In Mixed Company
Late one night I received an urgent "help!" text from a friend who had met a man she liked in a bar. The fellow, who'd arrived by car, invited her to Go Home with him. She had arrived by bicycle, and, while ever so keen to see his stamp collection, did not want to leave her bike locked up in a shady neighbourhood overnight. Not to mention she'd need it to travel to work in the morning. In an innuendo-filled, tween-worthy texting fury we debated whether her date's car was spacious enough to fit her hefty 3-speed. But ultimately, she decided that even broaching that subject would Kill the Mood - after all, she'd just met the man! So she opted to go home alone instead, feigning maidenly ambivalence toward his stamps. "Need folding bike to get laid, goddamn it!" was her sad parting text to me that night.
In places where transportation cycling is not the wholly unremarkable norm, it is a distinct culture - or, more accurately, a subculture. And it tends to be rather insular. If you get around by bicycle in such an area, it is likely that many of your friends do, too. Perhaps it did not start out that way. Perhaps, much like myself, in the beginning you were a Lone Rider - an anomaly (okay, so maybe the word used was "weirdo") among your social circle. But funny enough, the longer you ride a bicycle the more you notice that social circle shifting toward others who do as well. Whether you connect through bike shops, meet-ups, clubs, blogs, or pure chance, the kindred spirits of cyclists have a way of finding one another. Until one day, you look around and realise just how many of your social connections are of the two-wheeled persuasion.
Oftentimes this awareness only sinks in once you find yourself in Mixed Company and realise the awkwardness of the logistics that presents. You remember that drivers have a different mentality when it comes to choosing meeting spots, traveling from one place to another, gauging distances and times, dressing for the weather, etc. Say, you're joining friends on a night out. If you arrive by bicycle and they by car, what happens should the group decide to move on to a different location and the distance/route is not bike-friendly? Naturally, you'll be offered a lift in one of the motor vehicles, and at the end of the night they'll be happy to drop you off where you left your bike. But being driven around might not be your idea of a good time. Not to mention the control you'll be giving up once you're separated from your own vehicle.
My friend's one night stand "fail" is another example of problematic logistics. And what of mixed relationships? How do you go grocery shopping, to the cinema, and on picnics together if one of you cycles and the other does not? If, as a committed transportation cyclist, you were to meet a person who was wonderful in all respects except that they didn't cycle, would one of you convert the other to their respective lifestyle? Would you meet somewhere in the middle? Would it not matter one bit? Or would a relationship be out of the question?
I know a woman, who was a committed transportation cyclist for years and a well known bicycling activist in her city. She fell in love with a man who had a physical condition that prevented him from ever riding a bike. She chose him over her bike-centric lifestyle and, some years down the road, she is happy. Bicycles, after all, are not everything.
What portion of your friends cycle for transportation? And do you find it easy or challenging to meet up - and maintain relationships - with those who don't?