The Cyclist Who Waved at Trains

I was riding my bike home from work last night when I reached a railroad crossing, where WES was crossing.

(Wes reminds me a little of Daisy, from the Thomas the Tank Engine series.)

Anyhow, as I roll up to the railroad crossing, there’s a cyclist in front of me. And as WES rolls by, he waves.

It did not occur to me to wave. Then again, I wasn’t all the way to the intersection, and I had been in the saddle for 45 minutes, so I was more occupied with trying to keep my tongue from lolling out. But traffic was still stopped when I arrived, so I asked the cyclist if anyone waved back.

“I can’t see through the reflection on the windows,” he said. “But it seemed the friendly thing to do.”

Interesting.

He and I rode together, which means he rode and I slogged behind him. I noticed that for a guy who’s friendly to train passengers, he practiced the Idaho stop, even at intersections where, you know, the car to the side was there first.

I caught up to him at a large intersection, where he struck up a conversation, and asked directions. I rode with him a little more to lead him through a neighborhood, and then we parted ways.

When I got home, I kept thinking about him waving, and his comment about “the friendly thing to do.”

It was a friendly thing, but I couldn’t help thinking none of this would have happened if we weren’t on bikes.

I doubt motorists would wave. Not because they’re all unfriendly, but for the same reason the cyclist couldn’t see the train passengers’ reaction to his behavior — because of the reflection. And because motorists don’t usually wave to each other.

Plus, the only way that he and I ever have a conversation is if we’re on bikes. People in cars in cities don’t strike up conversations, and rarely ask directions of other motorists.

Which is another way of pointing out a fundamental difference between bikes and cars. In a car, you’re surrounded by glass and steel–walled off, as it were. On a bike, you’re in the environment. You feel the air (and unfortunately, the rain), you feel the slope of the ground and the bumps in the road … and you can talk to other cyclists.

PS – The blog title kinda sounds like a parody of a Stieg Larsson book, doesn’t it?

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