Being nice is a virtue. We have an unlimited supply as it’s (somewhat) innate. It may not be evident all the time, but we like being nice, especially when it’s convenient.
Not to overdo the subject of bicycling in China, but there are a load more bikes here than most countries. And cars. Riding bikes in China is like walking on a crowed New York City street. In Manhattan, apart from crosswalks at intersections, there are few walking rules. DOM reminded me once that it was customary to generally stay to the right. But no more. It’s hard to walk on the right if there is oncoming foot traffic on your right. The is no such thing as a right-of-way among pedestrians.
When a signal changes at a crowded intersection, peds flood from both sides, melding somewhere in the middle of the crosswalk. Whether you are on the right, middle or left side, the objective is collision avoidance. There usually not time or space for being nice and stepping aside.
The same holds true in the city where I am except the crosswalks at crowded intersections are filled with e-bikes. Like two armies starting out on both sides when the signal switches to go, they somehow meld in the middle with collision avoidance the primary objective. If you have thoughts of being nice, you might get run over, by either another e-bike or a car.
The intersections have soft corners so that cars making right turns can flow through the signal without stopping. It’s hard to tell who has the right-of-way in the crosswalks of curves. It’s not like California, where it’s compulsory for cars to yield to peds and bikes in a crosswalk. Nor is it quite like South America, where you enter clearly marked crosswalks at your own risk as vehicles always claim the right-of-way. Here, it’s somewhere in-between, acted out like a constant game of chicken.
Yesterday, as I was crossing through an intersection on my peddle bike with the signal showing I had the right-of-way, a car coming from the other direction was running the light. I could have made him stop by pressing forward, but not wanting to risk a leg full of fender I stopped to let him pass. He looked at me and waved thanks. All of a sudden I felt like I did something nice. In truth, it was merely a defensive more. I immediately thought how nice it would be if acts of self preservation always resulted in a gesture of niceness. But that’s rarely the case.
We’ve all heard a story of the good samaritan who stops to help someone in trouble, only to get run over by another motorist. Most of the time as we are strolling, walking, or cruising through life, it’s easy to be nice and avoid getting run over with only a moderate amount of peripheral sense. The quicker we go, the act of being nice requires a bit more attention.
When we are lucky, we experience spots of time where self-preservation and being nice conveniently collide sharing the same result. It’s easy to be nice when there is no chance of being run over. It’s a little more of a challenge being nice while we are in the thick of things, thinking collision avoidance.
Ahh to hell with it. I think I’ll try to focus on being nice as the primary objective. So if these posts ever stop, you’ll know I was run over.