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The Wave

A wave of the hand has to be one of the most simple and yet basic of human gestures.

A wave can say, “Hi,” or it can say, Thank you.” 

Most important a wave to a stranger is saying, “I acknowledge your existence, I am not ignoring you.”

The wave immediately says, “I am friendly towards you.” Even the most hostile and aggressive of drivers, will give another driver a thank you wave, if they slow and let them in. 

In fact if you don’t get a thank you wave, you feel slightly offended, somehow deprived, “Hey, I let you in and I didn’t get a thank you wave, where’s my thank you wave?”

Some cyclists will not return a wave to another cyclist, or will not do so unless they are wearing Lycra like them. Total bull-shit. I know it must be terribly hard if you are lying down comfortably on those aero bars, to struggle up to give a proper wave, but at least raise a hand, make the effort.

Unless you are a serious time-trialist, or tri-athlete, it might be a good excuse to dump the aero bars. Set yourself free to sit up and wave to the whole world.

I wave to everybody when I am riding, not just people who look like me, other people on any kind of a bike, those walking, running, or on skate-boards.

Even ladies pushing babies in strollers. They are all people like me, out getting some fresh air, and exercise. Sometimes, I get a wave back but not always, I don’t feel deprived or offended if I don’t. 

If I see a driver waiting to turn in front of me, or pull out from a side road, I give a wave. This time it is more of an attention getter, “See me, I’m over here.” Rather like the wave to a waiter in a busy restaurant.

However, it is still a friendly gesture, and the driver may interpret it as, “Thank you for waiting, and not pulling in front of me. Often they will wave back, which is very nice. It means they have seen me, but more important they acknowledge my existence, and my right to be on the road.

A wave costs me nothing, and yet it gives so much. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure, makes my ride a better experience.

If you are not in the habit of waving, I can recommend it. It is good for the soul, yours and your fellow travelers.


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Reader Comments (17)

Love this, as I encounter the 'non-wave' all too often. Cycling seems more lately stricken by an arrogance problem. When I ride in lycra, I get more waves back than when I ride with a t-shirt and baggy shorts - an unintended but interesting social experiment. I also wave and smile when someone in a car lets me go at a stop sign, or passes me widely - I think if we don't show them some human interaction, it makes it easy for people to dislike us and see us as rude. But I see too many cyclists fail to acknowledge even the polite drivers (including me, when I'm in my car). Not good image-building for our sport.

December 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEd

Yes the wave is important but I too find too many cyclists who don't. I even wave at other cyclists after passing but not doing as much passing as in previous years. Sometimes I just use a head nod.

December 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Also, i am given to saying "good morning (or afternoon)" to any cyclist passing me ( i'm not passing many folks these days) whilst on my rides. It's telling that many of these other riders never even acknowledge let alone reply to my greeting. i attribute this to snobbery and plain rudeness, and feel that some of these guys (always guys) take themselves too seriously to be seen talking to a mere commuter on a clunky bike . i get particularly annoyed at those who pass closely without a warning... When someone has blown by me in these circumstances, i often will accelerate and hang on their wheel like grim death -hey, i used to shave my legs, too- for as long as i can stand it. It gets me to work or home that much faster.

December 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermike w.

One variation on this is when you are driving in a rural area, and you drive for 30 min without seeing another vehicle. Then a pickup truck approaches and the driver lifts his index finger from the wheel, just to acknowledge that you both share something at that point.
I guess that I don't see the lack of recognition among cyclists because I rarely ride where there is anyone else. I'll think about this more from now on.

December 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commenteredstainless

I as well am not offended by those who do not return a wave. I assume they are training. Me, lm just riding.

December 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSam G

I am also a 'waver'. I acknowledge pretty much every cyclist I see on my rides. Mostly, I'll raise my hand and wave, but sometimes (if I'm huffing up some of the large mountains here) I'll grunt a 'hey!' and nod as I don't want to let go of the handlebars. Almost all cyclists here acknowledge the wave. Some of the casual cyclists seem to be confused about why I'm waving at them and they just stare at me, but I continue to do it anyway.

Like you, I do it because I'm happy to be riding and I want to acknowledge the people around me. It helps brighten my day.

December 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterYohann

This hits a chord with me:
1) I think there's a certain amount of regional variation. Up here in the NY Metro Area, there's less waving than I saw when I used to visit my retired parents in North Carolina.People from outside the area seem to think we're rude, but I really think it's more about interpersonal overload; in some of these areas, acknowledging hundreds or thousands of people is simply exhausting. You fall out of the habit, and the wave falls victim to that. That said...
2) I not only wave, I have a bell on the handlebar and ring at people: oncoming riders, but also runners and walkers. I especially like the bell because it seems to piss off the real serious cyclists (some of whom use the other rest room, knowwhatImean?).
3) I also wave at motorcycles. I used to ride them, and I know how hard some of those motorcycle riders try to be... but I get waves back, probably about 40% of the time. It's one of my little victories, that nobody cares about but me.

December 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPlain Jim

i have noticed that motorcyclists often wave or otherwise give a sign of recognition to bicyclists -probably as fellow 2-wheelers who don't otherwise get a lot of respect from other highway users.

December 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermike w.

Dave - I think your RSS feed is broken. I get 404 errors from my reader and also when clicking the RSS link on your page.

Thanks Mick, I am aware of the problem and I am trying to get it fixed. There is an extra forward slash in the URL thus ---.com//blog--- remove one forward slash and the link is good. It is an error within the structure of the site, and the tech guys are trying to fix it. Dave

December 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMick Sperry

Hear hear. A wave, nod, smile, fingers raised off the bar - a simple acknowledgement to my fellow cyclist sharing the joys of riding. I'm a big fan of waving to drivers as well.

December 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTony

Time of day seems to have an effect, too. I haven't done a formal count, but I get about twice as many replies in the morning as I do after work.

December 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterZed

I am usually a waver, also. If I'm riding the other way of an organized ride I soon get wave burnout and will curtail my waving. I give a "thank you" wave to motorists who are courteous to me, particularly in borderline situations where they could have passed or pulled out, but waited. Karma - maybe it works.

December 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Thober

Those times I can't wave, a friendly nod or greeting to acknowledge his presence.

December 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterResty

I wave to everyone I can, I'm out to enjoy myself and being friendly adds to that and hopefully spreads it a little. I'm a lycra wearer, and one thing that makes me smile is the surprised reaction I sometimes get from non-lycra folks when I wave, it kind of tells me something about those who have passed them before . . ..

December 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Perhaps expecting a wave back is social conditioning, like it is owed to us. We then think those not waving are unfriendly, snobs.
So which came first, the wave or friendliness? Can you be friendly without waving?
Social pressure can exert strict interpretations, and judgements against others. Does that make it right? Maybe that is why we have bike advocates, signage telling us to Share the Road, as well as Civility classes in colleges. Is there a connection? Why do we need them…?

December 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

The path that I ride on most days in the Parker, Denver Colorado area., I have ridden now for some 20+ years, I have many many friends, cyclist joggers, walkers roller blade's you name it. I wave to them all. On the path the City of Parker,They has many memorial benches installed, People that used the paths and have passed on, I have requested that Marcia my wife also has a bench in my memory placed on the path that I so love to ride my bike on. I am very fortunate my have this net work of paths that reach out some 100+ miles. NO contact with vehicles at all, They even now have two of three bike stations with pumps and all the tools needed to repair your bike. HEAVEN you bet, with the Colorado climate who can complain. I pretty much can ride year round.

December 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

Wave, head nod, index finger lifting, as the author said those little gestures cost nothing and signal a friendly attitude. Not much to add but I've seen also the "sorry wave" - I made a mistake and acknowledge it.
The Rudge chainring always meant a wave to me.

December 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLuigi
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