Guest post: Making space for positivity

Recently, Bike Ottawa was contacted by one of our members about the importance of a positive attitude. We’d like to invite you to read the comment below, and to think about what communication styles are most effective at getting people to understand your point of view, or to get agreement on a solution.

In our advocacy work, Bike Ottawa tries to be mindful that being constructive and respectful is one of the keys to effective communication. Thanks to our member for taking the time to write to us.

One winter day, I was cycling home from my neighborhood recreation center. Halfway through my ride, I reached the end of a multi-use path, at a place where the path met the road at a right angle. I had been feeling down – a particularly difficult winter was affecting me – when suddenly a wonderful thing occurred!

This is what happened: traffic on this road was backed up due to a nearby red light. A motorist driving down the street came to a complete stop, leaving space between them and the next vehicle. The space that the motorist left was generous, and the purpose of it was clear – I could turn left into this space.

This may not be surprising to some, and future generations may not even think it such a big deal; however, to many cyclists now, a gesture like this is extremely uplifting. The motorist treated me equitably as traffic on the road, and they considered the path to be a worthy enough part of the transportation system to leave space. This motorist yielded that space to me even though it meant that they would have to briefly travel behind me.

I reached to social media to share this positive experience, but I found myself lost in so much negative energy. There was a lot of inappropriate and inconsiderate behavior occurring online, and I was embarrassed, when rereading my previous posts, that I had even taken part in it. In that moment, I thought to myself: I need to unplug myself from this negativity.

Bike Ottawa has many incredible activists that create intelligent, thoughtful, and moving online content. This content is made possible by the incredible amount of effort from volunteers and members of the community. I think we need to work hard to avoid following the negativity that online algorithms put in front of us and focus more on promoting the hard work of our peers, especially since positive change takes time to implement.

It is too easy to fall into a negativity trap with online media. But time spent arguing, complaining, or obsessing is time not spent working towards positive interactions and constructive solutions. I firmly believe that our spirit and optimism can overcome most problems. I challenge the community to be more positive in their activism this year. Perhaps we can start by thanking those who support us, be they family members, neighbors, community organizations, local politicians, people online, or those random strangers who treat us well on the road.