Gear Prudence: I was hanging out with two dear friends recently, and the topic of riding bikes came up. I was shocked and dismayed to learn that they have many misconceptions about bicycling. I was surprised (aghast, even!) that they believe all bicyclists are cavalier about their safety and consistently break the law (especially since they know a bicycling citizen as exemplary as myself). I felt myself becoming defensive and, honestly, a little hurt, in response to their lack of knowledge and information on the subject. Help! —Peeved Ignoramuses Complain, Kvetch Endlessly During Our Niceties
Dear PICKED ON: This is an unfortunate situation, but one that’s easily fixed: Get new friends. Excise from your life all people who do not share your exact views, whether it’s bicycling, politics, food, television, or Beyoncé. In this age of nicheification, there’s no reason why you ever should ever have to confront a dissenting opinion, especially when there is an entire bicycling subculture that agrees with you on everything and will uncritically reinforce your pre-existing worldview. The best part about hanging out with only bicyclists is getting to complain about how all drivers are the worst and how, because of that one time this guy cut you off, all cars should be banned.
If you’d like to keep your current friends, rather than arguing, try to win them over another way. Much anti-bike commentary comes from a lack of experience with bicycling. Invite your friends on a bike ride to see if that changes their perspective. It might. It might not. Don’t feel the need to point out every time a driver or pedestrian does something “bad” or unsafe to try to prove any points—it’s unnecessary and kind of annoying. And even if you win them over to bicycling, don’t necessarily expect the complaining to stop. For some, Sartre might’ve said today, hell is other cyclists.
What’s most important to remember, and what many people who ride bicycles forget, is that you’re not responsible for the actions of (and responses to) every other person who rides a bike, and you’re certainly not responsible for defending big-b Bicycling. Don’t bother trying, especially if doing so riles you up or upsets you. Next time the complaining starts, nod along and feign sympathy, just as you would when your friends complain about work, relationships, their parents, money, and the countless other things about which they have misconceptions, ignorance, blind spots, illogic, and overall wrongness. That’s what friends are for. —GP