bike riding in saint louis

Energy Is Real

I’m shocked when motorists are rude to me. Here in St. Louis or anywhere I ride, it just doesn’t happen.

The driver’s anger poisoned the energy of the other drivers on the road. Everyone started honking.

riding a bike on a freeway-like surface street

Google Maps view of Forest Park Parkway

OK, I’m exaggerating. Last year one driver was obnoxious.

He or she apparently could not buh-lieve I’d ride a bicycle on that road.

I was riding on Forest Park Parkway, a road similar in design to a freeway. People on this section are typically zooming through to get somewhere else.

On a fateful afternoon last fall, a driver of a black Audi either stayed or got stuck behind me — I’m not sure which — and honked for what seemed like an eternity.

Here’s What’s Fascinating

The driver’s anger poisoned the energy of the other drivers on the road. Everyone started honking. I waved to acknowledge their annoyance, and my humanity.

What could I do? I was on a section where I couldn’t escape. I simply had to endure, until I got to my destination at the other end of this canyon-like stretch of road.

forest park parkway in saint louis

Forest Park Parkway between Skinker and Big Bend boulevards in St. Louis

On the rare occasions that I have problems, I don’t blame “stupid” motorists. I analyze what happened. What could I have done differently so it wouldn’t happen again?

Energy Is Real

A big reason I have such good experiences is because I expect to.

Attitude elevates your ride. Courtesy and cooperation are the twin pillars of every great ride.

Attitude elevates your ride. It’s important to understand the dynamics of truly dangerous situations, and how to avoid them. Once you’ve got that down, courtesy and cooperation are the twin pillars of every great ride.

If you’re a mensch, you have every reason to expect other drivers to be mensches, too.

Ever since my honking takedown, I’ve wanted to revisit the scene, and see if I could control the energy around me this time. I’d be more careful to actively communicate with the motorists who would most assuredly be on the road with me.

I finally rode it again last Friday. You can see what happened below.

11 replies
  1. Brian Cox
    Brian Cox says:

    Great job Karen! You are so energetic and nice. How would anyone dare honk at you? Very nice job of videoing the ride.

  2. John Brooking
    John Brooking says:

    I spend perhaps too much time thinking about what causes incivility. I think it usually comes down to causing “the wrong person” some delay. By “the wrong person”, I mean someone who is by nature self-centered, or has some kind of animosity towards cyclists, or is just in a hurry or already having a bad day. Since you can’t predict either when you will cause delay or who will be affected, I don’t think it’s something you can affect overmuch by your own behavior, assuming you’re already riding predictably and communicating adequately. What more can you do? It’s just luck of the draw. Maybe the road has an influence as well, such as a road like this where motorists don’t expect to see cyclists, and may be more likely to assume they shouldn’t be there. And being surprised is often a precursor to anger.

    More than the possibility of influencing through behavior, I think the bigger takeaway is your notion of energy. I have also experienced times when one person starts giving me grief, and that seems to give permission to those around them to pile on. It’s definitely a thing!

    It would be nice to think that it also works in reverse, that observing people calmly changing lanes to pass a bicyclists leads others to do them same, without even thinking too much about it. I feel certain that’s true, although I don’t know how to prove it short of surveying large numbers of people.

    In both cases, I think it’s just because it’s basic human nature to take cues as to what is acceptable behavior from those around you, and this goes both ways.

    • Karen Karabell
      Karen Karabell says:

      Well said, John. Thank you.

      I’d love to find a way to measure this energy. It’s totally a “thing,” as you say. I’m convinced it’s possible to use positive and joyous savvy cycling energy to tilt the scales toward courtesy, cooperation and safe travels for all :-)

  3. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    Gold stars for all of the motorists in this video! (“Gold star for you” is what I think in my head when motorists are smart and figure things out in situations where passive communication, i.e, my lane position, should suffice.)

    • Karen Karabell
      Karen Karabell says:

      No gold star for the “Must Pass Bicyclist” driver, who turned out to be a woman. I gotta get over my sexism–i.e., referring to drivers as “he,” “him,” “guy,” etc. when I don’t know their sex.

  4. Frank Krygowski
    Frank Krygowski says:

    When I’ve gotten rude honks from behind – which are prettyrare – my typical reaction is to conspicuously shrug my shoulders, sometimes adding a palm-up motion with my left hand, meaning more or less “What? There’s nothing I can do!” I like to think they get the meaning, but who knows? Sometimes, after that, I’ve added a slow shake of my head, as in “I can’t believe you can’t figure this out.” But the first motion is usually all that’s required.

  5. Clint (retired LEO & CA Police Bike Patrol Instructor; CSI Candidate; The eBike Guy
    Clint (retired LEO & CA Police Bike Patrol Instructor; CSI Candidate; The eBike Guy says:

    Thanks Karen! Enjoyed your video! Will see you there in St. Louis in June for IPMBA Conference.

    One thing I learned from CSI Gary Cziko back in 2014 on civility is it’s ALWAYS better for a cyclist to use 5 fingers vs. 1 finger (we all know what that means).

  6. gcziko
    gcziko says:

    I enjoyed the video. I’d like to know what video camera you used and how you mounted it to your bike to include both you and the traffic behind.

  7. Brian Watson
    Brian Watson says:

    Thank you Karen! An excellent demonstration of another uneventful bike drive, because of your attitude and behavior. I too want to know what camera you used and how you mounted it. Seeing you as you narrate, and the traffic approaching you from behind is a very effective teaching tool. Love your overlaid texts as well, especially “If the lane is too narrow to share…DON’T.”


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