I guess we have to find glimmers of hope wherever we can.