Gear Prudence: Nothing pisses me off more than seeing people with phones up to their ears while driving, except for one other thing: when bicyclists do it too! D.C. has laws against this for drivers—is it the same for bicyclists? I’m worried that a distracted bicyclist is going to run me over! —Please Help, Obliviousness Needlessly Endangers
Dear PHONE: Distracted driving is an omnipresent scourge to all road users, and there are few things more harrowing for bicyclists and pedestrians especially. D.C. has a law against the use of mobile phones and electronic devices while driving, allowing them only to be used with hands-free accessories. However, the code only references operators of motor vehicles. Bikes and cars, after all, aren’t the same. But just because it’s legal for bicyclists, it doesn’t mean it’s a great habit, and GP would generally advise against it. It’s remarkably easy for a bicyclist to pull off the road and get going again, so that’s likely a better option than fidgeting with a gadget when riding. Unless it’s an emergency, the call can probably wait. —GP
Gear Prudence: I have an ethical dilemma. I am a strong believer in bicyclist rights, and I like to patronize local businesses that treat bicyclists well. But my absolute favorite sandwich shop doesn’t have bicycle parking, and there’s nowhere within a block to lock up my bike. I’ve asked them to install a rack, but they said that they “weren’t interested.” If they’re not interested in bicyclists, should I be interested in them? Should I take my money elsewhere in protest? —Sad, Angry Man Mulls Objection
Dear SAMMO: Faced with the cruel injustice of not being able to lock your bike directly in front of a business you plan to frequent, you are considering forswearing your favorite sandwich in the name of “bicyclist rights” and in the hope that, deprived of your occasional $8 lunch order, the owner will capitulate as the business slowly bankrupts and realize that the lack of bike parking was its undoing? Spend your money (or withhold it) according to your own personal ethical standards, but it seems highly unlikely that your individual boycott will bring your desired outcome.
Your instinct to protest is good, but consider a different tack. Arrange weekly group rides to the shop and show the owner that bicyclists mean business. If the owner sees how many eaters arrive by bike, perhaps a desire to accommodate these customers (and their $$$) will spur additional interest in bike parking. There’s a shortage of perfect sandwich places in this world. It would be a pity to abandon yours. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets @sharrowsDC. Got a question about bicycling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.