What riding my bike taught me about relationships

bikes, relationships and boundaries

When I was living in London, there was a period of time when I biked to and from work. 50 minutes, from Portobello Market to Angel. A more confident, competent cyclist could probably have done it in half the time; I was more of a stop-start-swerve-scurry type.

I gotta say, it was pretty intimidating at times. There I was in my flowery helmet and pink bike, scuttling alongside angry black cabs and big red buses, trying not to annoy these very experienced, very busy drivers.

Being the terribly polite, awfully accommodating Brit that I am, my instinct was to shrink. Stay out of the way. I thought this was me being safe, until a friend told me that playing small on the road is actually quite dangerous.

He was right, of course. By 'getting out of everyone's way' I would inevitably get stuck behind a row of parked cars or get too close to a pothole, and either have to stop or swerve out abruptly. 

'You have to claim your space', he would tell me. 'Then others will make space for you'.

That was 8 years ago. Since moving to Hawaii last summer, I've started cycling again (this one's a mint-coloured beach cruiser, with a lime-green baby trailer attached to it), and I've noticed how different I am on the bike. I'd like to think I've become more robust over the years, plus having a baby in tow seems to brings out the mama-bear in me!

I claim my space (mostly unapologetically!). I give clear, assertive hand signals. I give myself plenty of time to change lanes. I even find myself jutting my elbows out to help myself feel bigger on the bike! It's basically a power pose to tell others, and myself: I am HERE, people.

And of course, drivers make space for me. And they seem much less angry and annoyed than they used to be. Granted, this beach town is slightly more relaxed than Central London!

It occurred to me as I was cycling home the other day that this is exactly what healthy boundaries are all about. It's not about ignoring everyone else and driving around recklessly. When done right, boundaries are courteous, not confrontational. They're responsible, not rude. They're a heads-up, signals that tell others, 'THIS is who I am. THIS where I stand'. 

Boundaries allow us all to share space without crashing or driving each other off the road.

Better to inconvenience someone than to mislead them, which inevitably leads to resentment (road rage), outbursts (honking and cussing), and sometimes even head-on collisions.

boundaries quote brene brown

A compassionate 'no' is always better than a contrived 'yes'. Generosity, kindness, love... none of them are sustainable without boundaries.