We were recalling a comment from Patrick, a reader in the Chicago area on some of the remarks he hears when cycling as part of his job:
Anyway, I am a realtor and you should see some of the looks I get pulling up on a bike to show a property! I usually have to explain this is a choice and not due to some court imposed lack of a car…
It got me thinking — I hear some strange stuff, too. Normally, I’m one of those wise ass types who wouldn’t let a mean comment go unpunished, but these days I’m just so busy with our unofficial “cycling rules; join us” PR campaign that I usually don’t let my snarky side out — at least to their faces.When the weather was bad last month (for Seattle, anyway) I’d hear multiple times a day that I was crazy. Crazy? That seems pretty extreme to call me crazy. I’m not the one _driving_ to the gym. It seems a fair sight more crazy to be driving around in a huge SUV burning up my children’s petroleum future. Of course, that’s just me, the crazy guy on the bike.
Another common thing is people remarking about how we must we need a ride. I think the fact that we haul the kids around draws a heightened level of misguided sympathy. They think they are showing concern, but unless it’s a friend who has been pouring us lots of red wine, these offers often sound like an implication of suspect parenting skills. “Are you sure they are OK back there? It’s dark.”
Another level of comment is from people who just don’t get it. I think these bother me the most. Don’t get me wrong. Lots of folks understand and support our riding — even if they aren’t cyclists themselves. Squarely opposite sits the crowd that just can’t wrap their heads around the fact that this bike thing is intentional. These usually ask:
“Do you only have one car” with a unsaid followup of “that must be why you ride around on the bike… because you can’t afford to drive.”
Sigh…sometimes these comments get to me, but more often that not, I am able to kick into marketing mode and respond with one of our many well-used phrases:
- “yeah, the riding is great”
- “the kids love not having to get into car seats”
- “I love not having to go the gym” (not that I ever went)
- We haven’t bought gas in a month
We’re going to try to keep track of some of the true gems we get and stick them in somewhere with our regular blog posts. Wait for them.
So, how about you…what’s your best/wackiest/craziest/meanest question and how do you usually respond?
When I was trying to get support for a free ride to work breakfast, which would be totally catered for by independent sponsors, I approached the Occupational Health and Safety officer for the University where I work.
In a totally disinterested manner he claimed to support staff and students having a healthy lifestyle, and agreed that bicycles have their place in this respect. BUT they should be banned from our campus as a matter of safety….
My response was kind of slow and after picking my jaw up off the floor I retorted: “Dahh hey? what? Are you serious?”
And thus began my education in the eradication of cyclists by malicious neglect and deliberate campus legislation.
(Seriously! They take no action regarding bicycle theft and are actively moving to outlaw bicycles from buildings and common areas within the university… On and they ditched their Solar car research too!)
Mrs. Smudgemo is a broker and not so long ago pulled up to a house that was on the broker’s tour on her scooter. Some guy commented about how times are obviously tough for realtors (for lack of the BMW or Benz, I suppose.)
She probably smiled because she’s far too nice to people. I’d have probably said the car is at home because thousands of my fellow citizens aren’t. They are dying in this place called Iraq, and I’m trying to do as much as I can to live a normal life AND get them home. Follow that up with a question asking what the other person is doing, and that’s bound to be enough.
Probably the most common comment I get is: “What kind of motor does that have?” To which I answer: “An organically top fuelled, 1/8 horse V-twin hemi.” Sometimes, someone who doesn’t ride can figure that one out. My most favorite recent exchange happened when I was about 3/4 of the way up my usual one mile hill going home, at about 9:30 PM. I was moving steadily, though not quickly, in the bike lane when a pickup truck pulled out from a side street behind me, came alongside, and matched my speed. The passenger window rolled down, and the driver leaned across to yell: “You wanna ride up the hill?” I did an incredulous double take, checking around me, and replied: “I AM riding up the hill!” “Oookayyy…” he rolled up the window and drove on. Made my week.
Several years ago, I was riding to work when a pickup pulls alongside (why is it always a pickup?). Driver rolls down the window and yells out, “Get a job!” I was too stunned to reply. I have a job. That’s where I was going on my bike: to my job. Maybe he associated lack of a car with unemployment. Funny thing is, I have a car. I just don’t use it to get to work.
My wife and I decided to bite the bullet and sell our last car back in July when she was 5 months pregnant with our second child. Her parents knew we were pretty serious about changing our consumption habits, but I don’t think they knew how serious until that.
Suprisingly, the people in our area here in Longmont CO have been really pretty positive in their responses when they see us toting our kids around, even on those single digit snowy days, we mostly get admiring looks.
Probably the only person who consistantly doesn’t get it is my boss. He still gives me befuddles looks on cold snowy mornings and asks “DID YOU RIDE IN?!?!”. Some days I jokingly respond “No, I walked…” (my commute is 12 miles), or simply “of course :)”.
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