Respect is a strange word, and it is often misunderstood.
The dictionary defines it as: ‘due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others.’
But society defines it as something to be earnt and hung over the head of every person on the road. A motorist says to a bicyclist “I will respect you when you respect me” and this leaves a feeling of confusion. Why would I need to earn the respect of every single person that drives a vehicle on the road? Why is it that I personally should make an effort to ensure that everyone is OK with me being on my bike in the first place?
So after a lot of thinking about this I thought I would list my ideas about what ‘Respect’ means to me and how it should reflect on you. Respect is not earned on the road, it is granted, we grant it in the way we drive, ride or walk. It is the way we are kept safe from each other and the way we allow each other to move around. It is not something that should be expected to be returned, it can not be.
Respect is the feeling you offer to a stranger, that little more room, that wave to apologise when you make a mistake. It is seen in the eye contact you make to the driver, or that look of acknowledgement you make to the rider. It is simply
accepting that another person is on the road and it needs to be shared.
We respect all vehicles on the road, we have no choice, bicyclists are at the top of the vulnerable list when it comes to actual road use (yes pedestrians are there too, but they cross paths and not share the road).
We respect the fact that the person using their mobile phone to text their friends can kill us in a moment. We have no choice but to show respect to others. But this does not mean we like the person, there is no intimacy there, it is a moment of two strangers passing that holds a course which requires both of us to know we are both there.
I was recently told that I need to earn my fellow road users respect, so, I ask you; how do I do that. The same person told me that if they see another rider do something wrong he loses respect for all riders. So why would I bother to work hard on gaining this strangers respect if another can lose it for everyone. These people drive me personally crazy. They are the same people that will complain if a car encroaches their lane, but does that mean they will not respect all car?
Then we get the line of demarcation - Bikes must respect cars, do cars respect trucks? Do you see cars respecting buses? these vehicles that are bigger seem to illicit the same hatred for ‘getting in the way.’
So I ask, no, I implore you. Respect each other on the road. Respect all the strangers you will never see again. Respect the young and the old. With mutual respect, we can all share the resources afforded to us. Don’t hold to ransom for mistakes, don’t blame all for a few. Just live and let live.