Questions for Motorists

Help me understand your perspective, American drivers. I’m not trying to be confrontational. I’m genuinely curious.

What do your honks mean? What thoughts lie behind your facial expressions? What are the words you’re muttering under your breath? What do you really think when you’re on the road and you see someone running or bicycling?

I ride or run past you all the time. Dozens of hours every week. I drive sometimes, too. But even during those times, I don’t think I see the roads the same way that many of you, my fellow motorists, see them. I feel a brotherly affection towards other runners, bicyclists, and pedestrians. I’m genuinely glad to share the roads with them. I think they’ve got pluck and verve. But it would surprise me if that’s what other motorists are thinking when they see me ride or run by.

For the record, I do prefer the actual roadways — and I stick to them as much as possible. Sidewalks are sketchy in these parts. Tree roots, heaved segments, incomplete routing, hard concrete, and slower traffic (pedestrians and children playing) make the roadways much better for running and bicycling. But I’m always mindful of visibility — employing brightly colored, reflective clothing and battery-powered lighting — and I follow the rules, running against traffic (on the left side of the road), bicycling with traffic (on the right side of the road), and using bicycle paths and shoulders wherever possible. Somehow, though, it seems that I’m often resented for doing this.

That’s the overwhelming sense I get, when we’re sharing the roadways: I sense that you resent me. That you’re not happy with me. That you actively hate me.

Is this all in my head (I can certainly own up to the fact that I’ve got issues with my view of how others view me)? Do you feel I’m endangering myself or you with my running? Do I make you scared of a lawsuit? Do I slow you down, when you’re in a hurry to get someplace? Or are the honks maybe your way of expressing encouragement or admiration? I’m genuinely curious. If you’ve ever wanted to say something to a runner or bicyclist, I want to hear it. Seriously.

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