Just Ask Jack — Deflecting the Naysayers?

Here’s an interesting question…and one I’m pretty well stumped on. Readers, we need your help with this one! If you’ve had experiences like those mentioned in the article, please leave your comments so we can help Karen out.

Karen submitted the following question:

“My husband and I live in Northern Arizona where it is quite expense to live even a modest middle class lifestyle but having no kiddos we just squeeze by. With the price of gas though, we looked for ways to cut back and since we live less than 5 miles from our work, we decided to sell one of our cars and buy bikes. We’ve been at it for over a month and probably bike in 3 – 4 days per week. It has really reduced our time at the pump since we also geared up with panniers and saddlebags. We make brief stops at the grocers from time to time rather than haul the car out of the garage. Since we also run the biking has been great cross-training.

Although we know several people at our work who also bike in we also get some remarks from a few people who seem to subtly suggest that we are trying to make a political statement or trying to look ‘hip’ or ‘holier than thou’. Yes, I am a liberal but I am also a hair and makeup girl and getting to work slightly messed up has been a mental barrier I had to overcame solely because I can’t stomach or afford $4+ a gallon – we have a mortgage to pay.

Do you ever get this?? If so, how do you handle it? Some of this comes from people who are a little higher in rank at work than us. I am a little tired of it but don’t feel like poor mouthing when so many other people are in far worse shape than us.”

We’re all pretty aware of how hot it is to be “green”…everywhere you turn, there’s some celebrity spouting off about how they’re making a difference. While that’s great — people coming around and realizing that living a more eco-friendly lifestyle makes sense — the incessant media attention on “outgreensmanship” gets kind of tiresome. On the whole, the bike commuters we’ve had the pleasure of riding with and communicating with through Bikecommuters.com are not evangelical about their choice of transportation. We just do it because, for the most part, we love to ride bikes! And, of course, we’re getting exercise, reducing our carbon footprints and saving money.

So, my first “gut reaction” response to Karen was that negative comments like this arise from jealousy. While I’ve never personally been accused of being “holier than thou” (well, at least about bike commuting 😉 ), I’ve perceived a fair bit of jealousy in comments from coworkers, neighbors and friends. It’s something we’ve talked about around here for a long time — the folks who “would try to commute by bike, but…”

As far as the higher-ups with negative or snide attitudes, I sense that there’s a bit of territoriality at play here. After all, they’re the supervisors or senior staff members…THEY should be the ones with the brilliant ideas and the smart solutions — not some slightly-rumpled junior partner (who, by the way, is looking mighty fit and healthy these days)!

So, I’ve thrown out a couple of ideas as to where these comments come from, but I’m sure there are more. As far as solutions go, I try to stick to a fairly modest tactic my wife uses at work: “Why do I bike commute? Well, I can’t really think of anyone who couldn’t use some more exercise…and I’m saving money, too.” It’s better to deflect gently rather than to get hot under the collar (something I am NOT good at doing). Gentle deflections beat evangelicalism any day!

Now it’s your turn: have you faced these kinds of comments? What is up with that kind of attitude? And, what do you do to deflect the naysayers? Please leave your comments below.

Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.

About the author

Bicycle commuter since 1989, bicycle enthusiast for 30+ years. I am a Bookmobile/Books By Mail librarian at a large library system and the proud father of two wonderful boys.