So as I was at my LBS last night, picking up my bike after a service (including some new things), and I couldn't help over hearing a couple of comments from another customer. To paraphrase: "I noticed there were a lot more cyclists on the road since the start of the Tour de France, and they're ruder now, too". I have to admit, I haven't noticed any real increase in the number of cyclists on the road, but then, a lot of the places I ride (either due to traffic on my commutes or hills elsewhere) aren't always terribly popular with other cyclists, at least on on the scale of a Saturday morning jaunt to The Spit.
As it was, I listened passively for further information. It seems a big part of the disquiet seems to relate to the fact that there are some cyclists out there who don't return a wave. Perhaps there were other issues too, but this seemed to be the one getting the biggest mention. I suppose I'd probably be considered somewhere on the borderline between "rude" and "polite" in this respect. I generally try to return a wave if I get one from a fellow cyclist, but circumstances don't always make this possible (more on this below), and I don't always initiate contact. I've heard this sort of talk a number of times, and for those who preach it, I have a question.
What I would like to ask is this: is it such a big deal to give a wave and not get one back? Consider for a moment, the reasons a person would wave to another (often a person to whom they have no connection, apart from the fact that both happen to be riding bicycles) -- what is the motivation for this "greeting"? I had always thought the idea was to try to brighten the day of the person to whom one is waving. If this is the case, does it really matter if the other person doesn't wave back? Is it not enough that you've made your little contribution to the universe in that moment, and at least attempted to brighten the day of the other person? Are people really so selfish that they automatically expect something in return for such a simple act?
Sometimes I get the impression (one which has been fed by posts I've read on various discussion boards), that some people are more motivated by the prospect of getting a wave back, and get terribly offended if it doesn't happen, even though it isn't always possible. As I said earlier, I usually try to return a wave if I get one, but sometimes people who are passing in the opposite direction leave it so late to wave, that they're passed and gone in the second that it takes me to respond. There are other circumstances where I'd prefer to simply keep both hands on the handlebars, although I still try to offer a 'nod' in those situations.
There has been much talk of some kind of "brotherhood of cycling" that supposedly exists. However, it's surely a sham if people can get so uptight about something so inconsequential. Here's a little suggestion -- next time you offer a wave or greeting to someone and don't get a response, let it go. There's really no point carrying around anger or disquiet after the event. The other person has their own reasons for not waving back, it's best to leave them to it. They'll have to confront whatever issues they have eventually.