Gear Prudence: Sometimes I ride on the sidewalk, especially on roads that have very fast cars. Because I’m scared. The other day, a cyclist riding on the road passed me and yelled at me for riding on the sidewalk, insisting that I should ride on the road instead. Riding on the sidewalk isn’t illegal there, and I don’t feel safe riding in the road! On the other hand, I’m new to biking, so is this something that I just need to get over? —Shouting Idiot Dashes Esteem
Dear SIDE: Here’s the deal: Unless it’s about fleeing from a burning building or escaping an imminent shark attack, heeding the advice yelled at you by strangers is almost never the optimal strategy. The other cyclist was likely trying to convey assorted concerns with sidewalk cycling, which is subpar due to potential conflicts with pedestrians and/or with drivers at driveways and other intersections.
Over time, you might become more comfortable around high-speed traffic, but until then (or always), if riding on the sidewalk where it’s legal is the difference between you feeling safe or not (or the difference between you bicycling or not) then you do what you have to do, yelling strangers be damned. Just be careful and especially deferent to pedestrians. —GP
Gear Prudence: There are three bicycle emojis. Can I use them interchangeably or does each have its own special meaning? —Three! Which Emojis Elicit Themes?
Dear TWEET: Two of the emojis depict bicycle and rider, and one emoji depicts a riderless bicycle. Of the bicycle-with-rider emojis, one displays a mountainous background; this emoji is only accessible when your phone’s altimeter registers sufficient distance above sea level. Large swaths of people living in the Midwest and in low-lying coastal areas do not even know this emoji exists. Both riders in the road-cycling and mountain-biking emojis wear helmets, so you’re less likely to see these emojis in Amsterdam or Copenhagen.
The bicycle-without-rider emoji is suitable for all contexts, though the bicycle depicted looks awfully lonely. Be sure to use this emoji in conjunction with smiley face emojis or heart emojis to indicate that it is loved. If you are riding an e-bike, please pair this emoji with the battery emoji. In no situation should you pair the bicycle emoji with the syringe emoji or you will face a two-year ban from both cycling and texting. Also, whenever using the bicycle emoji, be mindful of the various car, truck, bus, and stoplight emojis. Share the, um, tweet. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets @sharrowsDC. Got a question about bicycling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.