City Desk

Gear Prudence: I Think a Columnist Might Attack Me!


Gear Prudence: I’m pretty sure a local columnist wants to shove a broomstick in my spokes. If he does, what do I do? Not Into Nasty Journalists’ Attacks

Dear NINJA: Don’t panic. I’m sure you’ve just mistaken the helpful, but errant, offer of a broomstick (perhaps to sweep up the hair you’ve ripped out while reading and rereading his column) for some kind of malicious attack. Either way, a broomstick through the spokes is bound to cause you some issues. First, try to remain upright. But if you’re heading for the ground, be sure not to land on the sidewalk! That will just further enrage the columnist and his bike-resenting ilk. Try not to break your fall by extending your hand, either. You might injure your wrist, and then how would you hate-click on article after article about the increasing tension between bicyclists and the world around them? What’s most important is that you take preventative measures and employ ample safety equipment. You might want to don a helmet, but what I really recommend is fashioning some padding to wear under your bike clothes from otherwise-unread newspapers and the needlessly inflammatory anti-bike views therein.—GP

Gear Prudence: I’m tired of yelling “on your left” but feel squeamish about getting a bell for my bike. Just wondering, though: Why do bicycle bells seem kosher in Europe but douche-y in the U.S.? —Rider In Need of Guidance

Dear RING: It’s really a matter of culture. Europe has a long-standing bell appreciation that the U.S. simply lacks. It’s been said that the Pilgrims set sail to escape the incessant bell-ringing of 17th century Holland, preferring to be “on your left” of the Atlantic Ocean, where, though it was somewhat inhospitable, at least it was quiet. I can’t think of a single American campanile that leans, and if we had one that did, we’d probably throw some chains around it, hitch it to a Ford F-150, and right that sucker in the name of Mom and apple pie. Our most famous national bell has a crack in it, for goodness’ sake! If you tire of “on your left” but remain bell-skeptical, try “excuse me.” It’s less ambiguous (whose left? My left? Your left?), and it’s more polite than dinging.—GP

Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who blogs at Got a question about bicycling? Email

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  • 20002ist

    "On your left"? How gauche.

  • bikecommuter

    Technically, aren't bells legally required for bikes in DC?

  • Anon

    Nicely done!

  • Anonymous

    The only time I hit a pedestrian on my bike was when I turned around to look because someone had decided to announce that they were on my left. It's more of a distraction than an assistance. Just go past me.

  • cminus

    "Gauche"? Try sinister.

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  • Crickey7

    Technically (as of Jan. 1), bells are no longer required in DC as long as your voice is capable of being heard 100 feet away. So the cop will pull you over and position himself 100 feet away, then ask you to provide audible proof.
    "Can you hear me?" "No. That'll be a $25 ticket."

  • Will

    More of this column plz.

    I upgraded to a horn, some might say a "clown" horn. It works great! I attribute it's success to people not knowing what the hell is approaching them, and thus they always look. Could it be a deranged clown in a tiny car? Maybe a Juggalo wielding an axe or other edged weapon? Nope, just a dorky bicyclist trying to get around you at slow speed!

  • Typical DC BSc

    Try not riding on the sidewalks and you won't have to worry about hitting pedestrians.

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  • Resident

    Well, drivers don't ride on the sidewalks (most of the time), but they manage to hit plenty of pedestrians. Just a couple days ago, I saw yet another driver trying to beat a yellow light. He failed miserably and sped up through the downtown intersection, right into a group of pedestrians in the crosswalk. He honked his horn at them, and just missed hitting them by a foot or so. I witnessed the incident from the other side of the street.

    Should those pedestrians have been in the crosswalk? Technically, no. But it was later in the evening and the street was completely empty. The driver clearly saw them as he came speeding down the road and then as he sped through the intersection and the red light. Sadly, I see this sort of thing on almost a daily basis. And yet, some columnists (and Internet warriors) seem to think that all cyclists are scofflaws and that every driver obeys every law. Well, that would be news to me, and to every other person who actually bothers to notice what goes on at local intersections and roads.