Gear Prudence: I don’t bike, but my best friend does. She’s ridden to work for a few years now, but I haven’t noticed until recently how much it has affected her. Here’s what I mean: The other day we were walking together (not even biking) and she kept interrupting to point out a driver doing something bad. “Uber in the bike lane!” She said. “Turned without signaling,” she followed, then “blocking the crosswalk,” and just on and on. She was like “ban cars,” and I was like, “you have a Kia.” I get that cars in D.C. suck, but how do I politely tell her that I don’t need to constantly hear about it and that her pointing it out all of the time makes hanging out with her way less fun? —Walking Hampered. I Need Effective Remedies.
Dear WHINER: Does bike commuting radicalize formerly normal people? Does it make them hell-bent on the destruction of car culture and consumed constantly and everywhere by the misdeeds of drivers? Does it ruin lives and friendships? Maybe! Or might your best friend act the same way when she’s driving her Kia? Does she always point out the asshole on the highway who cut her off or the guy in the parking lot zooming way too fast? This might be less about biking and more about your friend’s volubility and her inability to not share every picayune annoyance while traveling. Either way, you’re stuck listening to a friend prattle on well past your capacity to care. It’s a bummer.
Before we address how to get her to knock it off, GP thinks it’s worth pondering how and why bike commuting might turn the most loquacious of us into constant complainers. First off, there’s just a lot to complain about. As you so eloquently say, “cars in D.C. suck,” and even a brief observation of the roads will reveal a heaping helping of driver shenanigans. Bike commuters become hyper-attuned to this for two reasons: 1) Their safety and well-being depend on noticing it, and 2) the outgroup is always more aware of the foibles and follies of the ingroup than its own members are. Bicyclists are among drivers, but not of them. They move with them, but never as them. A bike lets you go fast enough to be inconvenienced by cars and yet still slow enough to not miss any little infraction. It’s great for transportation, but can be horrible for your sanity.
Getting your friend to hush up shouldn’t be more complicated than telling her that you understand and share her concerns, but nicely (and firmly) asking her to refrain from commenting on them. Your time together is limited and surely there are other topics that can fill the void. Perhaps a mutual annoyance, like kids these days or celebrities who are at it again. That’s bound to work, right? —Gear Prudence
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets @sharrowsdc. Got a question about bicycling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org