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Gear Prudence: I frequently have guests over and most of the time they arrive by bike. I try to be a good host and accommodate them by letting them bring their bikes into my place rather than leave them locked up on the street. The other week, however, during inclement weather, I did this and they made a huge mess in my apartment. I had to get one of those carpet cleaners from the grocery store! Now I’m second-guessing being so polite, and I think it’d be better if they just left their bikes outside. How do I tell them that the arrangement has changed and they can’t bring their bikes inside anymore? —Helping Others Stops Today
Dear HOST: It’s good to finally be consulted on a question of hosting etiquette. GP is an excellent host. Not only are all bikes admitted into the premises, but there is an assortment of scented chain lubes in each restroom and a pump concierge to see that tires are inflated to proper pressure prior to any guest’s departure. It sounds like to this point you’ve been an excellent bike host but some time scrubbing has led you to reconsider. And this is your right—a person’s home is his castle, not his bike parking lot—but before you do, consider a few things.
When you allow your guests to store their bikes in your home, you’re giving them tremendous peace of mind. They needn’t worry about theft or errant bird droppings. In inclement weather, you’re shielding the bike’s delicate exposed bits from rain, wind, and muck. But most importantly, you’re telling your cyclist friends that you respect and value their transportation choices, and maybe you’re also rubbing it in their faces a little that you have a big enough apartment to fit their bikes. That’s the kind of passive-aggressive social one-upmanship that underlies all sorts of adult friendships.
But if you can no longer abide bikes in the house (and lack the foresight or willingness to put down a trash bag to protect your floors) and there’s no interior hallway, bike room, or garage where the bikes could safely wait, then you have limited choices. Tell them your new policy. Be upfront, direct, apologetic, but firm. Conversely, you could make up a story about how your cat is afraid of bikes now. The cat thing won’t work if you keep your own bikes in the house, though, or if you don’t have a cat. Maybe adopt a cat? Maybe don’t adopt a cat, but do make sure that there are viable outdoor bike parking options nearby. Or your guests might stop coming. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets @sharrowsDC. Got a question about bicycling? Email email@example.com.