Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bike Commuting as a “Life Style Choice”

A friend said something the other day that really caused me to take pause.  She said that my bike commuting was a Life Style choice, and she was really glad that I enjoyed it and got great benefit from it, but that it isn’t the choice for everyone.

This really opened my eyes to how I’m viewed by my family and co-workers.  Am I some guy who’s made a fairly radical “Life Style Choice” by getting to and from work on a bicycle?  That’s certainly not how I see it, but the more I think about it, the more I see her point. 

It’s customary that whenever someone is transferred from my office, we have a party where some small tokens or gag-gifts are exchanged.  Without fail, I always receive some sort of bicycle related thing (reflective gear, a bell, etc).  It annoys me, because cycling is just how I get to work, and a small part of how I spend my weekends.  I also love baseball, books, soccer, beer, engineering, etc.  I don’t wear spandex or cycling shoes

But is my assessment accurate?  Am I portraying to the world the person I am, or am I portraying my mode of transport?  I do spend an awful lot of time reading cycling related content.  I spend a lot of my disposable income on bicycle parts and expenses.  And I show up at work everyday slightly sweaty carrying a pannier.

What am I doing “wrong” that my friends, family, and co-workers aren’t seeing the complete me, but instead are focusing on the part of me that enjoys and utilizes cycling?  Is it my behavior, or is their view of me tinted by their lifestyle choices and prejudices?  I don’t want to be “that bike guy.”  I want to be an example of how easy it is to incorporate cycling into a completely normal life.  Clearly, I’m failing in that pursuit. 


Anonymous said...

I see your point. It is valid and I experience the same feedback from friends and acquaintances. In many/most European countries average people just bicycle and don't need to justify it or expect feedback as we experience here in the U.S. We'll know when bicycling is fully excepted when no one responds to our bike commuting or utility riding with anything more than a yawn. Bill D/Minneapolis

Thom said...

Ah, assumptions. I've been a lot different "guys" over the years to a lot of different people. It's just so easy to compartmentalize people based on what seems to be the thing that stands out most about them. Like in elementary school when you happen to blow milk out of your nose at lunch on the first day of school and for the rest of the year everyone is trying to get you to do it again. Okay, it's not *just* like that, but you get my point. It's easier to see parts than to see the whole. I think that's my point.

Doohickie said...

Think of it this way: Like it or not, you are an ambassador to cycling. Your coworkers recognize it, and it is one of your distinguishing characteristics in there eyes. Being an ambassador is a good thing: You are giving insight to others who may consider riding to work, or at least presenting cycling as something real people do for transportation. Embrace it; it's nothing to shy away from.