What does one do when a warm, sunny Sunday in late October comes along? One stops paying lip-service to life-work balance and grabs their bike and hits the open road. That’s what. I didn’t want to go far. I didn’t want to go fast. I just wanted to spend as much time as I could taking in the beauty of fall as I rode through the countryside.
A lot of cyclists were out today. It would have been a sin not to be. And with such a high volume of cyclists, there is a lot of opportunity to observe cycling etiquette. Though there are websites (https://www.velominati.com) that proclaim to hold the sacred texts in which the rules of cycling etiquette are given, such sites don’t mention what to do when one approaches another cyclist standing by their bike on the side of the road. For many years my default has been to slow down and ask if everything is okay, and then stop if assistance is requested. Most times I’m waved on, however there have been times where my offer of assistance has been warmly accepted.
But perhaps such behaviour is only acceptable on the open road. Coming back from my ride today, I was on a main artery through the city when I came upon a cyclist standing by their bike on the sidewalk. They were bent over looking at their chainring. As I approached, I called out and asked if everything was alright, but they did not respond. By the time I noticed that they had earbuds in, they had noticed me slowly approaching them. They stood up and gave me a pretty fierce wtf-is-wrong-with-you look, so I simply continued on my way.
I am loathe to concede that asking other cyclists if they need assistance is only something one does on the open road. I’ll grant that cycling etiquette in the city looks different than cycling etiquette in the countryside. For example, I would never wave as I passed an oncoming cyclist in Waterloo Park, but I don’t feel like it would be strange to do so out on the open road. It’s not strange, and most cyclists I encounter do it. However, inquiring whether a fellow cyclist standing on the side of the road would like assistance is not simply a matter of etiquette. At least I don’t think it is. I think it is something we should do.
Now of course it is a very strong claim to say that we should offer assistance to other cyclists if the occasion arises. The importance of doing so was really driven home to me on my cross-country adventure this past summer, and I think there is a good motivation to do so.
I’ll unpack what I think this means in the next few posts.