Waving part courtesy, part awareness

Bicyclists and joggers share space on the Cooper River bridge.

Every now and then a seemingly trivial observation sets off a storm of comments in the social media world.

In running, humor writer Mark Remy of “Runner’s World” is the king of getting this stuff going. One notable observation he made a year or so ago was that people generally hate the way they look in photographs of themselves running.

It’s both true and funny because certain runners, who gravitate toward narcissism to varying degrees, have one image of themselves running like an efficient Kenyan. Photographs tend to bring them back to Earth.

Last Tuesday, Jason Gay of The Wall Street Journal set the commentary afire about runners and cyclists and their waving habits in a column, “Hey Riders, Runners: Do You Wave?”

I had read it already when somebody anonymously left the clip on my front porch Thursday. I didn’t really know what to make of it. But it tipped the scale on whether I wanted to write about it myself or not.

Gay admitted he is “pro-wave” and operates at “about a 74 percent to 92 percent wave rate.”

As both a runner and a cyclist of the commuter/seasonal triathlete variety, I have had conversations with my fellow endurance junkies about this subject periodically over the years.

The general consensus has been that runners are more likely to wave than cyclists, at least in Charleston.

That’s partly explainable. When you’re on a bike, you’re going faster and need more concentration. It’s best to keep both hands on the handle bars and eyes on where you’re going.

At times there are so many runners and cyclists in parts of Charleston that it would be unrealistic to wave all the time. It could be overkill.

But my issue goes beyond that.

What gets me is that often when I’m running on a sub-standard pedestrian path, such as the Ben Sawyer causeway path, I’ll move off of the 21/2-foot paved path to let a cyclist or a group of cyclists go by without slowing down or going into the rough.

Do I get a nod, a lifted finger of acknowledgment, or a hands-free “thanks”? Rarely.

And in that situation, the cyclist should be on the road.

Another observation that I made that WSJ’s Gay didn’t is the difference in the wave ratio between the ear-budded and the non-ear-budded. Runners and cyclists wired to their beloved music rarely wave, or smile, or even look at you.

Combine that with the fact the wired also are clumsier and less aware of their surroundings such as car traffic. And their lack of courtesy can get old fast, particularly on crowded pathways such as the Cooper River bridge’s “Wonders Way” bike and ped lane.

I bike and/or run on it almost every day and the number of wired, or just unaware pedestrians, in the bike lane is something I encounter at every crossing.

Ultimately, waving is related not only to common courtesy but to awareness.

Be present and aware of situations, whether you’re a cyclist in traffic, a walker mixing with runners and cyclists on the crowded lane built for us, or crossing the Ben Saw-yer Bridge on yet another consolidated, insufficient two-way bike and pedestrian space.

Until our elected officials move faster and retrofit our roadways, which are filled with text-messaging drivers, the importance of paying attention should be taken seriously — for the sake of both harmony and safety.

Reach David Quick at 937-5516 or dquick@postand courier.com.