Sep 272011

If you’re just tuning in, welcome to this series of mental attitude warm-ups for bike commuting: risk and trust, friendliness and willingness to try new things. Up, down, up, down! Now try these other brain cells.*

Tolerance. If you’re already riding, you’ve encountered people who need to tell you all about the “bad biker” they encountered recently. Tolerance (hey, at least they saw the cyclist!) helps these indigestible chunks go down, and it tastes even better if you season it with a big dash of humor.

There’s more than one form of feedback you’ll need to tolerate. You have to be tolerant of those people at work who look at you like you’re crazy (especially on days that are on the rainy or cold side). You might point them to my post that compares the hassle factor of bike commuting compared with driving (although it makes more sense to someone who’s been through the complete psychological conversion process ㋡).

You also have to be tolerant of drivers who tell you all their stories about bad bikers–those sidewalk-terrorizing, helmetless scofflaws (or just cyclists who take the lane as they’re legally entitled to).

If you ride the Centennial Trail you’ll encounter pedestrians with baby strollers who think the “wheels only” lane in Riverfront Park is for them, people who are positive(ly wrong) their unleashed dogs are perfectly polite and would never take a chunk out of a passing cyclist, toddlers who zig when their parents think they’re going to zag, rude cyclists who whiz past without yelling “On your left!” to let you know they’re sneaking up behind you, and other joys of sharing a public space.

Tolerance. Tolerance. Tolerance. We’re all in this together.

Persistence. You can’t try this bike thing once and then quit. After all, that’s not how you learned to ride a bike in the first place.

Your first time testing out the route to work (which should be on a quiet Sunday, by the way, not a busy Monday morning when you’re nervous about being late) may not go that smoothly.

You’ll feel discouraged at times by weather or road conditions. (I have this belief that no one—NO ONE—is more interested in seeing Spokane’s streets improved than cyclists. We are our own shock absorbers and we know street conditions far more—ahem—intimately than any driver.)

On the other hand, maybe your first few trips will be delightful and you’ll figure they’re all going to be like that.

No, honey, they’re not.

Sometimes a grouchy driver does honk and yell at you to get on the sidewalk. (Please don’t.)

Sometimes you leave in the morning on a beautiful sunny day and ride home in the afternoon in a cloudburst (or you get smart and throw your bike onto the rack on an STA bus to ride home in dry comfort).

You get a flat tire (and realize that the ability to fix a flat is one of the great empowerment moments riding a bike offers–it’s a lot easier than on your car and a whole lot cheaper, too).

But if you keep riding you’ll experience a transformation. You’ll find you’re a lot more comfortable with the vagaries of weather than when you were safely insulated in a cocoon. You’ll be more aware of your neighborhood and your surroundings. You’ll see the world differently. You’re a bike commuter.

Tolerance and a sense of humor. Persistence. Openness to new things. Friendliness. Willingness to take some risks. Trustworthiness. Huh. This isn’t a bad list for life in general.

Amazing what you learn from the vantage point of a bike saddle.


*With apologies to Bob Hope–at least I think it was Bob Hope–for ripping off a joke I read years ago in my parents’ Reader’s Digest. It went something like this:

“Do I exercise? Sure I do! First thing every morning. Up, down, up, down. Okay, boy, now let’s try the other eyelid.”


Posts in our 30 Days of Biking Blogging Inspiration & How-to Series for Sept. 2011 30 Days of Biking

  1. 30 Days of Bike Commuting: You Can Do It!
  2. Why We Ride/Resolve to Ride–A Blogspedition
  3. Preparing to Commute by Bike: Get the Worry out of the Way
  4. Buying a Bike for Commuting: Some Questions and a Blogspedition
  5. How to Bike Commute: Getting the Gear Together
  6. Bike Commuting 101: Carrying Stuff
  7. On a Roll with Wilma Flanagan
  8. 30 Days of Biking: Week One Report
  9. Ride with your Community: SpokeFest Rocks!
  10. There and Back Again: How to Pick your Bike Commute Route
  11. Intro to Bike Commuting: Route Selection Part 2
  12. More Bike Commuting Route Selection Tips: Part 3
  13. Thinking Like a Driver vs. Thinking Like a Bicyclist
  14. Biking as Downtime and other Musings on Overproductivity
  15. 30 Days of Biking: Week Two Report
  16. On a Roll with Katherine Widing
  17. I Shouldn’t Assume
  18. Falling Down on Your Bike. It Happens. To Grown-Ups.
  19. Pretty Handy, Gloves. The Blogspedition Assumes You’ll Get ‘Em.
  20. What to Wear for Your Bike Commute? Clothes.
  21. How to Get a Dropped Bike Chain Back On, Grease-Free
  22. 30 Days of Biking: Week Three!
  23. It’s All in the Attitude
  24. Things I Now Do on My Bike Without Having to Think About It
  25. Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Risk and Trust
  26. More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Friendliness and Openness
  27. Even More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Tolerance, Humor, and Persistence
  28. Bicycling Rites of Passage, Spokane Style
  29. Dear Reader, I Chicked Him
  30. 30 Days of Biking: Final Report!

Your Turn

Sharing is karma--pass it along!

Reader Comments

  1. I’ve had a fair number of people complain about “that cyclist who wouldn’t get out of my way”. I just try to patiently explain why a rider can and should take the lane. They are usually not convinced!

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.