If our schedules permit, we bike for 25-30 miles every weekend – usually on Saturday mornings. A now-retired and retrofitted 15 mile train track, The Legacy Trail, serves as our paved biking terrain, which we have determined is a great way to enjoy outdoor cycling without competing for road share with motor vehicles. Signage dots the trail and while there are no government authorities policing the trail, there is a subliminal expectation that cyclists and pedestrians will exercise courtesy along with their muscles. One of those common trail guidelines maintains that a cyclist, when passing another, should declare: “On your left.” It is how it is said, that is mercurial. Nowhere on the path is there a sign that says: “Be nice when passing.”
It got me to thinking – and BTW, one of the best ways to get a continuous flow of insightful thought is to be physically moving – how and when did the gentleness and graciousness disappear from our human interactions? There are countless reminders on bumper stickers and signs that say: “Be nice.” When did it happen that the inherent kindness with which each human being is born, has been overridden by a system-wide regulatory process where we now need signage to remind us to, well…just be nice?
Often times we are startled by a stealth cyclist whose pedals are almost touching our spokes; who barks when he has almost overtaken us: “ONYOURLEFT.” It suggests more of a “get-the-&^%#@*-out-of-my-way,” than a gentle, “I am just passing by.” A little bit of disclosure here: we are neither Lance Armstrong nor are we novices. We do keep a steady pace and bring a mindful focus to include courtesy and common decency, which always results in bringing a peace into our hearts.
There are indeed novices out there who ride three abreast, who are enjoying nature, and who weave around on the trail. I feel compassion for them as we happen upon them, with the knowledge that they, just moments before, have been verbally steamrolled by a runaway cycling TGV. I feel like we have to reset the bar, do damage control, and overcompensate for the abruptness of others, as we effuse pleasantries and “thank yous” while we pass the “just-out-here-enjoying-the-day-cyclists.”
It’s not just on the trail that we communicate this way. Evidence-based statistics indicate that 93% of what we utter is in our intonation and body language. “On your left,” carries a big punch if said with any undercurrent of rage and aggression. We have witnessed road rage extends to this peaceful natural trail (“trail rage”) and wonder how this is. We have witnessed women- young and old- blaring horns and flipping fingers to nab the same fitness facility parking space at 8:58 am only to tear into the building for a 9 am yoga class. Isn’t there a bit of irony here?
If we allow – and allow is the operative word here – our right brain properties and characteristics to come into play, we will feel peace in our hearts. The right brain influences the left by offering creativity, intuition, and thoughtfulness; it is the expresser of emotions. If we mow people down with our bullying and aggressive energy, we truly sabotage and forsake our own well being.
Next time we come into contact with anyone, whether in the car, in person, or virtually, consider how your right brain – the emotional arena – will choose to communicate niceness. Being nice to others makes for a really smooth ride along whatever trail we cycle :)