Often in civil service offices, next to school secretaries' desks, and places like that you'll see a mimeographed sign that says: "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part." I'll admit it's a bit hard boiled, especially when "planning" on the petitioner's end includes 6 forms of ID, a notorized form and 6 months of receipts. However it has a real corollary in bicycling, which is "Your desire to get to your destination (or the next red light) 30 seconds faster, does not constitute an obligation on my part to ride in a door zone or in such a way as to allow you to pass me closely at speed.
Through either nature or nurture, women are inclined to care what other people think and feel, especially about them. This makes them better at forming and preserving relationships, compromising and building teams, etc. Holding your ground when someone is breathing down your neck- not so much. I particularly stress myself out when I feel someone is waiting on me. This is one reason that I'm glad that the Scientist and I don't carpool together much anymore. I never seem to have trouble finding my keys when it's just me that's getting out the door :).
For me this is the "hard part" of vehicular cycling, such as I practice it. It's tough to always feel like you're "in the way", to be constantly self- justifying that this is the right thing, the safe thing, to do. To remember to act like I'm leading the parade, head high, back straight, holding my line, smiling. It's a mental struggle more than a physical one on many days. Not really knowing what's happening with the car coming up behind you at speed, not knowing if the guy gunning his engine is angry and frustrated, or just has an idle setting too low and is trying not to stall out. Sometimes I feel a bit like a bobblehead doll, swivelling my head back and forth to shoulder check on both sides. (neck was really sore today from sleeping on it wrong, which made shoulder checks problematic).
The fact that I've been safely commuting for 3 years, with only one minor accident (I rode myself up into a right hook) makes it clear to me that bike commuting in the city is neither unsafe nor an extreme sport. I derive so many benefits from it: the stress relief of daily exercise; the visceral sense of my surroundings and the climate; relative indifference to the size of my serving of tarte tatin, etc. However, I still long for bicycle infrastructure that will allow me to get where I'm going without constantly feeling like I have to deliberately put myself "in the way" and hold that position despite what faster steel clad traffic wants me to do.
And that's the perspective of someone who's been regularly bike commuting since I was 16- that would be over 20 years now! I can only imagine how hard it must be for someone who is just starting up for the first time as an adult, with a full sense of the consequences and how frail our bodies are (a sense dulled by youth, adrenaline and perhaps testosterone). I am hopeful though every time I see an adult on a bicycle, that more infrastructure is on the way, and that we will see a virtuous cycle of more cyclists, more respect, more infrastructure, and more cyclists.