City Desk

Gear Prudence: Why Won’t Other Riders Greet Me?


Gear Prudence: How come bicyclists on the Metropolitan Branch Trail are so fickle about saying hi to each other when we pass? I pass the same sourpusses nearly every day and say hi, but either get ignored or a blank distant cold stare in return. Isn’t there some code (not just human decency) that bicyclists should be nice to each other? I’ll keep saying hi, but it’d be nice if someone (anyone, really) said hi back. —Seeking Another Yappy Human Interaction

Dear SAY HI: In search of fleeting connection, you launch hellos into the void, but they thud unrequited. While there’s no special bicyclist niceness social contract, one should always meet a greeting with a response, irrespective of mode of travel and regardless of one’s natural predisposition toward taciturnity. That said, for many people cycling is the one chance during the day for uninterrupted solitude, which is why they might be lost in a deep reverie, pedaling along unaware of your perception of their rudeness. Others might be stunned into muteness by the garlicky breath wafting from your aspirated salutation. Before setting off, consider a breath mint.

Perhaps it’s time to pull back and try some nonverbal communication. You could wear a T-shirt that reads “Say hi and I’ll give you $5.” Bike commuters love bribery! Or, as you ride by, hold up a giant crossword puzzle in which 17 across is “______ Kitty” and subsequently shrug helplessly. Stoically nod. Go for a totally noncreepy exaggerated wink. (Or don’t.) A jaunty wave is always nice. If you earn some reciprocation via one of these methods, try hi again and see whether your nods, winks, and waves have successfully broken the ice. It might take years to build up to it. Wear the exact same outfit every day to ensure your fellow travelers know it’s you and not some other friendly stranger. Consistency is key. Do not waver.

Once you’ve nailed the simple hello, there’s no limit to where you can take the niceties. Kick your salutation game up a notch with an awesomely complicated rolling high-five maneuver. And after you crash into each other, thanks to your habitual, if shallow, friendliness, there will be no hard feelings. As you extricate your entangled limbs and pick up your hopefully not too damaged crashed bicycles, you can move well beyond the pleasantries and discuss your mutual love of bike riding and how the ride-by high-five was a misguided idea you should never try again. —GP

Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who blogs at and tweets at @sharrowsdc. Got a question about bicycling? Email

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  • Corky

    A cyclists learns what auto drivers in DC already know: Most cyclists are JERKS!!! They have no social skills or any regard for anyone else.

  • Mario

    Why are cyclists supposed to greet each other? It's completely absurd. Pedestrians and motorists aren't expected to greet each other, and the vast majority never do. Just another case where cyclists are faulted for doing exactly what everyone else does, but because we're on some
    "exotic" mode of transportation different social norms apparently apply to us...bullshit. For the vast majority of us bike commuters, we're simply going to work. We're not making a social statement or trying to start a revolution, or even a conversation. It's just transportation, folks, plain and simple.
    And I'll take a jerk cyclist over a jerk motorist every time. A jerk motorist could kill you--and easily get away with it--with a slight pull of the wheel. But by all means, lets continue the myth that bikes are the real danger and nuisance.

  • Subby

    I love when folks say good morning to me when I am on the bike. I am already in such a good mood that it just kicks things up a notch.

  • zzonkerr

    Hi Corky!

    I'm going to assume you're not a regular cyclist - forgive me if that's not the case. I -am- a regular rider, and I'm starting an effort to say "hi" to everyone I can EXCEPT cyclists. As an experiment, if you will.

    So, hi Corky!

  • Ampersand

    I think it's just that many people are in zombie-mode on their commute, which isn't related to biking. Trying to say hi to the person you're crammed up against on the Metro, or idling next to you in the 395 traffic jam, would probably be met with equally dead-eyed disapprobation. I begrudge nobody their commuting surliness. Keep doing what you're doing, though! I don't commute on the MBT, but if we somehow cross paths I will (probably) be glad to reciprocate the greeting, anonymous stranger!

  • MLD

    In the first few weeks/months of Capital Bikeshare, people were really excited to see other people on bikeshare bikes. Lots of waving and hellos between riders. It was pretty fun!

  • Wilbur and Orville

    Mario is certainly a typical, self absorbed, bike riding twit.
    Pedestrians with social skills do greet each other but it is unlikely in neanderthal Marioland.

    Oh, and motorists pay gas taxes to offset their costs to the community at large. We need to come up with some commensurate fee to get bikers attention, also for parking tickets. Let's see how their superiority holds up when they pay a fair share.
    Free bike lanes, free parking, free bus and train rides...all should be attached to biker only fees.

  • Adam

    Ha, well if you want, I'm the guy on the red Specialized with a really dorky yellow reflective vest reverse commuting between R and Monroe. Give me a wave, some guy tried to give me a high five and I nearly ate it.

    I am secretly hoping this happens to me though: