I’m trying to figure this out. Earlier this week, I was hustling from work to a board meeting for the Hollywood Farmers Market, trying to navigate the other hordes of cyclists who also head north on Williams during evening commute time (geez! I had no idea so many people biked that way!).
At one point, I signaled a right turn. You know, the way they teach you to signal right turns, like this:
I always signal with my left arm because that’s the side that traffic is on. I guess if I were on the left side of the street I would signal with my right arm; I just want to use the signal that most people are likely to see.
Anyway, I signaled my turn, then turned, then had to stop at a red light. While I was stopped, another dude on a bike rode up to me. “Hey,” he said. “When you’re signaling a turn, it’s much more clear if you point in the direction you’re going to turn. That way, no one gets confused.”
Basically, he was telling me to signal like this:
Which is definitely a valid way to signal, just one that I chose not to use. I was a little annoyed that he was trying to school me on road etiquette, but figuring that he was probably just trying to help, I swallowed it down.
“Well, I generally use my left arm to signal because that’s the side that traffic is on.” I said. “Was my signal not clear or something? Could you not tell what I was doing?” I was trying to assume good intentions on his behalf, and also wondering if maybe my signaling is getting sloppy.
“Oh, no,” he answered. “Your signal was fine.” And then he went on to tell me all about how signaling with your right arm is really the way to go so other people on bikes understand you.
At this point, I was a little confused. The way I signaled is perfectly legal, makes more sense for visibility, and he’d just told me that my signal was fine. Why the heck was he trying to tell me to signal differently?
I couldn’t really figure out what he was after, and the more he talked the more it sounded like he was sort of covertly saying that he understood my signal but all those other unwashed hordes of cyclists probably wouldn’t. Like he was trying to put the two of us in an elite club of cyclists removed from all those other guys. Which I really don’t like.
Anyway, he ultimately took off, zoomed past a bunch of other people, and then pulled in next to the only other woman biking in our little peloton. And struck up a conversation with her. Perhaps about her turn signals. And it made me wonder, was that signaling thing just an excuse to talk to me? Was he trying to hit on me by setting himself above all those other cyclists? Was he sort of paternalistically trying to ingratiate himself? And even if he wasn’t hitting on me, even if he was, say, just trying to encourage women biking, why do it in such a veiledly-condescending way?
I have no idea, but the whole thing left me feeling a little gross and a lot confused.
There should definitely be a way in life to tell people how they can improve something without their getting pissed off–some dude should be able to tell me when I’m not being clear with my signals, and I should be able to take it as a learning experience. But when what I’m doing is clear and what’s unclear is the motivation for this random dude talking to me in a way that smacks of elitism and maybe sexism–then, I’m not sure what the right response is.