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Can Waving Lower Tensions Between Drivers And Cyclists?

A campaign in Austin, Texas, wants to replace aggression on the road with a friendly wave.

Car drivers are from Mars and cyclists are from Venus, and sometimes they fail to communicate. Instead of appreciating of each other’s rights, both groups have a tendency to get nasty on the road, which benefits no one.

In the long term, the answer is probably full separation, with cyclists given their own infrastructure. But in the short term, we have to just get along better. To that end, a new shared streets campaign in Austin, Texas, has a simple solution: waving.

“There’s infrastructure stuff happening and there are laws passing. But meantime if everyone has a horrible attitude, it’s still going to be adversarial,” says Adam Butler, creator of the Wave campaign. “What’s the software of all that stuff? It’s the attitude of people, which doesn’t cost anything.”

The campaign is so simple it sounds trite. It encourages cyclists and motorists to wave at each other on the road, say at stop signs and intersections. “It’s a little connection that enhances safety,” says Butler, who runs a creative agency called The Butler Bros.

Wave has been championed by the city’s police chief Art Acevedo, who sees it as a way of reducing tensions. Austin is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country and has experienced a big rise in car and cycle traffic in recent years.

Wave has been mocked both for branding common courtesy and for preaching. But Butler insists: “It’s not a holier-than-thou thing because I drive sometimes. It’s more of a meditation thing. It’s really saying, ‘Don’t be an asshole.'”

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Co.Exist. He edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague and Brussels.

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