Not Asking for It

The other day I was biking to work when this happened:

Dress

I wouldn’t think anything of it if it happened once. But I’ve noticed my attire seems to prompt certain responses in other road users.

Dress

How do I know it’s not just an off day? Because I have the ability to change clothes.

Some days I’m this cyclist:

Dress

And later that same evening I might be this cyclist:

Dress

I’m called out on my appearance daily as I go about my business on public streets without the cover of a car.

Dress

Even “ordinary” attire has drawbacks.

Dress

It’s no surprise that most days I find myself dressing to get the reaction I want when I bike. Or at least the most benign reaction.

Dress

But no matter what I’m wearing it’s still just me: complex, multi-dimensional, and in awesome shape.

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83 Responses to “Not Asking for It”

  • C S

    In frame one, when I’m doing that, it’s usually “Oh crap, if I stay behind her she’ll think I’m staring at her.” (Though my tires are *usually* full of air…)

    • Mark

      I drafted a young woman for about 10 km a few weeks ago and worry a bit that that’s what she thought. But see, that presumes that she doesn’t know about drafting, entirely on the basis of the kind of bike she was riding…

    • PL

      LOL. …or drafting.

    • D.

      That’s so true! Is there any etiquette guidance for what to do in that situation???

      If you stay behind the woman, she might think you are ogling her firm cyclist muscles, but if you try to overtake (and, worse, end up just sitting in front of her!) you look like a total d**k.

      I find myself “suddenly thinking there’s an odd noise from my drivetrain so I’d better stop and check it, right now” ™ to avoid the whole situation.

      Bikeyface – you’re a woman – what would you advise?

    • Sarafrass

      I’m a woman who cycles daily. I have never once been concerned that a guy riding behind me was ogling me. I have however been incredibly annoyed when I have passed a guy cycling slower than me, only to have him get in front of me at a light or something, and force me to pass him again, because I am going faster than he is. I don’t know if it’s ego or obtuseness, but it is annoying. Point being, pass her if you are actually riding faster than she is, otherwise, just ride behind her (at a reasonable distance).

    • C S

      “I have however been incredibly annoyed when I have passed a guy cycling slower than me, only to have him get in front of me at a light or something, and force me to pass him again, because I am going faster than he is.”

      That particular annoyance is not restricted to any gender-related factor as near as I can tell.

    • John

      Mark – drafting without notice or permission is a terrible idea. You’re assuming that the person in front of you is going to take responsibility for your safety. If it’s me, I won’t, guaranteed. I’m gonna take you through potholes. You’re also endangering them in the city. If someone pulls out and they have to brake hard, you are going to slam into them and you’re both going down while you both slam into the car. That is why I’m gonna take you through potholes.

      Quit it. Seriously.

    • David Huntsman

      I’ve tried to find reasons to get dramatically upset that a stranger is drafting me, in the way John is so perturbed by Mark, but I just can’t. Is there really some place in North America where there are so many of us cyclists that you’d disdain the companionship? And deliberately run what may be an excited novice rider, who doesn’t know your proximity issues, into a pothole? You couldn’t just wave him up next to you and let him know the hazards, and your concerns?

    • C S

      Doesn’t it make the ride harder for the person in front when you draft them? The aerodynamics of the arrangement effectively mean that you’re transferring their energy to your ride… seems like a rude thing to do to a stranger for very long.

    • Alex Pline

      Aerodynamically, it actually makes it easier for the lead rider when someone behind is drafting by reducing the turbulence behind that first rider, thus reducing profile drag.

    • Daniel

      It’s not the loss of gain of aerodynamic drag. It’s having some unannounced on your wheel, someone you don’t know you can trust. It’s true that the person whose front touches the rear wheel of the person in front will go down hard. But someone who is willing to draft on the wheel of someone he or she doesn’t know is likely capable of doing other really dumb things.

    • C S

      That’s what I get for learning my racing facts from “Days of Thunder”.

    • ridonrides

      I hope mark just means following at a one bicycle length distance and not literally drafting. I don’t expect the person in front of me to point out obstructions in the road. I wasn’t even aware it was a thing until I rode with someone who does racing/cyclocross. It was kind of nice, but not really necessary as I wasn’t following that closely.

  • John Pavelich

    Nice post. Very observant about how one dresses invokes different reactions.

  • Island Dave

    Excellent observations.

  • Alex Pline

    To paraphrase Joe Berkeley from ten years ago: you need a shirt that says “Ex ‘husband’ got car” ;-)

  • I notice this phenomenon too, but another observation is the quality of the bike, and the fit of the rider to the bike. It’s almost a perfect correlation between how poorly fit the rider is to the bike, or the condition of the bike (inadequate tire pressure, wobbly wheels, rusty squeaky chain, saddle too low or too high), and how poorly the cyclist is following the rules of the road (and cycling etiquette). When I see a cyclist riding a bike in good condition with a good fit, they’re almost always confident and following the rules.

    As a male cyclist, I don’t really notice much difference with how drivers treat me regardless if I’m wearing my work clothes, my cycling clothes (for long rides), or my everyday clothes.

    I DO notice that drivers are most respectful and courteous to me and other cyclists the MOST when hand signals, lights, and reflective gear are used appropriately.

  • That’s typical doesn’t matter what you wear you always get someone trying either trying torun you over or strange looks.A thick skin is needed.

  • Wendy

    People hate following me because a) I’m slow and b) I have lights on the back bright enough to create an emergency landing strip…

  • I am given extra space when I wear my orange construction vest. It’s super huge and will fit over a full backpack.

    -Justin

  • Jaime

    Regardless of what you are wearing and if you are walking or biking, you don’t have to take the street harassment.

  • Una Nelson-White

    Love it. You got me and so many other women bikers and the motorists response to how we dress. One you missed was dressed for interview (Power Suit) and showing up for interview on bike. I always love the “O’ My God”, you came on your bike response of interviewers. It is priceless.

  • Sara

    Love the first picture, mirrors my experience exactly.
    I live in a VERY hilly city in the UK. Though I look like an avarage 41 year old Mum on a bike, I have been riding those hills for 15 years and beneath the flowery skirt I have thighs of steel (and I also have lungs as big as a cow).

    I’ve seen many “sportmen” in the full lycra get up wonder why they’re finding it so hard to pass me!

  • Sara

    As a daily commuter and a regular cyclist, it’s humorous to see how much this mirrors my experience as well! I just had someone at work yesterday whispering in hushed tones about how I rode my bike to work in a dress. But there’s always the regular (when the weather is bad, when I’m bringing food for the potluck, when I have to carry a display) question at work, “Did you ride your bike ‘today’?!” The answer is always “YEP!”

  • EP

    love this! people always ask me “you rode to work in that dress?” as if there is something that doesn’t compute. I don’t know what doesn’t compute, except that I can’t ride in a super long flowy dress or a super tight miniskirt. Otherwise, how is it different than riding a groty bus, walking, or otherwise transporting your body from Point A to Point B? I can’t decide if people are horrified (in which case I don’t care) or intrigued (like, they want to bike too, but didn’t think they could in regular office clothes) in which case I try to encourage them :) Oh, and not almost getting killed and having to ride in traffic really is the barrier, not the BIKE. As soon as we have adequate, safe bike infra where you don’t have to “Keep up with cars” – I can visualize lots more people getting over the clothes and getting on bikes to work.

  • Jabe

    I totally get this post. I ride a road bike that looks a lot like a cruiser – mixte frame, upright handlebars. And I don’t really don the sausage skins unless I am riding 30 miles or more. I can’t believe how patronizing drivers and other bikers are. Bikers can be the worst. They don’t realize that that race inspired crap that they are riding and wearing doesn’t make sense in the context of commuting, going to the grocery store, or being comfortable when recreational riding. I’ve been cycling 40 years and I don’t need ignorant condescension. Thanks for the cartoon. Its awesome

  • Susan Lee

    I love the helmet! All though, Yakkay has wonderful helmets and very urbanized!!

    • Una Nelson-White

      I have a wonderful helmet cover from Rocki Noggins. https://rockinoggins.com. I have not removed it from my helmet, since I got it. I get tons of complements and where did you get that’s on it.

  • bex

    OMG frame one happens to me all the time…. unfit dudes on rough downhill bikes as well as the superfit spandies! but what they don’t realize is that most of the time I’m only riding at about 35-40% capacity, so I let them get real close or abreast of me and then I turn on the steam, leave those jokers in my dust :) lol
    feels pretty good to see the expression of dismay when they realize that they not only won’t pass me, but probably won’t even SEE me again! <3 your comics, keep it up! xo

  • William D. Volk

    You know, I take the lane ALL the time. 16 mile daily bike commute. I never get harassed. No honking. No yelling.

    Because drivers won’t harass someone the size of a pro football player.

    They are cowards.

  • Tee

    I always ride in long, flowy hippie dresses with my dog in the front basket. My dresses have more bicycle grease on them than my chain from getting caught in it. I get stares as if I’m a one-person parade, especially at night, when I have coloured LEDs blinking everywhere. I adored this visual of what it’s like to ride to non-cyclists.

    • Rosa

      I love the princess comments. Especially some of the little girls who have to wear long dresses and/or cover their hair for religious reasons – when I ride at morning schoolbus time, i see them pointing me out all the time. I hope they all get bikes, no matter what they end up wearing as adults.

    • Kevin Love

      Tee,

      If your dresses are getting caught in your bike chain, then I recommend a chain case. For one example, see:

      http://www.dutchbikebits.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=43&product_id=140

    • Vocus Dwabe

      “If your dresses are getting caught in your bike chain, then I recommend a chain case.”

      Standard equipment on all decent continental-European standard town bikes: either a half-case or all-round on Dutch bicycles – though the latter option makes mending a rear-tyre puncture rather tiresome, given that the carrier stays, trapeze propstand, backpedal brake lever and mudguard stays are also competing for space on the rear axle, so that you can never quite remember which order they go back in.

      Another much-used refinement is the skirt/overcoat protectors on the rear mudguard, known as “jasbeschermers”: two segments of fabric or thin plastic that clip onto the mudguard edge, or sometimes lengths of light cord laced between holes in the mudguard rim and a little ring on the rear axle. Pretty as well as practical.

  • Karen

    I’d love an easy way to print this for my desk! Any thoughts?

  • I love the synchronicity of this. Why, just yesterday, midday, I was walking in downtown vancouver, and waited for the crosswalk light at pender and main streets….when the little man said “ok to walk” I stepped out into the crosswalk along with several other pedestrians, when much to my surptrise, someone driving their bicycle ( that’s what it is, driving, right, when it’s your mode of transportation? “Riding” would imply a much more passive activity on the part of the bicycle operator) chose to ignore the traffic signal admonishing drivers to stop so that the pedestrians could cross in the crosswalk at their signalled minute, and drive his bicycle into the intersection, brushing by me and nearly knocking me down! If I’d been less startled I might have taken his picture or called a traffic cop but instead I gave a startled “oh” and called him something like a jerk, to which he replied with, rather than an apology, swear words and invective against me. Silly me, I forgot, bicycle drivers, in all their green superiority, are beyond reproach, faultless, it’s all the fault of demon “car drivers” and unmindful invisible pedestrians, when there is an “accident” involving a bicycle. The traffic rules only apply to car drivers. Pedestrians should jump out of the way. Bicycles may be driven on the sidewalk with impunity. If you turn a corner the wrong way on the wrong side of the stree or run a red light while driving your bike, and something bad happens, it’s the car drivers fault and if you knock a pedestrian down, why they should have even watching out more carefully, right?

    • Meiks

      I don’t think that’s what synchronicity means.

    • Sara

      Read and learn about observer bias.

      People who ride bikes are not the mass menace you perceive them to be.

      Read and learn how may people are killed every year by people on bikes, and then compare to how many are killed by people driving cars, then direct your bile where it’s needed.

    • Cait

      @Dorris You are so right. Every single cyclist in the world is a huge, pedestrian-knockin-over, traffic-law-thwarting ahole. Based upon your single experience, I now know that there are zero decent cyclists in the world. People who stay in their cars are the salt of this earth and would never commit such atrocities. Not one single person who has ever driven a car has injured a fellow human or dared to disobey traffic laws. I assume that you yourself have never even broken the speed limit or made a right turn on red. I personally thank you for making the supreme truth of all generalizations known to us.

      It is sad that that one cyclist was a jerk to you on that one day. Don’t take it out on the rest of us.

    • Tim

      Cyclists who recklessly cut through pedestrians crossing are idiots. Pedestrians who judge all cyclists based on one (or even several) instances of this happening are idiots.

      It’s very common for pedestrians to step out in front of my bike without looking first. So are all pedestrians idiots? (clue: no).

    • David

      For what it’s worth, as a cyclist, I’m sorry about the asshole who nearly mowed you down. Sadly people can be ignorant, selfish, inconsiderate assholes regardless of their mode of transport.
      It’s a shame that as cyclists we would like other road users to be more considerate and curtious; yet so many of us are unwilling or unable to show the same levels of consideration and care towards those more vulnerable than us.

    • Yes, there are a lot of dumb cyclist who flaunt traffic laws. There are also a lot of dumb drivers and pedestrians who flaunt traffic laws. Exceptional cases don’t make the rule. I’ve met people like you who were surprised when they saw me obey the rules when I walk on crosswalks or when riding my bike. But they aren’t surprised when drivers follow the rules. Why do you think there is a difference?

    • Vocus Dwabe

      Dorris, I think the point that you are missing here is that while a negligent or inconsiderate cyclist might leave you with a few bruises at worst, a negligent motorist will quite probably kill you, or at the very least put you in hospital for a lengthy spell. Which is why drivers of motor vehicles are required to be tested, licensed and insured while cyclists aren’t.

      The rule in France where I now live – as in all other civilised European countries like the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia – is called “strict liability” and assumes that in the event of a traffic accident the less vulnerable party – car v. cyclist; cyclist v. pedestrian – is automatically at fault unless it can be demonstrated otherwise, the underlying legal principle being that drivers of heavier, faster vehicles have a duty of care towards those road users who are slower and more damage-prone than themselves. It makes French car-drivers quite amazingly considerate of cyclists – but also means that French cyclists are very polite towards people on foot: in fact have even been prosecuted on some occasions for breaking the speed limit in towns.

      Such a system would, of course, be impossible to operate in our liberty-loving English-speaking countries: we far prefer to settle things by a Darwinian free-for-all in which everyone bullies someone else out of the way and all road-users live in a permanent state of bubbling anger with all other road-users.

      Since you’re plainly new to this and live in Canada, I’ll supply you with the UK “Daily Mail’s” standard set of beefs about cyclists:

      – They jump red lights
      – They aren’t insured
      – They don’t have number plates
      – They don’t pay “Road Tax” (in fact abolished in 1936)
      – They don’t have to sit a driving test
      – They impede the flow of vehicles on the carriageway
      – They ride on pavements in order to avoid the carriageway
      – They wear silly-looking plastic hats
      – They don’t wear silly-looking plastic hats
      – They upset me by making much faster progress than myself in city traffic but at only a tiny fraction of the cost – and add insult to injury by being much slimmer and healthier than I am, also enjoying (I uneasily suspect) a much more active sex life.

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