To our great pleasure, Pirate and I have been taking advantage of my time off this past week by getting out on the bikes just about every day, including a couple of long rides: Monday we were down in Palo Alto, visiting my folks, and then yesterday we took BART out to Walnut Creek and went riding along the Iron Horse Trail and the Contra Costa Canal Trail (36 miles total for the day — yay, us!).
We noticed a couple of cultural differences in the suburbs as compared to Oakland. For one, the motor vehicle drivers we encountered were friendlier and more cooperative. The Canal Trail crosses a fair number of side streets and although about half the time there was no cross traffic and we could just zip across without stopping, the rest of the time there were cars and trucks to deal with. I'd estimate that in three out of four cases, the drivers — who 100% had the right of way, since the trail had stop signs, and who could have both legally and (IMO) morally just driven on through — stopped and waved us across.
The other bicyclists, however... as we rode along, we continued our usual custom of ding
ing our bike bells at just about everybody* we saw. Bicyclist going the opposite direction? *ding ding!* *smile, nod* "How ya doin?" Bicyclist going the same way, whom we'd be passing? *ding ding!" "Have a good ride!" Pedestrian walking the same way, who might be startled if we just zoomed past? *ding ding!* "Hi!"
And, whereas in Oakland we get a fairly decent response rate, out in the suburbs... well, here's a graphic illustration.
Oncoming suburban cyclist's expression before we ring our bike bells:
Oncoming suburban cyclist's expression after we ring our bike bells:
*We make a point of trying to ding just about everybody we see, as we don't want to fall into the trap of acknowledging and greeting only the bicyclists who look like us. So we ding at all kinds of people: elderly Asian folks, day laborers on their bikes, kids on scraper bikes, other commuters, hipsters... but we know we're not 100% successful at this. The other day, as we rode along, I said to Pirate, "I realize that although I try to ding at everybody, when I see some Lycra-bedecked road racer riding along, my thumb doesn't always make it to the bell lever in time."
"I figure that the Lycra sorts on their stripped-down, ultra-light carbon frames hardly ever have bells, so why bother?" he replied.
Practice opportunities abound, don't they?