Originally Posted by GriddleCakes
Honesty time? Oh my, here goes...
I have flipped off and cussed out motorists countless times, as in I never kept track and, looking back, I can only guess; definitely dozens, possibly hundreds. I started bike commuting in my early 20s, in a not very bike friendly city (I love you Anchorage, in part because you've come so far), rode very aggressively, usually with an earbud full of heavy metal music, fully aware of my rights but totally ignorant of my responsibilities as two wheeled road user, and utterly dismissive of the consequences of my actions. If you honked at me, I gave you the bird (I once utterly perplexed a buddy of mine after he gave me a 'Hello!' honk from his car, and I automatically flipped him off). If I slapped your car (a formerly regular occurrence), and you honked at me, I gave you the bird. If we came close to colliding, and it was your fault, I gave you the bird, as soon as my hands were done braking; and even if it was my fault, I probably still gave you the bird, because **** you, you planet killing *******, I'm on a bike.
At some point, I grew up. I stopped listening to aggressive, angry music, not just on the bike, but everywhere; it just has no place in my life anymore. I began to consider the consequences of my actions, and, more importantly, the emotional response of others to my behavior. As an antisocial, angry introvert, by acting out my emotions onto the traffic flow, I was helping make traffic a more miserable place for everyone, including myself. My negative emotional responses to the stresses of bike commuting were feeding the negative perception I was developing of bike commuting, and I had no one but myself to blame. You'll encounter *******s no matter how you commute, it's how you deal with it that shapes your experience.
So I began to reflect on what being a urban cyclist meant to me, and just what it was that I wanted out the experience. I thought on what I disliked about biking: the feeling of being ostracized or hated by the vast majority of road users, the negative emotional feedback of resentment to the those feelings, and the insulation caused by wrapping myself in a self-righteous, anti-motorist anger as a defense mechanism from those feelings. I thought about what it was that I loved about biking: the regular exercise, the occasional adrenaline rush, the open air, the increased awareness of the world around me, and the generally positive mental state the these feelings brought me. I decided that if I focused on the positive and did my best to shrug off the negative, I'd become a more mentally healthy person. If someone honked, I'd wave, like I misunderstood that they were just saying 'hi'. I rode more defensively, with less emphasis on "push it" and more on "flow with it". When, later in life, I came across Robert Hurst's "The Art of Cycling", it was a combination of "**** yeah, I figured it out!" and "why didn't I discover this five years ago?".
Anyway, it totally worked, in every way imaginable. I had way fewer close calls (mostly because I changed my riding style), I shrugged off things that used to make my blood boil (so my blood boiled less), and, an unforeseen benefit, I became more aware of the positive interactions that I regularly incur as I pedal through my town. I now thrilled at every time a motorist backed up to make way for me, whether or not it was necessary, or waved me through a four way stop even though it was their turn; I recognized the profound level of interaction that is direct eye contact, and even more so the the nod, smile, or lifted finger that signified recognition as a fellow tribe member in the vast, distracted clutter of modern humanity.
In my experience, people are much more inclined to interact with a cyclist than a motorist, from kids playing in the street to adult pedestrians and cyclists and even motorists; when I drive, almost no one acknowledges me the human, they just pay enough attention to know where the car will go. When I bike and people acknowledge me, it's eye to eye, because I am a person on a bike, not a car wrapped around a person. I wave, they wave back. I smile, they smile back. I wave the city bus through a four-way, and driver throws me a shaka, because he's cool like that. I'm happy to say that by now, for every middle finger or hand-to-elbow-with-upraised-fist (the be-mittenned winter cyclist's birdie) I've thrown, I've thrown at least ten times as many peace signs, thumbs up, shakas, and straight up waves. Because for every ******* out there, there are at least ten totally decent fellow humans, needing recognition from and wanting connection to another decent human.
Be that human, and you will never be in the wrong.