Gear Prudence: My parents are coming to visit me this summer. Last time they were here, they saw everybody riding around on Capital Bikeshare and remarked that it looked like a lot of fun. Last time I talked to my mom, she mentioned biking again. My parents live in a classic suburban cul-de-sac and the most they ever bike is two blocks around the neighborhood on basically empty streets. As much as I want to support biking, I know how bad drivers are here and I’m pretty scared about the idea of my septuagenarian parents out there in traffic. Am I overreacting? —Obviously Leery. Dread Seeing Mom On Bike In Loathsome Experience

Dear OLDSMOBILE: Maybe. Expressing concern about your parents’ safety while biking demonstrates that you are a good person. Mom and Dad should cut this out of the paper and stick it on the fridge! But it’s possible that your worry is unwarranted because the details of where your parents plan to bike matter a whole lot. Do they plan on taking on New York Ave. NW at rush hour, or is their vision to dawdle down the path from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument? Bomb down Connecticut Ave., or slowly pedal their way along the C&O Canal? There are far too many streets in D.C. that encumber bicyclists with serious risks, and these need to be addressed before GP would ever suggest that your parents could and should bike carelessly wherever they want in the city. But if the scope of their plans is more limited, perhaps you can downgrade your worry level. —GP

Gear Prudence: At night, suppose there’s a rider coming the other way and you can see that he has a front light on his bike, but it’s not on. Do you say something? Or do you assume that his light is out of batteries and there’s a good reason that it’s not on? 

—Words Help, Yes? Or Feed Futility?  

Dear WHYOFF: You would think that a bicyclist would know if his light was on or off, but sometimes people forget (or don’t realize), so of course you should say something. “Excuse me, but I’ve happened to notice that you front light is not currently set to function—is this an oversight or a mishap, mayhaps related to a lack of battery power?” is a bit of a mouthful, so saying something like, “Heads up, light’s not on!” will probably do the trick. At that point, assuming that the rider hasn’t tuned you out entirely, or there’s not some underlying issue that’s stopped the light from working, he’ll probably press the button to turn it on. There’s a small chance he’d claim a light is unnecessary, but if it it’s dark, probably not. Shout something. The rider will be informed and then do something about it or not. Erring on the side of helpful is pretty costless. —GP

Got a question about bicylcing? Email gearprudence@washcp.com.

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