Is it my imagination or is there a new kind of civility on the streets?
When I bike to work, I notice that at any four way intersection, drivers actually seem aware of me and want to give me right of way. If I attempt to wait my turn as any other vehicle would, drivers get confused. They wait. And wait. Traffic stops until I go first.
No one curses or honks their horn. Sometimes instead, a driver will gesture with a hand for me to go first, as if I were an honored guest and the driver were the gatekeeper.
When I began bike commuting in Los Angeles ten years ago, bikes were a relative nonentity on the streets. One had to ride defensively all the time. At intersections, one might as well be invisible. Every day another story about a near miss with a car. The exhilaration I felt from experiencing the city from a new point of view went hand in hand with a slight feeling of persecution.
Bikers were so rare that if one ever saw another biker, we would wave, as if we were all members of a secret sect.
A longtime bike activist told me that bikelanes are at their safest when freshly painted. Drivers watch carefully because a situation of uncertainty has been created. As drivers become accustomed to the bikelanes, they stop being quite as vigilant.
Maybe a proliferation of new bikers and bike lanes on the street is creating this situation of watchful uncertainty for drivers. Or maybe because gas is so expensive, bikers suddenly seem like reasonable people one can identify with rather than lycra-clad threats to a entire car-centric way of life. Whatever the reason, I’m getting accustomed to the feeling that bikers are now accepted members of the streetscape. And I’m really enjoying this royal treatment at four way intersections.