I Would Ride My Bike, But…

In the months since I started bike commuting, I have had a handful of interesting “conversations” with my fellow employees as a direct result of them seeing me with a bike. When I first started, they were surprised to see someone walking down the office hallway with a bicycle.

– “Isn’t it too hot out there?” [it was August in Phoenix, AZ]
– “How far do you ride?”
– “Do you bike every day?”

I explained to my co-workers that I committed myself to biking to work every day in the month of August. It was a sort of experiment. An older gentleman from the Bronx would tell me about how he used to go for bike rides on the concrete paths around his house in South Florida where he just moved from. The receptionist would tell me stories of her being a tomboy and always playing sports with the boys in her neighborhood in the 1950s.

August came and went. Those who knew about my self-challenge began acting surprised that I was still riding my bike to work. That is when the conversations turned from genuine interest (and the occasional reverie) to more defensive.

– “I would ride my bike, but it’s too far…”
– “I would ride my bike, but it’s too dangerous…”
– “I would ride my horse if I had a place to keep her during the day.” [yes, someone actually said that]

There are tons of excuses that people use for not bike commuting, many of them legit. But part of me wonders why, without any mention of the subject on my part, these people feel they have to justify or defend themselves? Could it be that most Americans inherently believe that bike commuting – or even alternative transportation – is ethically and environmentally more beneficial?

This gives me hope that convincing the average middle-class American to consider alternative transportation is not as hard as some may think. The more important challenge might be to present the doable options, provide realistic opportunity – and the rest will fall into place…

As an aside, I would like to hear the kinds of comments you get from people in your office. Do people try to justify to you why they do not bike to work when they see you standing at the elevator with a bike by your side?


  1. Ghost Rider November 7, 2007 6:35 pm 

    I get that ALL the time…people trying to justify why they drive everywhere instead of riding a bike.

    If they only expended the effort to actually ride instead of hem and haw, they’d be riding to work already!!!

    I don’t know if there is a single reason holding folks back…loss of perceived “flexibility” of not having a car at his/her disposal, the perception of danger, generating body odors, or whatever else…

  2. RL Policar November 7, 2007 8:08 pm 

    I used to get teased all the time about wearing tights…even though I never did…But people know that riding a bike to work is better than driving a car. They justify driving by coming up with excuses not to do so.

    It’s like you going on a diet, you lose weight and your fat co-workers see you eating well. Then they ask you about your diet, how its going and that’s when they start talking about how they can’t stop eating meat, or how they can’t give up their favorite fast food and etc…

  3. Joe November 7, 2007 8:12 pm 

    I get all of those same comments as well, and some of them are even more..shall we say “salty”.

    Mostly what I get is “screw that it’s cold outside” or “screw that it’s too foggy”, or too hot or cold or far or or or.

    However I was noticing a few people who were in the “no way” category, have begun to question me about it a bit more seriously with the advent of $3.20 a gallon gas.

  4. Dan November 8, 2007 4:17 am 

    I hear more comments when I don’t ride.

    Why aren’t you riding today? Too cold? Too windy? Too hot? etc.

    It’s like I have a reputation to uphold.

    I usually answer “I wish I were. It’s a beautiful day!”

  5. Bruce November 8, 2007 6:27 am 


    First, thanks for the interesting web site. I started commuting years ago, and then learned about all the information, support, and other riders who do the same.

    The most interesting side light for me has been all the comments about how the whole cycling commutity is percieved by those who don’t ride.
    Examples: Why don’t you stop at stop signs? Why don’t you use lights and reflectors? Why do you wear dark cloths? How can you get to work without riding on the road? Why do you ride on left, into traffic? And the interesting thing seems to be what am I doing to fix all the incorrectness of the bunch!

    Work hard,

  6. Robin November 8, 2007 7:38 am 

    I hear all the questions and excuses too, I think it’s a fun debate. I have my work partner convinced that cycling is the way to go, now his only excuse is laziness (he used to race, he should be a lot stronger than I am!) Our job is setting up a fitness program which I didn’t sign up for since I ride at least 8 miles every work day.

    I do get one girl warning me, every night, with genuine concern: “Be careful riding home, there’s crazy people out there!”

  7. Noah November 8, 2007 8:20 am 

    There’s a guy who asks me “did you ride in today?” whenever it’s not sunny and 70 degrees outside. — Plainly ignoring the panniers and helmet hanging on my cube wall. Now, when it’s inclement, I beat him to the punch. “Oh my goodness! You actually DROVE in this?! BRAVE man! I’d bet Interstate 35 was a mess! How do you do it?!”

    Then there’s the “What about when ____ ?” crowd. What about when it rains? I get wet. What about when it’s below freezing? I put more clothes on. What about when the heat index is 108 degrees? I drink lots of water and stop for shade when I need to. What about when it gets dark in the morning? I use really bright lights.

    And then, there are the ones who feel the need to justify their driving. They have bikes, but they periodically justify their car-dependent lifestyle, as if I really care how they get to work.

    The ones that get me are the hybrid drivers. Somehow, a Prius is more efficient and environmentally friendly than a bicycle. Never mind the strip-mining for the raw materials to make those batteries. Never mind the fact that it still burns fuel. No, hybrid drivers know for fact that they are indeed the pinnacle of the human race when it comes to saving the world. My mere existence on this planet is only possible through the grace of hybrid drivers who have kept the planet from collapsing upon itself.

  8. Jon November 8, 2007 9:53 am 

    “Well, you’re fit, so it’s easy for you.”

    News Flash: I’m fit because I ride. I don’t ride because I’m fit!

  9. Jeff November 8, 2007 9:58 am 

    Noah, that is great what you said about the hybrid drivers! It bugs me so much that all the hipsters who buy all the “green fashion” and claim they are “green” because they buy this and that…it is completely counter-intuitive to true environmental sustainability. Being “green” means buying less and using less, not buying more to help you use less. If you look at buying a used Prius, chances are it has more miles on it than a normal all-gas auto manufactured in the same year – people think that since they are using less gas they can drive more…AH!

  10. Quinn November 8, 2007 10:02 am 

    I normally get the “what if…..” questions, and “That’s crazy!, my favorite is the “That’s crazy!”, My answer to them is, “what’s crazier?…staying fit or or paying $3/gal?” they normally shut up and walk away.
    I tell them about my Spina bifida, and they shrink and walk away.

  11. Val November 8, 2007 10:27 am 

    I think that most of the excuses are intended to cover up the fact that the real reason most people don’t ride is sheer laziness. Actually using your own muscles and putting out effort to go from one place to another is something that poor people or people who can not get cars have to do. If you have a good job, and earn enough, and live in a developed country, you should not have to exert yourself, or so it is thought. I know that this is a very prevalent attitude in China right now, and it is causing a lot of problems.
    When I had a shop, one of the titles on my business cards was “Enabler”. I considered it my j0b to eliminate all the obstacles people could think up, and leave them no excuses for not riding. “Too cold? Read these tips on how bike commuters dress in Minnesota in the winter.” “Too far? Try putting the bike on the bus for half the distance.” “Too much stuff to carry? We have panniers and cargo bikes that can haul more than most cars.” “Hills too steep? We can retrofit your drivetrain so that you can climb a wall.” It actually worked, a lot of the time.
    As for my co workers, most of them regard my truck (yep, and actual motor vehicle) as a mythical creature; some people have worked here until they have quit or been fired, without ever seeing it.

  12. Gabriel November 8, 2007 10:47 am 

    I get all of those crazy questions, too.

    I always make sure, when talking to others about my daily bike commute, to mention that although I am proud that it’s good for the environment and my body, the primary thing that gets me strapping on the panniers every morning is that cycling to work is *much more fun than driving*.

  13. Ghost Rider November 8, 2007 11:32 am 

    Val, that’s the perfect title for you: “enabler”!! Ha ha!

    Excellent points about hybrid cars, everyone. Folks often forget that a hybrid has to be driven a certain way in order to get the maximum benefit out of the technology, and I am convinced that most of the hybrid owners out there are blissfully unaware of such. Besides that, the mileage claims are really not that impressive — especially when you consider that an estimate of a bike commuter’s MPG is somewhere around 195 (or so I was told by a local bicycle advocate at last week’s Bicycle Bash)!!

    Gabriel, that is the ULTIMATE statement — despite the assorted issues with using a bike to commute, it is WAY more fun to ride than to sit in a sweltering, polluting tin box. Ugh.

  14. Noah November 8, 2007 11:35 am 

    Indeed. Have Fun, Live Healthy, Save some green. The kind that goes in my wallet.

    I also make a point to let people know that it’s very little to do with the environment when I ride to work.

  15. Moe November 8, 2007 1:45 pm 

    “I would ride my bike, but my butt hurts” So my answers is: “It must be because of the pounding you get at the gas pump”

  16. Mike Myers November 8, 2007 4:36 pm 

    I don’t ride to work nearly as much as I have in the past. As many of you know, I was hit by a truck in April. Physically, I’m fine. But sometimes the fear of that stretch of road gets to me and I can’t make myself take the ride. I’ve sought alternate routes, but the only other route I can find involves me crossing a 60mph divided 4 lane at 7:30AM and that puckers my butthole, too. Fear is a mother, guys.

  17. Ghost Rider November 8, 2007 5:06 pm 

    That is a bummer…which 4 lane do you have to cross, Mike?

    Finding an alternate route isn’t always the ideal option, as you have discovered. Sometimes, there IS no alternate!

    Good luck and I hope you can conquer your fears.

  18. Mike Myers November 8, 2007 6:37 pm 

    GR—I got hit on Hwy 486, which is a 2 lane with a 50mph limit. The 4 lane I have to cross is SR 44 in Lecanto, which is a 60mph Mfer. So I just have to suck it up, I guess. It’s no fun worrying if the next vehicle to pass will run me over….

  19. Crazy Commuting Cyclist November 9, 2007 11:09 am 

    I have been commuting on my bike for about 4 months and in that time I get some comments about it. Some of them are similar to the ones you got on distance and general weather conditions you ride through. I have been lucky and not had any negative comments like the fact I maybe daft in the head for biking to work. However, I do not get very many comments about why they do not choose to bike to work. The comments of that nature I do get, I do not see as statements justifying any underlying guilt they may have played on the environment. If I did believe that, I would only be projecting my beliefs on comments where it was not warranted. I know that what I believe as far as the environment goes is not what everyone else believes.

    When someone brings up the fact that it maybe too far or they do not have the right equipment to ride, I view this as an opportunity to dispel the mesquite of commuting by t cycling. I explain that most of my equipment and clothing was bought over time and usually for other activities that did not relate, or so I thought, to commuting by cycling. The cloths that I use now to keep warm are inexpensive items found at Wal-Mart, Kmart or Target. The only items I have, like the Columbia coat I use, was gifted to me from my parents. The cycling shorts I ware were kind of pricy but they were not the most expensive that was out there. I tell them that taking a practical approach to your clothing, your cycle will help keep your expenses down.

    Now distance is a hard obstacle to over come do to the fact that most people do not have a real understanding of it. When you describe a mile you can describe it in feet, which 5000 sounds like a lot. Another way is how much time laps as you pass by each mile. Again this is another concept that relies on a common perception of how times passes to them. A minute to you may feel like an hour to them. Let’s not forget, they see you as if you’re in Superman shape and they relate more towards the Mr. Potato Head’s girth and endurance. If the person is interest but still is wavering to trying commuting by bike then suggest a dry run on a weekend day. This way they do not have to guess how long it will take them to get to work and they do not feel the pressure of making it in on time. If you like the person you can even suggest that you could ride along on that maiden voyage to guide them on the right path. Again, making a connection that could lead to a good friendship.

    So the next time you get the “round of questions,? remember that this could be an opportunity to bring someone in to the cycling community. At least you have gained a friend.

  20. Ghost Rider November 9, 2007 11:29 am 

    Great points — it’s always worthwhile to try to turn someone on to the virtues of bike commuting…such as encouraging them to try a dry run, like you mentioned, or to produce some good route maps for them.

    I’ve noticed that a couple of my coworkers are slowly coming around…they have a wistful look in their eyes as they ask me questions about my ride and my bicycles. Maybe one day soon a few of them will pull the trigger and try it for themselves!

  21. Spilner November 9, 2007 12:55 pm 

    I often get asked, “what do you do when it gets cold” my answer is “I wear a coat.” Then the inevitable question “what do you do when it rains?” the obvious answer “I wear a RAIN coat.” When did people become so afraid of the elements? My ride is short, about a mile a day, and yet my co-workers are still surprised that I do it in January when its cold out. Get a grip! They spend more time complaining about the lack of parking then I do getting to work.

  22. Dominic Dougherty November 9, 2007 3:31 pm 

    Just getting of work one evening, I stopped by a local coffee shop. While I was still wearing my helmet, the man behind me in line asked if I ride my bike everywhere (I do). He asked if I ride to work everyday (I do). He said, “I wish I could ride my bike to work…”. I cut him of and launched into a dissertation that everyone can ride their bike to work, that everywhere not across the ocean is biking distance, yadda yadda… He responded, “I wish I could ride my bike to work… but I don’t have a job.”

    I ordered my coffee to go.

  23. Excuses « Car Free Days November 10, 2007 12:05 pm 

    […] friends at Bikecommuters  recently hosted a great conversation about the excuses people make for not bike commuting. Lots […]

  24. Marge November 11, 2007 4:51 pm 

    the worst for me is when people tell me how much they use to bicycle, with that dreamy smile on their faces, thinking about all the good times in the past. When I ask, “well why did you stop?” most of them don’t know. so I gently suggest that they start again.

  25. Charlotte Watson March 24, 2008 6:30 pm 

    Hey guys.
    I new to cycling and have just bought a 1970’s schwinn Free Spirit touring bike and will be riding my bike in excruciating heat this summer commuting to work and back (about 3+ miles each way)

    What advice could you give to a new cyclist? I’ve been riding almost everyday and am still having a hard time keeping up.

  26. Emily April 7, 2008 1:04 pm 

    I would love to bike to work. I have been talking with people at work about it for a while. Trouble is, I just can’t find a safe route. I would love to sit down with someone in our planning board to have a conversation on why we have so few sidewalks in our area.

  27. Ghost Rider April 7, 2008 1:40 pm 

    Emily, there’s the first problem…the sidewalks. It’s just not safe on the sidewalks — you’re much better off mixing it up with vehicles on the road surface.

    If you add roads to the equation, does that open up any safe possibilities?

  28. Moe April 7, 2008 1:50 pm 

    I recommend that you map and check out some of the parallel streets that will take you to your destination. Then, drive them and see if you believe that they are safe. Sometimes the safest route is not the shortest route.

  29. Alex May 1, 2008 12:55 pm 

    I ride my bike to work everyday and my co-workers are very supportive. I have even inspired some of them to dust off their old bikes and start riding again for recreation.

    One of my co-worker even borrows my bike for his lunch break and rides it around the block a few times. He is going to buy his own bike soon.

    I live in the Silicon Valley which is a very bike friendly community. Maybe that’s the reason why I get no negative responses from my co-workers, friends or family.

  30. JamieLB July 4, 2008 3:50 pm 

    I am cycling 30 miles roundtrip a day. I recently was left a notice with the company code for attire and where I can place a bike. Apparently, regardless of the change of clothes that would occur at work into proper work attire, someone was offended by me showing up in my biking gear/exercise attire upon arriving at the office. I cycle because of a heart condition that I have and it prevents me from having to have open heart surgery too early in life. Apparently some of my co-workers do not have an understanding or an appreciation for what I am attempting to accomplish personally, which is to basically stay alive. I think that is a good reason to do it. So I was turned into HR with the complaint of coming into the office in biking attire and it was left to HR’s interpretation that I was just sitting around in inappropriate attire all day. I had to go through a bunch of bureaucratic hurdles to get it straightened out. I am currently doing everything possible to ensure that this world is as invisible as it can be from my co-workers so as to keep from walking on egg shells for those who tend to be cyclist antagonistic. Anybody else ever had this problem?

  31. Moe July 4, 2008 6:04 pm 

    Interestingly, I had the same issue with one of my co-workers. She complained that I was not in time because I ride to work (it does take me 5 minutes to change clothes). I went to HR and I said that I felt that I was being singled out and since 50 percent of my coworkers that drive were arriving later than me. HR issued an apology and they haven’t given me any crap since then.

  32. Lorrin November 5, 2008 12:52 pm 

    I saw one of your posts that mentioned bike co-ops- is there one in Phoenix, AZ or any of its suburbs. I am in need of help keeping my used bike going given that is not meant to be doing 40- 90 miles / week and is showing the wear.

  33. Jeff the Veloteer November 5, 2008 12:56 pm 

    Yeah there is actually one in Tempe called the Bicycle Saviours. You can find their location at http://www.bikesaviours.org. It’s a decently run program. They are really only open on Sundays from noon to 6 i think…but they have just about any tool you might need.

    be prepared to see a lot of the fixie hipsters though…happy wrenching!

  34. Thomas Bailey July 8, 2009 4:45 am 

    Only two things will keep me off my bike: theft and malfunction, whether a flat tire, bent or broken wheels, or a broken pedal. I have experienced both many times.

  35. Sue Maiolo September 10, 2012 4:40 am 

    I have been taking the bus, I leave at 6 am, take 2 buses and get to work at 830am. I work 10 miles from home!! We bought mountain bikes yesterday and I was thinking…. Wouldn’t it be faster if I just bikes to work? Now after reading this I have my answer .
    I am going to start tomm., keep you updated on any comments, thanks for all the great feedback :-)

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