Wednesday, February 06, 2008


While sitting on my bike at a pedestrian crosswalk, waiting for the little man to go from red man standing patiently at attention to change to the happy green man in mid-stride, I had an experience I have had many times in the past. A pedestrian came up behind me and paused at the light. He made sure to stand in front of my bicycle wheel and just to the right of me. He watched the opposite traffic light and jumped off the mark just before the green man made his appearance. He strode quickly for a grand total of 5 seconds then slowed down to a turtle's pace and blocked the sidewalk by standing in as central a position as possible.

Common sense tells everyone that a bicycle rider is going to go faster than a pedestrian yet I constantly find that male pedestrians, particularly middle-aged and older ones, will position themselves such that my moving at all soon after the light changes will guarantee I collide with them as they cross, or have to half shortly after moving to prevent doing so. What is more, it's almost always the case that the fast pace which they start off with dies a rapid death once they get out ahead of me by about 10 yards.

After years (literally) and hundreds of experiences (again, literally) with this phenomenon, I've concluded that this is a pointless act of competition. It's not important that these men get going as they always slow down. It's only important that they get ahead of me and block me so that they get across first.

As of late, male competitive urges have been a topic which has been on my mind lately as I've noticed that I tend to prefer female bloggers over male ones, by and large. There are some very notable exceptions (you know who you are - many of your regularly comment here), but I've noticed that male bloggers tend to be far more aggressive and competitive in how they handle themselves. For one thing, they are far more likely to boast about site traffic statistics. For another, they are much more likely to post reactive and argumentative content. That is, they don't tend write about their lives, thoughts or experiences but go find something someone else wrote or said and take issue with it. On occasions when they do address something original, the posture is often one of "informing" people of the accurate way of seeing or understanding something. They're also far more likely to leave nasty, condescending, or snotty comments when they disagree rather than to simply present another explanation or viewpoint.

It's well-known in psychological circles that males are generally more competitive than females, though I think it's a tendency that women experience far less in the real world than in anonymous Internet-based forums. Personally, I'm growing pretty tired of this competitive nature in some males. It's irksome to deal with other folk's negative energy over petty little things because they have an ego issue and need to "win" at a non-existent competition just like it's tiresome to have to wait for or navigate around those guys who feel they have to stop me from getting across the street first. I guess that it's a little harder for a man to be aggressively competitive to a female in person and still feel like a big, puffed-up "winner" than it is to do it through the ether.

Nonetheless, just like the men who cut off my bike and stride ahead, it's all pointless and proves nothing about a man's superiority. I'm just going to go sailing by them either way and go about my business.


Fuji Mama said...


Anonymous said...

Hey there!

I realydo like your insightful, thoughtful diary. I have an interest in Japanese culture, and I find your balanced views rather cool.

On the whole competitive bit- how sad and pathetic such people must. I would simply say 'excuse me' and cruise on by.

Also- thank for he tips on living in a small space! Even in spacious America one must learn what to do with a smaller condo or apartment!


ターナー said...

Hope my blog didn't inspire that.

lina said...

Indeed. When faced with these type of male, I just let them assert themselves while I go find a different way to solve my problems.

Mike said...

Well I guess thats typical when it comes to traffic in Japan. People don't really think of whats beside or around them. They just see what is directly ahead and worry about nothing else. Oh well, what can you do?

Kanagawa G said...

I always thought that it was because I suddenly became invisible while waiting to cross the road, exit the train, etc.

The guys who choose to ignore a long line of people waiting to get on the train really bug the heck out of me. My 2 y/o son waits in line better than these guys. Lately I have started getting vocal about it, receiving mixed reactions from both the quese-jumper and those in line.

I guess the same can be said about the people who speed up when you try to pass them on the expressway only to slow down once you get a car length ahead.

Maybe it is just animal instict, but I have better things to do with my time.

Shari said...

Fuji Mama: It means a lot to me when people agree as it makes me feel a lot less alone in my experiences. Thanks.

Edie: Hi there and thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

Turner: My one concern in posting this was having people who didn't inspire it thinking they did. You didn't. In fact, my guess is that those who have put it in my mind are the ones who won't see themselves or don't read my blog.

Lina: Depending on my mood though, sometimes I'd like to ram them with my bike. ;-) Mind you, that's not often, but it does get old.

Mike: It's actually not typical of females. Women rarely do the sort of thing I mention. That's why I think it's a male thing and not a Japanese or urban thing.

KanagawaG: I haven't driven for so long that I forgot about the people who speed up when you pass them! Wow, that's a memory.

Thanks to all for taking the time to comment and read!

Sherry said...

I agree with you about the competition to be the first off the curb and everything you said about male/female differences; however, I have had many old ladies in Japan do the same thing to me. Push and shove people, even children, out of the way so they can be at the front only to then walk as slowly as possible and block everyone.

As women age their testosterone level increases a bit while estrogen decreases, maybe these old ladies are defacto males.

I am a stay at home mom with two small kids so maybe the time of day I am out has something to do with it too.

Anonymous said...

The law says bicycles are not allowed to go on sidewalk. (Douro Koutsu Hou article 17)

I know this law is most often violated. But, since most of middle aged men have driver's license and know the traffic rules, they tend to exercise their due right.

Claytonian said...

someone needs this!

BTW, I am the best at being competative and I dare anyone to top this comment!

mike said...

Great entry! I notice the competitive nature of people, too. And you are correct...males tend to be more so than females.

This is most evident with my co-worker from Sri Lanka. They have a tendency to be extremely competitive, amongst themselves, by nature. He has brought this to the states with him and it has aggravated us at work to no end.

He says that he can drive better than we can, and will give us lessons. He is quick to contradict any of us on our diagnosis of issues, whether right or wrong. Lots of little nit picky stuff, that. We've managed to get him to tone it down, so it is not as bad as it was at first.

Shari said...

Sherry: Hi, and thanks for your comment! I get the pushy older ladies (the obatarian types) on the train and in shops, but rarely at curbs. I think it's statistical or maybe they're a little afraid of the gaijin on a bike.

anonymous: The situation is not that straightforward. In general, the police don't want you in the streets and they themselves ride their bikes on the sidewalks. In fact, you're more likely to get hassled for riding in the street than on the sidewalk. There's good piece about this in the Japan Times here:

Claytonian: lol

Mike: I think competition has its place, but that place is only when it's healthy and good-natured. There's way too much mean-spirited competition (or petty stuff). I'm pleasantly surprised that you were able to influence your coworker!

Thanks to all for commenting!