Gear Prudence: I was on my bike the other day, minding my own business at a red light, when a guy on a fixie came through on the cross street and just … crashed. Bit it. Something got mixed up and he went down in the middle of the intersection, cursing. My heart broke for the guy because nothing is worse than crashing like an idiot and having a bunch of dumb gawkers asking if you’re fine. So here’s my question: What do you say when someone gets in a non-injurious wreck to seem sympathetic but not heighten their embarrassment? — When Haphazard Accidents Topple, Tempted Observer Should Avoid Yapping
Dear WHATTOSAY: You ask, ‘Are you OK?’ Here’s the deal: The toothpaste is out of the tube. The guy already fell and you’ve all already seen it, and staying silent doesn’t change that. Don’t attempt to bring levity to the situation by making a dumb joke (‘gravity much?’) or moderate the tenor of your tone to match your perception of his physical well-being. If he springs up quickly and laughs to himself (as all cyclists should aim to do when their crashes are self-inflicted and inconsequential), resist the urge to smile too much. It’s important to be earnest, and a quick, but fully engaged, ‘Are you OK?’ exhibits the appropriate level of common human decency. Be prepared for him to brush off your concern, but also be ready to help if he asks for it. Bikes don’t have windshields. Human interaction is both unavoidable and totally OK. —GP
Gear Prudence: I’m an avid TV watcher and a regular cyclist, and always notice when there’s a bike used as set decoration in the background of a sitcom. But there’s never any actual bicycling! When do these sitcom characters ride these background bikes? Which TV show, if any, best depicts a character who actually rides a bike? —Televised Velocipedes
Dear TV: Have you also noticed how these same sitcoms frequently have commercials advertising cars? The networks and the car companies must be DELIBERATELY CONSPIRING to keep these beloved pop cultural characters from their bikes, thereby preventing any positive depiction of bicycling and reinforcing the notion that cars are the only reasonable way for both fictional characters and their audiences to travel. [Ron Howard narrator voice]: They’re not. Bikes make good set dressing because they’re interesting to look at and could plausibly exist in any random person’s house. As for how far not riding strays from reality, take a moment to picture your friends’ bikes and also their cycling habits. They don’t even have the excuse of only existing for 22 minutes a week.
To GP’s mind, the most positive depiction of a bicyclist on a sitcom is Michael Bluth from Arrested Development. He’s regularly seen riding a bike, and in regular clothes and without a helmet. Clearly, this pro-bike agenda is meant to heighten the absurdity of the show. —GP