On one of our many walks across parkland in London--I think it was St. James's Park--a fellow on a bicycle was pedaling in a part of the park where bikes weren't allowed. (Many parks seemed to restrict bikes to designated lanes toward the perimeter of the parkland.) An official was passing in a small truck and called out to the fellow, something along these lines:
Official--You can't ride here, you know. You have to go to cycle over there [gesturing toward the edge of the park].
Cyclist--Oh, sorry. [He proceeds to head to the bike lanes.]
All right, I've totally forgotten exactly how it was--but it sounded so politely British. No yelling, no cursing, no defiance. No rude hand gestures. Mr. M. and I just couldn't picture this kind of restrained exchange happening in the States.
When I asked Mr. M which park this happened in, he thought I was referring to a different cycling drama. Another time when we were traversing Regent's Park, a man who I think was rather older than we are was riding his bike whilst (British word!) berating a young girl (at a guess a teen or early 20 something) also on a bike for not riding responsibly. (As an aside, I don't believe either of them was wearing a helmet, but that's a different issue.) He was apparently neither a relation nor acquaintance, but merely an older member of society who felt it his duty to instruct the young. I take it she'd almost run over a small dog. He was speaking sternly as he pedaled, but not yelling, and while I doubt she was an eager recipient of his message, she seemed to be taking it with relative politeness. At least we didn't hear any cursing or abuse.
Or maybe it's just that anything said with a British accent sounds polite to my American ears.