You gonna eat that?
Getting more comfortable with VC
When I started riding again early last year I was a total sidewalk ****. Then I graduated to gutter bunny, then I started to take the lane when it seemed to make sense. But I still tend to take the neighborhood roads to avoid traffic.
Recently I've started to just go where I need to go, regardless of traffic. Take the lane. Go for it. My office is on a very busy street with three lanes each way and lots of merges and stuff. I could avoid it, but the last few commutes I just went for it- right up the gut, so to speak. Today I rode the busy streets for a few miles, then started to cut through a neighborhood. I made a wrong turn and ended up out on one of the busy streets again, in the middle of a retail district with lots of right-turn-only lanes, etc. I thought about turning around and trying to find the turn I missed but decided instead to press on. I passed through a green light and saw a friend in her car, waiting to make the right turn onto the road I was on from the side street. She rolled down her window and said "hi!" I nodded back and pressed on.
A pickup truck was behind me, then changed lanes to pass. As he did so, he honked and I looked over, half expecting a rude gesture, but instead he waved and gave me a thumbs up. About a half mile after that I had to merge two lanes over to make a left turn. I watched as cars whizzed by at 40, but as we approached the light, they had to slow a bit. I waited for one more car to pass on my left, then emphatically pointed to the lane and just took it. No honks, no threats. I made the other lane change into the turn lane and the car I had moved in front of to take the first lane just eased on by me.
I was following traffic law, signaling, all that, and it worked. Riding in traffic can be a delightful experience. I'm still surprised when I navigate through traffic, how accommodating the motorists are. I think the fact that it's 100 degrees and they can't imagine riding out in this weather gives them a little empathy toward this poor, poor cyclist. Little do they know how much fun I'm having.
I think there's some truth to the idea that people smell fear and hesitation, even from inside their air-conditioned cars.
When I'm running late, or am on a serious mission to get somewhere, the adrenaline kicks in, and my fears about heavy traffic and looney motorists move into my subconscious, where they only function to keep my instincts sharp and get me there alive. In those situations, maybe I'm just too focused to notice, but I don't recall any more beeping, kids yelling out the window, cars zooming too close, etc. than usual...Possibly even less.
Most of the time I like to ride casually, enjoy the peace and quiet, take back roads, etc., just as a matter of preference. Thus, I think I might give off more Sunday Driver vibes which would trigger predatory motorists' if I were in heavier traffic.
I guess I've been semi-VC for most of my life without fully realizing it. I only recently came across the term "VC".
But I ride much like you just described; I'll take back roads and other ways of staying out of traffic when I can. But when there's no avoiding it, then I get into traffic and act like I belong there. I ride as fast as I can and I give body language that (hopefully) says "I know what I'm doing."
And it seems to me that cars mostly respect that. Another way I've heard it put is "be predictable". If we look like we know where we're going and we're not going to putz around getting there, then most cars seem willing to share the road with us.
It's really not an unhappy experience at all.