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Gear Prudence: How come bicyclists on the Metropolitan Branch Trail are so fickle about saying hi to each other when we pass? I pass the same sourpusses nearly every day and say hi, but either get ignored or a blank distant cold stare in return. Isn’t there some code (not just human decency) that bicyclists should be nice to each other? I’ll keep saying hi, but it’d be nice if someone (anyone, really) said hi back. —Seeking Another Yappy Human Interaction
Dear SAY HI: In search of fleeting connection, you launch hellos into the void, but they thud unrequited. While there’s no special bicyclist niceness social contract, one should always meet a greeting with a response, irrespective of mode of travel and regardless of one’s natural predisposition toward taciturnity. That said, for many people cycling is the one chance during the day for uninterrupted solitude, which is why they might be lost in a deep reverie, pedaling along unaware of your perception of their rudeness. Others might be stunned into muteness by the garlicky breath wafting from your aspirated salutation. Before setting off, consider a breath mint.
Perhaps it’s time to pull back and try some nonverbal communication. You could wear a T-shirt that reads “Say hi and I’ll give you $5.” Bike commuters love bribery! Or, as you ride by, hold up a giant crossword puzzle in which 17 across is “______ Kitty” and subsequently shrug helplessly. Stoically nod. Go for a totally noncreepy exaggerated wink. (Or don’t.) A jaunty wave is always nice. If you earn some reciprocation via one of these methods, try hi again and see whether your nods, winks, and waves have successfully broken the ice. It might take years to build up to it. Wear the exact same outfit every day to ensure your fellow travelers know it’s you and not some other friendly stranger. Consistency is key. Do not waver.
Once you’ve nailed the simple hello, there’s no limit to where you can take the niceties. Kick your salutation game up a notch with an awesomely complicated rolling high-five maneuver. And after you crash into each other, thanks to your habitual, if shallow, friendliness, there will be no hard feelings. As you extricate your entangled limbs and pick up your hopefully not too damaged crashed bicycles, you can move well beyond the pleasantries and discuss your mutual love of bike riding and how the ride-by high-five was a misguided idea you should never try again. —GP