Doing it all the hard way...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Does cycling bring out the worst in us?

The other morning I drove through an intersection that I had ridden through the morning before. I remember the spot because a driver who had the right of way stopped and yielded to me. What struck me as odd this morning is I recall that when the driver did the, “No, you go” thing, I was a little ticked off.

As cyclists we try to follow rules and when someone else doesn’t follow them, such as not taking the right of way when it is theirs, it messes us up. While the whole, “you go, no you go” debate could be the subject of another blog, my point here is that I got (slightly) upset.

My guess is that when one is exercising and the blood is flowing we are somehow more prone to hostile, or at least irrational, behavior. We have seen professional athletes act out during the heat of competition. I think of basketball or footballl players committing foolish fouls when the game is on the line because they couldn’t help themselves.

Many of us have seen cyclists who are normally calm, reacting to a car coming too close as if they are going to actually kill the driver. I heard the theory that it is the helmet that makes us think we are preparing for battle; but I think not.

Perhaps we should attribute the altered behavior to the fight or flight instinct. We find ourselves with endorphins flowing, our pulse racing and threats and disruptions (to our perceived rules), elicit an atypical reaction. When a normally calm riding buddy raises a fist, or their voice, or both, I find myself trying to deescalate the situation. This is not so much to avoid the conflict as to keep intact my mental image of my mild mannered riding companion.

Then again, maybe I was cranky because my face was sore from being pelted with hail.

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