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I'm an Island transplant in North Van, cut my teeth mountain biking around Victoria/Duncan/Sooke. But I've also got roots in rural Alberta, enjoyed summers on a farm with my Grandparents, and then worked in rural Alberta and Saskatchewan in my 20's. This conflict has a whole lot to do in general with the hustle and bustle of large metro centers.
The more sparse the population in a given space, the more people gravitate toward each other. The fewer people you encounter, the more you see others as an extension of yourself. On the flip side, the more you wade through people/traffic/competition on a daily basis, the more your subconscious is just looking to avoid others. Rural farming communities, you're obligated to make sure your neighbour is doing OK, even if you don't like them much. It's part of life to stop and say Hi, touch base, even if you don't know that person. I think the stereotype of Canadians being really nice, largely comes form the fact that most of us are only 1-3 generations removed from fairly rural living.
Cam's point about adrenaline, and the associated selective focus is a good one, and that plays a big part with mountain biking specifically. But I think the issue is a lot worse in areas where people are conditioned to exist within their "bubble" to keep from stressing out. I was shocked when I came over to North Van how few mountain bikers acknowledge each other (let alone other types of users), even while climbing up a fire road in parallel. Bigger city mentality. These days I just try to shoot smiles/nods at everyone I pass. On the trails, neighbourhood streets, pretty much everywhere. Try to compensate.
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