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Gear Prudence: I’ve ridden my bike to work for a few years, and I’ve developed a reputation on my street for being the “bike guy.” It’s fun, and I’ve helped a few of my neighbors with some of their bike questions and even fixed a flat tire for the woman across the street. However, one of my other neighbors, a sort of weird guy, has decided that he’s going to start biking too and that he’ll just ride with me downtown every day. Uninvited, he tagged along once, and it was painfully awkward, but he’s undeterred. I really don’t want to bike with this guy, but how can I ditch someone who lives next door? Am I stuck? —Geez, Lay Off Me!
Dear GLOM: There are few times in life where the obvious solution to a bike etiquette question is to join the Mafia, but this is clearly one of them. No, not to whack the guy, but so that you can eventually find your way to the witness relocation program and a new life in beautiful Scottsdale, where you’ll be able to shake off this unsavory neighbor at the very low cost of constantly looking over your shoulder for fear of reprisal from the Cosa Nostra. But at least you’ll be free from a unbidden bike-commute tagalong.
GP supposes there are less obvious solutions as well, and of a slightly more passive-aggressive bent. You could start leaving earlier or later in the hopes that riding with you is no longer convenient. Ride too fast or too slow. Switch up your route to take you farther out of the way of his destination. Forsake bike commuting altogether and hope he doesn’t follow you onto the bus or train. You could rent a gorilla costume and pray that your neighbor opts not to go all Goodall on the cycling ape leaving your house each morning. But each of these approaches upends your own commute and trades the inconvenience of an unwanted riding partner for other inconveniences and/or exorbitant costume shop rental fees.
As a last resort, try honesty. Explain to your neighbor that your bike commute is your alone time, and while you’re happy that he’s biking to work too, that you prefer to ride by yourself. This conversation will likely be extremely awkward, but you’ve just got to get through it. Or take a different approach entirely. Ride with the guy. Talk about stuff. See if you cotton to him. Perhaps his “weirdness” is a function of being socially awkward and your newfound commonality will lead to a burgeoning friendship. But if you do that for a little and it doesn’t work out, it’s likely back to the frank conversation. —GP