Time to start thanking motorists

Driving in the south of France a few years ago I was struck by a curious trick of motorcyclists. They raised their right foot if I allowed them to overtake me. They were in fact thanking me. Having realised this I started to look for opportunities to be thanked some more. As a driver in London, I find that many bus drivers do the same if you let them out ahead of you by flashing their rear lights. And, again, I find it really affects my attitude and behaviour. 

Cyclists are well placed to do the same. As a regular London cyclist I now consciously look for opportunities to reward and thank thoughtful motorists and pedestrians. In my two mile daily commute I normally find several people I can thank.Pedestrians who chose not to put a foot on the zebra crossing because they appreciate that stopping is a hassle for cyclists. The van who lets me change lanes on the Highbury roundabout. Or the driver who stays back on a narrow road of parked cars.The BMW which lets me out at a T junction.

A wave helps or a smile. Best I find is turning an indicating arm into a thumbs up sign when you sense you are being allowed in or whatever.

Some cyclists would say that motorists are the enemy or that they should treat us considerately anyway. Well, maybe they should, but it wouldn't hurt any of us to say thank you. More to the point, I think that it is also a great way of changing their behaviour. Watching for acts of kindness has also changed my behaviour, made me more considerate and appreciative that a lot of motorists watch out for us.

Replies

You mean being nice to other human beings?! Surely some mistake?!

Seriously though, thanking other people (however you, or they are travelling) makes the world a better place and makes your journey nicer. It also helps you (and them) see the person rather than the mode. A smile costs nothing.

I agree 100% with your sentiment and I try to always give an extended right-hand thumbs-up at a 90 degree angle if a driver let's me pull out.

HOWEVER, thanking drivers involves physical guesture, which involves removing at least one hand from the handlbars, which is unfortunately dangerous, especially when you need instance access to both brakes at a moment's notice. 

Thanking drivers therefore should be limited to those occasions when it is completely safe to take a hand off the handlebars. 

  • By phufbl at 12:04pm 02 Jan 2014

I completely agree that it is a good idea to try to promote a good relationship between all road users.

Easier said than done sometimes though!

Removing one hand temporarily from the handlebars is very rarely dangerous, especially if you keep your other hand over the brake lever. Bikeability training teaches cyclists to make regular signals using one hand on approaching a junction. All cyclists should be confident enough to ride one handed in a straight line for a few seconds. If you're not, you should find a traffic-free area and practise.

Good communication with other road users is important for safety as well as good manners.

I totally agree with this, and have been trying to thank considerate drivers with a little wave for a couple of months now.

There is some really interesting research about changing people's behaviour towards risk (in the case I am thinking of, it was promoting safe sex to reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS) showing that a comforting, friendly message is often much more effective in bringing about change than a scare story, which often makes people "shut down"/not want to listen.

So, I could definitely see this applying to responsible sharing of the roads - rewarding good behaviour could definitely stand out against the current noise of cyclists versus drivers. Plus, I think cyclists could definitely do with an image overhaul!  

  • By Beanpie at 08:03pm 27 Jan 2014

I always give a thubms up for good driving (not squeezing past me at traffic islands, waiting for me to pass the junction before turning left etc). We should all do it as standard.

  • By Dagda at 12:48pm 28 Jan 2014

Up to a point - I would thank a motorist if they went out of their way to be courteous or they weren't obliged by law / regulations to give me right of way etc. 

However, I don't see the need to thank a motorist for not trying to overtake at a traffic island, or not running me over pulling out of a side road etc. I don't so as a motorist.

Cyclists are not second class citizens and have as much right to respect on the road as any other user.

I do this as much as I safely can. Even smiling at or acknowledging others while waiting at traffic lights helps I don't 'expect' others to let me go first etc but thank small acts of kindness. It might sound a bit hippy but it adds to a nice feeling if sharing and looking out for each other

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