I’m not a native Texan. I moved here from New York a little over 25 years ago. At the time I worked for a Ft. Worth Texas based company. I remember thinking how different the executives were that they sent up from Ft. Worth to work with us. I’d lived just outside of New York City for most of my life, so these guys were different, very different. Now I had a pretty diverse background already because I immigrated with my family to New York from Germany. And, while New York is a pretty diverse city, I was clearly different from most of my friends growing up. So I get different. But these guys were really different and I didn’t understand them at first. Then I visited Texas and everything changed.
Sure, I’d heard stories about Texas and as a New Yorker, you are almost obligated to poke fun at cow pokes from Texas. But now, I was a New Yorker in Texas…it was a bit intimidating because you always hear stories about how they feel about Yankees. However, what struck me the most about my first visit to Texas was how friendly everyone was. In fact, they were almost as friendly as the folks in North Carolina, where my sister went to college. I had fun. So much fun that I thought about moving to Ft. Worth, Texas. A colleague of mine had already transferred to corporate headquarters so I tried to do the same. I couldn’t quite swing it, but I ended up in Austin. Austin was much different from Ft. Worth. Where else do they celebrate Eeyore’s birthday?
Austin was also a very friendly place and I love it here. People waved when you were driving down the road. Over the years, Austin grew and acquired lots of transplants from other congested parts of the country. Along with it came traffic and more aggressive driving. As a cyclist, aggressive driving really bothers me because I’m no match for a motorcycle, car or truck. I’ve noticed that this appears to be a problem only in very congested cities, such as Austin, Houston and Dallas. People still drive friendly in the smaller towns in Texas. They also still wave as you pass them.
As a cyclist, I follow the rules of the road religiously. I don’t want to be one of those cyclists that antagonizes other people on the road by blowing through red lights and stop signs. I usually ride with my lights flashing (even during the day) to improve my visibility to my fellow motorists. I also wave at motorists who stop to let me ride by. I appreciate this behavior because they are being considerate by not making me brake to slow down as they pull out into the road or make a turn. I’m usually rewarded with a wave back or a smile. Regardless, I want to acknowledge their decision with a positive action and let them know that I, as a cyclist, really appreciate their consideration. I secretly hope that by riding like a friendly Texan, that they will continue to offer this consideration to other cyclists on the road. You often hear the words, “Share the road!”. In my own way, I feel like I’m sharing the road when I wave because I’m letting them know that I recognize their decision to share the road. In return, I make a point of not blocking a turn lane at a red light, waving motorists on at a stop sign and generally making sure I’m not obstructing traffic whenever possible. When I’m driving my car, I try to do the same thing. I may get frustrated once in a while with an inattentive driver, but I never act out my frustration using my car. It’s dangerous and has no business on the road.
I hope my actions will rub off on other cyclists and motorists. I don’t much in return. Just a little thought and consideration. If we all took our time and offered our consideration to other users of the road, our roads would be a much safer place. So help me out here, ride like a Texan. The next time you a driver waiting patiently until you pass by, give them a friendly wave and a smile. It’ll make their day and hopefully they will want to do it again. While you’re at it, wave at the other cyclists and runners on the road as well. It’s fun and will bring a smile to that person’s face. If you’re like me, it’ll make you smile on the inside as well.