Sep 172011

Graphic displaying words "Assume Nothing".One day when brilliant and talented Second Daughter was a little girl, she said something that started with the words, “I assume.”

Brilliant and talented Eldest Daughter and I said, practically in unison, “You know what you make when you assume, right?”

She looked at us with her sweet, innocent child’s eyes and said, “An assumption?”

We fell over laughing but you know what? She was right. Because sometimes when I assume I’m really only making an ass of myself, not you too.

I caught myself assuming something about driver stereotypes twice in the past couple of days. At the same time that I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how we might instill more courtesy, safety, and kindness in our interactions on the road, I’ve been saying some rude and unkind things inside my head about drivers who don’t demonstrate these qualities.

And sometimes I’ve leaped ahead to assume that a driver is going to behave in a particular way based on externals. I’ve worked very hard over the years to be aware of and overcome unconscious biases and privileges in interpersonal relationships with people from all kinds of backgrounds and life experiences. Drivers deserve no less, so it’s confession time.

Interaction : Riding home up Sherman just south of the four-way stop at 5th Avenue, past Rockwood Clinic. An old Ford pick-up truck was parked against the curb, inside the bike lane. The motor rumbled loudly, with that hiccupy old-truck sound that I associate with beaten-up farm vehicles and pick-ups with gun racks. (Before you jump to conclusions, I spent my first years of life in Lewiston, Idaho, surrounded by wheat rotated with alfalfa–not ours, but I got crop-dusted just the same–and we had a gun rack in our pick-up.)

I looked up the hill at the truck and thought, “Oh, great. This is one of those who isn’t paying any attention to the fact that there’s a bike lane next to him. He’s going to pull out right in front of me and it’s hard enough to climb this bit after the stop sign without having to hit the brakes.”

Guess what? He waited until after I passed him, then signaled and pulled out to climb past me up the hill. If you see an old Ford with a paint job that’s black on the bottom half, white on the top half, he seems like a pretty good guy.

Interaction : Riding southbound through downtown after hours, when the offices are closed and the bars and restaurants are busy, I approached the stoplight at Riverside in the bike lane on Howard. That’s a touchy spot because the driver may want to turn right, so I’m always on the lookout for a right-hook incident. I tend to stay back behind drivers and glance repeatedly at their turn signals.

I could hear the sound system approaching me from a block back—one of those “Boom! Boom! Boom!” systems that doesn’t convey any music at all, just the steel-shaking, bone-thumping bass line that we all have to listen to against our will.

A dark maroon light pick-up passed me, shaking the ground with the music system, and I thought again, “Oh, great. Watch this one.”

As I approached the red light a car sat in first position in the vehicle lane with right-turn signal going, Mr. Bone-Thumping Bass Line and his female companion in second position with right-turn signal going, and me on my bike in third position in the bike lane.

Light turned green. Car went. Car didn’t go. I looked up and the driver was waving at me to go ahead and ride past him. As I did so I saw a rolled-down window on the passenger side and called out, “Thank you!”

The woman passenger replied, “You’re welcome!” Wow, she actually said “You’re welcome” instead of the more standard “You bet” response I hear (and deliver) most of the time in response to a thank-you.

What do you make when you assume? An assumption.


Posts in our 30 Days of Biking Blogging Inspiration & How-to Series for Sept. 2011 30 Days of Biking

  1. 30 Days of Bike Commuting: You Can Do It!
  2. Why We Ride/Resolve to Ride–A Blogspedition
  3. Preparing to Commute by Bike: Get the Worry out of the Way
  4. Buying a Bike for Commuting: Some Questions and a Blogspedition
  5. How to Bike Commute: Getting the Gear Together
  6. Bike Commuting 101: Carrying Stuff
  7. On a Roll with Wilma Flanagan
  8. 30 Days of Biking: Week One Report
  9. Ride with your Community: SpokeFest Rocks!
  10. There and Back Again: How to Pick your Bike Commute Route
  11. Intro to Bike Commuting: Route Selection Part 2
  12. More Bike Commuting Route Selection Tips: Part 3
  13. Thinking Like a Driver vs. Thinking Like a Bicyclist
  14. Biking as Downtime and other Musings on Overproductivity
  15. 30 Days of Biking: Week Two Report
  16. On a Roll with Katherine Widing
  17. I Shouldn’t Assume
  18. Falling Down on Your Bike. It Happens. To Grown-Ups.
  19. Pretty Handy, Gloves. The Blogspedition Assumes You’ll Get ‘Em.
  20. What to Wear for Your Bike Commute? Clothes.
  21. How to Get a Dropped Bike Chain Back On, Grease-Free
  22. 30 Days of Biking: Week Three!
  23. It’s All in the Attitude
  24. Things I Now Do on My Bike Without Having to Think About It
  25. Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Risk and Trust
  26. More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Friendliness and Openness
  27. Even More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Tolerance, Humor, and Persistence
  28. Bicycling Rites of Passage, Spokane Style
  29. Dear Reader, I Chicked Him
  30. 30 Days of Biking: Final Report!

Your Turn

  • Do you catch yourself making assumptions about drivers based on the type of vehicle they drive?
  • How about assumptions about other people on bikes based on the type of bike or their clothing?
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