Attitudes toward the Cyclist



Attitudes toward the Cyclist

Everyone that I work with knows that I ride my bicycle to work. By now they don’t even give a second look when I walk in the building in spandex (for the most part). A recent comment made me stop and consider what folks must be thinking. For the second time in a month someone asked me, ” Do you even have a driver’s license?”.

It stopped me. Do my coworkers think that I ride my bike becuase I’ve had my license taken away? And the drivers out on the road, what are they thinking? Usually, I don’t much care what others think but this might be a case where it’s a bit more important.

What if people knew that I decided to ride my bike to work one nice Summer day about 3 years ago. Heck, I didn’t really have time to ride as much as I wanted to and parking is always an issue… so why not ride? I had a shower waiting for me at work along with a change of clothes so I tried it a couple times. The more times I rode to work the more I liked it. Of course, there are political, environmental and other reasons to ride instead of driving and I won’t list them all, but the bicycle has turned into my primary form of transportation.

My question is about descrimination. What do you see out in the world? In the workplace? On the road? How are you treated as a Bicyclist in the different places that you go?


  • Feb 1, 2010 at 6:41 am

    It's funny – people look at me with pity most of the time and are always trying to offer me a ride. Although I don't have a car anymore, I chose to ride my bike almost three years ago when I discovered that it took less time to get there by bike than it did to find parking–and I never had to sit in traffic–and I automatically get exercise every day. People think I'm crazy when it's cold, or raining, or dark outside. But I really don't mind it most of the time. I live less than 2 miles away from my gym, but every time I show up someone offers me a ride home, or tells me to call them for a ride in the future. They don't understand that I enjoy riding and that I would choose to bike even if I did have a car. My dad still tries to convince me that I should buy a car. It's just not worth the effort or the money to drive somewhere when you can get there easily and quickly enough on a bicycle.

  • jack madden
    Feb 1, 2010 at 7:38 am

    Great post Dennis. I've caught a lot of this too, and its especially painful when its a family member.

    But consider this: there isn't a person alive that remembers a day before cars ruled the roads. It is a big stretch to the mind of someone who relies on an automobile to "go" everywhere to think of hopping on a bicycle and pedaling. "'Sounds like a lot of work", "What would I wear?", "How would I shower when I get there?", "Where would I put my coffee?". It just doesn't compute.

    I'm confident that eventually people will just get used to it. There's a pretty good shift going on right now.

  • Feb 1, 2010 at 8:04 am

    Dennis, I want to second what Jack just said, great idea for a post. I hope we get lots of dialogue going.

    I think I'm pretty lucky with where I work. Brown is pretty liberal and understands the concept of thinking outside the box. I rarely have people question my mode of transportation, unless it's one of those days where it is a monsoon. I have been successful in converting some people to using bikes to get around campus for meetings, rather than relying on their cars, so it's a move in the right direction at least! The majority of my friends think it's great and honk in a friendly way as they drive by. I have yet to convert many of the over to cycling, but they don't think I'm nuts.

    Now, the general public is another matter. I sit on a few community boards and frequently show up to school events by bike. There, many times people look at me like I've just landed in some sort of space ship. I have not met many people who really challenge me, but I do receive a number of comments along the lines of what Jack mentioned, pretty much saying that they could never do this.

    The part that really intrigues me is that somewhere along the line, something happens. Most everyone enjoyed the freedom of a bicycle when they were younger and I find that almost everyone has a great memory of riding a bike. Yet, once we reach motoring age, many of us abandon our faithful bikes and instead start driving. If we could figure out how to rekindle the sense of freedom people once enjoyed from riding a bike, I think we would see many more converts.

  • Bruce Masterson
    Feb 1, 2010 at 8:10 am

    I work for a manufacturing company in Cranston. Since I've been here, 17 years, the only folks that have consistently ridden to work have been guys who have lost their license to a DUI conviction or other forfeiture.

    In the old days, when I worked at a bike shop in Wakefield, a good amount of the DUIs in the local paper came in for bikes. Most I think we lost to Benny's.

    I do not help things much, I rarely ride to work and then it is often when the car is in the shop.

  • Noman
    Feb 2, 2010 at 7:28 am

    I've been printing at my own expense and giving out a pamphlet with FAQ's on bike commuting for over 10 years. By electing to bike instead of drive, I've supplanted 75% of my commuting miles and logged over 50,000 miles as transportation, not including recreation. But some commutes are just too burdened or far to be practical. In those cases, you can bike part way, or, once a week. My longest commute by bike was 52 miles roundtrip, which I used to do a couple times a week. There are no set rules. Sometimes you need a vehicle to carry cargo or passengers, so abide until next time.

    That said, most coworkers find bicycling offensive, put off by the constant reminders of health neglect, higher moral ground, or smug sanctimony. It's unwise to jeopardize your revenue stream for obvious personal benefits of cycling unless where you work clearly supports it with policy, showers and storage.

  • Bill Lewis
    Feb 2, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I have been car free all my life except for an ill-fated stab at ownership in 1980 when I bought a cheap car and got a learners permit. That was as far as it got, I was never really committed to to the cage and soon let the car go and the permit to lapse without ever taking the driving test. I have given up many thousands of dollars in income to keep my car free lifestyle as it is near impossible to get a construction job without one. For some reason transportation doesn't include busses or taxi cabs in the minds of employers. Even though I am able to get anywhere on Aquidneck Island by 7:30 am with all of my hand tools a few power tools. It has not been easy but I will not ever get a license or own a cage. The biggest deal is romance because even though a woman says she likes cycling she means for a little while on a sunny day and very few women even on Bike Forums are willing to give up the cage.

  • Noman
    Feb 3, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Bill: Watch "The 40 Year Old Virgin". You don't need a car if you can move into a supportive community. Many artists in Pawtucket and Providence don't drive. Many people in NYC don't either.

    So what does that say about license revocation? A cruel and unusual punishment to deprive non-motorists of a livelihood? When is Obama going to get off his bike and out of the ballparks and come up with some dearly needed social justice?

  • Jamie Re
    Feb 4, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    I have been biking to work for about four years now and saw a huge rise in bike commuting when the gas prices went through the roof about a year ago. There was a large rise in people on bikes on the road. i think some have stuck with it and others have gone back into the cars. I have also heard the "Oh I could never!" comments. I think alternative transport (bike, bus) has a classist stigma for sure. I sometimes ride to bus on the nasty days (or if I'm hung over) and the contrast is stark on the bus vs. who is driving no doubt. I think bike lanes and increased city and driver awareness would go far in getting the people off the fence and on the bike.

  • Feb 5, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    The most frequent comment I get at work is, "Did you really bike when it's so cold out?" (or raining, or snowing). My coworker's surprise at my biking in the cold always seems funny when it's in the 20s. I used to live in a much colder climate where 20 degrees would have been a warm winter day! I always want to say, "Did you walk from your car all the way to the office when it's this cold out?"

    I can understand why some people want to see showers in their workplaces – but I've never been particularly sweaty from a commute to work – I've always made sure to live within about 3 miles of where I work. It's hard to get sweaty at 8AM when you're only biking 3 miles, no matter what time of year. Biking home in the summer is another matter – but then, who cares if you're a little sweaty when you get home?

  • Feb 7, 2010 at 3:57 am

    Liberalism hasn't much to do with this. In southern California, where I once lived, if you are under 50 and live within some proximity to your place of work but don't ride in, something is wrong with you.

    So it's more about perspective. Liberal or Conservative, narrow is narrow. And narrow is unfortunate.

  • Feb 7, 2010 at 6:32 am

    Touche… actually, I had to go back and read through the comments to see who mentioned "liberal" and was surprised when it turned out to be me! I didn't mean liberal in the political sense, rather liberal in the sense that the people are open and accepting of differences. I'm so dismayed by politics on either side of the aisle these days that I do my best to stay away from politics 😉

  • Mar 19, 2010 at 5:41 am

    don't mind those people, you'll be living longer years than them 😉