Essentials for bike commuting II: Not what you’re expecting

This series is about the mental attitudes that will help you with your bike commuting.

Friendliness. Smiling at drivers and making eye contact makes a big difference when you’re between them and their destination (see above).

Whenever you make eye contact you’re making the point that we’re all in this together. You’re another human being, not a speed bump to be run over.

This is also one of the great joys of bike commuting. I smile at people as I pass them and they smile back. I’ve given directions to I don’t know how many bewildered drivers trying to sort out Spokane’s downtown one-way streets. After all, I’m accessible because I’m on a bike. They can’t stop another driver to get help.

I try to think of myself as an ambassador for bike commuters. My job is to make friends, not enemies.

Openness to new things. This is a biggie. What will it take for you to change your mindset?

We all have our excuses about why we can’t change. I get to hear a lot of those from people overcome by pangs of guilt when I come into a meeting with my helmet and panniers.

You’re just used to driving. You have a habit. Habits can be changed.

Once upon a time our mothers all cooked with Crisco, right? Now you know about trans-fats and other scary things and you use canola or olive oil. You may not even be frying things any more. And it turned out that grilled food tastes pretty good, doesn’t it? You can actually taste the food, not the thick greasy coating.

New things. Try ‘em, you’ll like ‘em.


  1. You had me with the bike smiling. You lost me with the Crisco. Is your argument that car drivers should get bikes?

  2. Ari, it's not that ALL drivers should get bikes. But there are a lot of built-up assumptions about convenience and hassle that are based purely on habits.

    Once upon I drove everywhere. When I tried biking it became not only mind-expanding, but life-changing for the better. I'm healthier because of it.

    Similarly, people who think the best foods are the ones cooked the way Mama used to make it might get a taste bud surprise if they tried something new.

    It takes time. I read somewhere that kids need to be exposed to be a new flavor no less than 14 times before they really know how they feel about it (their taste buds fire much stronger signals--the signals get weaker as we age). Switching from deep-fried to grilled isn't necessarily going to create a "wow" experience the first time, but over time taste buds adapt. I've drunk skim milk for many years and anything more tastes like whole cream to me even though I was raised on 2%.

    New habits are supposed to take 21 repetitions to take hold (although I'm still not flossing consistently). So you can't bike once and give up. That's why you'll see persistence in the final post in this series.



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