my team bikes to off-site meetings, and I’m dreading it

A reader writes:

I recently started a job at a nonprofit with a young and fast-moving team of four (myself included). To give you a sense of the dynamic, I am the only woman and the only non-veteran on the team. Our office is downtown in a major city, but it’s kind of inconveniently located — many of the offices of partner orgs/companies are more than 20 minutes walking distance away and totally inconvenient for driving/transit. For these reasons, my colleagues have mentioned that they sometimes take advantage of the city’s bike share program to get to meetings. It hasn’t happened in the two months I’ve been here (the team doesn’t seem to take that many external meetings), but the gents I work with seem really enthused about using the bikes.

This *terrifies* me because:
• I haven’t ridden a bike in over a decade (except once or twice) and I’ve never ridden a bike in a city.
• This would involve riding in the most traffic congested areas and I know several people who have been in biking accidents with drivers in this city.
• The bike share bikes are not at all comfortable for a tiny woman like myself. I’m not a particularly strong/healthy person.
• Biking to a meeting where I need to look professional and be mentally present (to request funding, etc.) seems super counterproductive.

The good news is that I have an excellent relationship with the CEO (who is my direct supervisor) so I do feel comfortable talking to him about this and feel like I need to bring it up preemptively. (We don’t have the kind of office culture where advance warning happens a lot.) But I’m not sure how to bridge the topic without sounding like I’m complaining, something that feels particularly sensitive since some of my coworkers are disabled and still do this. I don’t want to be the overly serious woman who doesn’t participate in things with the team (I love this team), but just the stress of thinking about the bike situation has occupied many hours of my time already.

You are way over-thinking this, I suspect.

Unless I’m misunderstanding the situation, the fact that your coworkers enjoy biking to meetings as a group doesn’t mean that you too will be required to bike. If you are urged to in the future, you can simply say, “No thanks!” No explanation required, but if you’re pressured for one, you can explain any of the following:
• “I’m not comfortable biking in traffic.”
• “Biking just isn’t my thing.”
• “I haven’t ridden a bike in years and don’t want the company to have the liability when I fall straight into a passing car.”
• “I’ve got a back problem and my doctor has limited what exercise I can do.”
• “I prefer to drive/take a cab.”

It’s not going to sound like complaining because you’re going to be cheerful and matter-of-fact about it.

It is highly, highly unlikely that your employer will insist that you bike to meetings, but if you sense things going in that direction, you can invoke the bad back (you probably have one anyway from the tension of all the stressing over this) and that should be that. Seriously — it’s just extremely unlikely that that won’t shut it down.

If you’d be more comfortable dealing with this preemptively so it doesn’t stay on your mind, then sure, raise it with your boss now. But don’t make it a big, fraught thing. Just say something like this: “Hey, I’ve heard from people that they often bike to off-site meetings. What options are there if someone doesn’t bike — is it cool if I drive or take a cab?” (And then if you get any pushback or sad eyebrows or whatever, you can pick from the bulleted list of suggestions above.)

As for you being the overly serious woman who doesn’t participate with things with the team: This is almost certainly not the only opportunity to do things with your team. You can joke around with them, grab the occasional lunch or drink with them, be easy and enjoyable to work with, and otherwise be a pleasant member of the team. Do that stuff and people may rib you about opting out of the biking, but it’s not likely to be an issue beyond that.

Seriously. I’m sending you a cease and desist order on the hours of stress, so cut that out now. This will be fine.

{ 88 comments… read them below }

  1. BritCred

    I see the “sometimes” there in the comment from the colleagues talking about it. Is it worth starting with a “how often does this happen and does everyone do it?”

    It certainly would be a problem for me for several reasons – a lot of exercise outside does me no good and I have the balance of a fish out of water…. So I’d be very much somehow pointing this out before the next time occurs if its an everybody thing.

  2. MoinMoin

    Yeah, I’d also preempt it just in case, but if it’s a issue of time and OP doesn’t mind walking I don’t imagine it’d be too weird to head off to the meeting a few minutes earlier than everyone else to walk instead of bike. Already being out of the office would cut down on any weird exclusionary feelings of everyone going off on a bike leaving you standing there hailing a cab (though it’s worth noting those feelings are still mostly in your head and not a big deal for normal coworkers).
    This is kinda my nightmare though because I don’t know how to ride a bike. There wasn’t really an opportunity to learn as a kid and I don’t know how to go about it (and am a little embarrassed about it) now as an adult. This letter just cements in my head that I really need to bite the bullet sometime soon.

    1. Mixte Feelings

      While I did learn to ride as a kid, I only started riding regularly, as my main form of transportation, in the last few years, and once I got over the fear, it was really, really fun and liberating. I used to volunteer to teach adults to learn to ride and if it’s something you decide you’d like to try, look for a class that uses what I will call the “pedal” method. They remove the pedals and get you comfortable learning to push off and then, eventually, balance for short distances. Once you can do that for a bit, they add the pedals back on. About 95 of people end up being able to ride within the 2-hour class window. You can then practice steering, signaling, etc. in a park, etc until you are more comfortable and learn to control the bike better, go on short, easy rides, and enjoy.

      I did slowly get accustomed and skilled at riding in traffic, but as much as I would love more people to enjoy bikes as a way to get around, until our streets offer protected bike lanes and so forth, it’s completely understandable that even someone who does know how to ride a bike would not want to do it in current conditions.

      I think Allison’s advice here is great and works for similar “team” issues.

      1. Dynamic Beige

        I practically lived on my bike as a kid but I hadn’t been on one in over 20 years when I decided to buy a bike a few years ago. I have to say, it is true, you never really forget how to ride a bike. I wobbled around for a bit in the bike store’s parking lot but within 5 minutes, it had all come back — except all the energy and fitness I had at 10 that is *sigh*

        1. Evan Þ

          +1. I was off a bike from around my tenth birthday till 2012, when I bought one as my go-to transportation for the summer. And, yes, it all came back within a couple minutes!

    2. Anonsie

      I can’t ride a bike, either. I could when I was younger, but I didn’t learn how until I was middle school age because the first bike my parents got me when I was ~5 was stolen and they could not afford to replace it. So I learned as a tween, but I discovered a few years ago that apparently you can forget how to ride a bike, as I tried it again and couldn’t do it.

    3. Tara

      I know how you feel! I did not learn as a kid either, and only picked it up when my friend decided to teach me when I was 25. It’s actually surprisingly easy, basically just don’t stop peddling and its practically impossible to fall over. I was shaky for a little while, and having to move somewhere slowly or through tighter spaces takes more practice (And I would never feel comfortable doing it on the road at the beginning!) but there isn’t much skill involved in doing regular biking. You just need to be not scared.

  3. Honks

    For what it’s worth, I used to bike everywhere (possibly in the same city…) and know a lot of “enthusiastic bike people” and I PROMISE you, you won’t be the first person to whom they suggested biking who said “HAH! not bloody likely!”. They might try a little more to sell you (which I never liked either, but they think they’re “helping”) but unless they’re huge jerks, they’ll back off pretty quick, and without forming negative opinions about you.

    1. Jen S. 2.0

      This. “I’m not a biker. I’ll get a cab and meet you guys there.” Problem solved! (And are you driving to work? Why not just drive?)

      Just because it seems like “everyone” is doing it doesn’t mean you have to do it too, especially when there are very good reasons not to, which you laid out.

    2. Jeanne

      Yes. Just say you don’t want to bike and you’ll see them there. I doubt it will even merit a raised eyebrow. Then take a cab or whatever works best in your city.

  4. INTP

    While some people can be really intense about biking, most cyclists in my experience have had accidents with cars themselves and know many others who have had very serious accidents. I think if you say that you haven’t ridden a bike in so long that you just wouldn’t be comfortable riding in traffic, the vast majority of people would not only be totally fine with it but would be grateful to you for knowing your limits rather than trying to tag along when you aren’t adept at riding in traffic. I won’t ride a bike in traffic either – like I said, I can’t name a single avid road cyclist I know that has never been hit by a car – but it seems to be a whole separate skill set from simply riding a bike (you must know all of the bike traffic rules and signals and be comfortable enough not to freak out and cause a traffic hazard).

    1. INTP

      Also, if you want to bring up the discussion pre-emptively, I like the idea of just asking what transport options people take when they aren’t biking. I’m sure there have been days when people were injured or the weather didn’t allow biking. I don’t think you even need to frame it as asking whether it’s okay not to bike, just say you won’t be biking and want to plan ahead to know what time to leave for the bus or whether you should call a taxi. Chances are no one will ask why you aren’t biking, but if they do you can explain.

    2. Anon the Great and Powerful

      Yeah, all the road bikers I know have had really bad accidents, some multiple bad accidents. It’s totally understandable for someone to not want to ride on the road. OP, just tell your coworkers you aren’t comfortable riding in traffic, they will understand.

      1. the gold digger

        Or you could be riding on a dedicated off-road bike path and forget that light mist makes the path slippery and that braking is different and fall and have a $4,700 ER bill. No cars involved.

        The best part? I had just started my new job but was not on their insurance yet because really people? You want a one-month waiting period to save a few hundred bucks for salaried people with low turnover?

        If the accident had happened two weeks later, I would have had a $150 ER copay. But I was still on my non-profit $2,500 deductible plan.

        1. Artemesia

          How long do you think it will be before Americans figure out that we could have cheaper better health coverage if we didn’t make insurance company profits the most important value in health care?

          1. Heather

            Yeah as a Canadian I cringe every time I see how much it costs in the US. Ours isn’t perfect but it’s a lot better than that.

          2. Not So NewReader

            Follow the money. Too many people are getting too rich on other people’s misery. A prime example of something that is legal but not ethical. Matter of fact, I would argue that it’s soulless.

          3. catsAreCool

            More competition usually drives prices down – maybe there are barriers that don’t need to be there that prevent companies from selling insurance. If the govt. wants to get involved, how about if they make the insurance companies have a format where it’s really easy to compare how much everything costs and how much you might get from it?

    3. Tau

      Yes! I am an avid cyclist and have cycled to/from school, university or work since I was twelve. Sometimes people watch me do this and get all enthusiastic about the idea of buying a bike and doing it themselves, and I end up in this awkward place where I totally want to encourage them because yay cycling! but feel like I have to honestly recommend against it for their own safety and enjoyment. Because if you haven’t cycled for a while and have never cycled in traffic, you should probably start slow and *not* start by cycling on some of the streets I cycle on. You really have to be not just comfortable on a bike, but comfortable with traffic laws and cycling-specific situations that arise (along with able to ignore cars that whiz past you), and this goes more strongly the more hostile to cyclists your environment is. I wouldn’t bat an eye at putting a newbie cyclist on the road in many cities in Germany, or Oxford or Cambridge. Non-Oxbridge UK cities… not so much. The US, I’ve only heard horror stories, sad to say. Anyway, I’m not going to be pressuring anyone into cycling when they’re not comfortable!

      Also, I’ve never been hit by a car and neither have most of the cyclists I know… possibly a US/European difference again.

      1. Myrin

        I, too, feel that this must be a US – Europe difference. I bike everywhere (I’m in Germany, although admittedly in a rural area where I don’t have to be directly on the street most of the time) and have never been so much as almost hit by a car. And I honestly don’t know anyone who has, either. But yeah, from what I’ve heard, biking is much more common here than in the US and maybe the roads are different, too? Or the car drivers?

        1. Jeanne

          I think it’s both. Most roads don’t have a space for bike riders to be separate from traffic and if there are large vehicles there’s no where for you to go with your bike. Then the drivers don’t want to share the road with cyclists. And many cyclists don’t know the rules of the road. They ride against traffic, weave in and out of traffic, don’t stop at stop signs or traffic lights, etc. Even responsible, law-following cyclists are in danger because there’s no mutual respect.

    4. Kristina L

      I was hit by a car once while riding a bike, and that quelled any interest I had in bike riding. I wasn’t badly hurt, but if things had gone a little differently, I could have been very badly hurt or killed.

  5. Lulubell

    I’m more athletic than the average person, and the first one to jump at team events like this. And yet, NO WAY would I ever consider biking to a meeting, for all of the reasons you mentioned. I am okay, at best, on a beach cruiser or mountain bike on deserted trails – city biking is big fat nope forever and forever. I get stressed just watching people bike on streets, especially when I’m driving. City share bikes are even worse, especially if you aren’t comfortable on them – and from what I understand, they are not particularly comfortable. All this to say that I agree that you are overthinking it and it should not be an issue to opt out. The guys probably haven’t even thought about it. They likely don’t carry purses, or wear heels or dresses, all things I would be thinking about on a meeting day that would make bike riding even harder for me. If it makes you feel better, you can offer to take all their staff in a cab with you to lighten their load. I’d be surprised if at least one didn’t offer to join you.

    1. OriginalEmma

      This is off-topic and won’t help OP but plenty of women and men bike to work in their work clothes, including heels, in all sorts of weather. A few blogs run by such women are Lovely Bike (formerly in Boston, now living in Northern Ireland) and Let’s Go Ride A Bike (joint blog by a Chicagoan and a Tennessean). Their tips include riding a comfortable, upright bike (not necessarily bolt-upright Dutch style but not drop-barred either), using panniers to take the weight of book bags, purses, etc. and sweat off your backs and back, riding more slowly (not sluggish but not Cat 6 racing) and arriving early so you can freshen up (with your handy-dandy kit of toiletries kept at work). Worst comes to worse, you can leave extra clothes at work by driving in or transiting in once a week with them.

    2. Seal

      Same here and this is from someone who practically lived on her bike in college in a big city. Even though I’ve lived within biking distance of my various places of employment for most of my career, I have never biked to work because I need to look professional once I get there. Biking to a meeting and back in the middle of the day? Hell no.

      I had a female colleague who did not normally bike to work or for fun but for some reason insisted on biking to a monthly meeting at location 10-12 miles from our office. It wasn’t because she didn’t have a car or access to public transportation; others going to the same meeting regularly offered her rides but she always refused. So she would haul her ancient clunker of a bike into the office on the meeting day, and proceed to ride it to the meeting and back. Between the biking (at least an hour each way) and the meeting she would be out of the office well over half the day. Our boss never batted an eye, although everyone else irritated by the fact that she was allowed to spend several hours of work time commuting to a meeting that she could have driven or ridden the bus to in 15 minutes. As one would expect, she always came back to the office sweaty and dissheveled; for some reason she never thought to bring a change of clothes on those days. She was a bit odd anyway, though.

    3. OriginalEmma

      It can be done, but probably not on a city bike. Dedicated bike commuters tend to have a personal bike (usually an upright but not always) set up for the purpose with lights, fenders, a nice saddle and most importantly, panniers and other types of bike bags to keep the load (and sweat) off your person. Some do ride in lycra, especially if they’re riding a long distance, but plenty of people just ride a bit more slowly in their work gear. They may also drive or transit into the office once a week with a week’s supply of extra clothes, toiletries, etc. None of this helps OP but I wanted to challenge one of the common barriers to entry re: bike commuting, which is the belief that you cannot ride and be presentable at the office.

      1. Grad Student

        “I wanted to challenge one of the common barriers to entry re: bike commuting, which is the belief that you cannot ride and be presentable at the office.”
        +10000000

      2. Misc

        Yes! I bike, and have for years. If it’s very hot, you wear clothes that are very light and can be rolled up or layered once you reach Must Look Nice Land (e.g. a singlet and something you can wear over the top without it looking odd). You can even bike in sandals, if they fit you properly (i.e. don’t fall off all the time).

        I almost never use a rucksack, but have both a bike basket and a trailer that I use as needed for any items.

  6. Stephanie

    I agree with everyone that you’re probably overthinking it. I like biking, but I find biking on the roads pretty terrifying, too. I don’t have a lot of traffic in my area and do have dedicated bike lanes, but the roads are all pretty pedestrian-unfriendly (big car town). Plus, those bike share bikes are heavy! If you say all your coworkers are male veterans, they probably don’t have purses, heels, or skirts or just may be used to carrying lots of stuff (if they were in combat).

  7. Observer

    I agree with the others. I’ll just add one thing. The idea of approaching it matter-of-factly with “I won’t be taking a bike, so what’s the best way to go – cab or walking?” is good. But, if someone DOES ask you why you won’t take a bike, don’t mention how dangerous it is. That’s a conversation that can go wrong quite quickly. And, if you do want to mention not being able to be put together and properly present, make sure you frame it as “I could never….” rather than “you can’t be…” The latter opens you up to stuff like “Sure you can. We do it all the time.” Id you make about “I can’t” then that’s a non-issue, and all you need to respond if it comes up is “I’m sure you can, but I can’t.” Repeat as needed. That’s rather hard to argue with.

    1. fposte

      Agreed. It’s the reasons why *you* don’t bike, not the reasons why *nobody* can bike. Otherwise it ends up argumentative, which is creating the very distance from the team you’re afraid of.

    2. Grad Student

      Observer is spot-on. Because it is not the bicycle or bicycling itself that is dangerous, but poor infrastructure, policy priorities, and motorists’ attitudes that make cycling dangerous.

  8. ExceptionToTheRule

    Ugh. Bikes. OP, I feel you for all the reasons everyone else has already mentioned. Plus, I’m decently athletic & will give just about anything a shot, but an incident involving a horse, trotting & mismatched stirrups a couple of years ago mean my doctor told me to never, ever get on a bike again.

  9. OriginalEmma

    I’ve ridden as a vehicular cyclists in a few different states. It is still scary even though I live in the one of the U.S.’s alleged bike meccas and bike on painted bike lanes. It takes 100% of my awareness, patience and courage to do so.

    If riding in traffic is not something you’re comfortable doing, absolutely bring it up and find alternative ways to travel to your site visits. Adults CANNOT ride on the sidewalks in most cities and states in the US, btw, so that is not an option. It is illegal and will likely get you a ticket.

    I would never look askance at someone who refused to tackle the dangerous task of riding a 30-lb, two wheeled piece of steel within 3 feet of a 3,000-lb rolling tank. It shouldn’t take practice, patience and courage most of all to ride your bike in the United States as an adult but unfortunately it does.

    As an aside, being a bicyclist has made me a better driver. Having the experience of being one of the most vulnerable road users (the other one being pedestrians) makes me more aware and courteous when driving.

    PSA: Take the extra TWO SECONDS to look both ways as a driver, including looking AROUND the blind spots of your door arms, for cyclists and pedestrians. You’ll save a life that way.

    1. the gold digger

      being a bicyclist has made me a better driver.

      This. I look for the bikers on the road now – and at 6:50 a.m., on the dark road without a bike lane, I want to scream at the bicyclist, “PLEASE DO NOT WEAR ALL BLACK!”

      1. OriginalEmma

        Oy vey, YES. All dark clothing, salmoning (riding on the wrong side of the road, i.e., against the flow), with no lights. It’s the worst.

        1. Seal

          Agreed. Years ago I almost ran over a biker while driving in a very dark part of the university campus where I worked. I was trying to pull out of a driveway, looked both ways and started to move when this biker wearing all black with no lights on his bike suddenly shot out in front of me. I hit the brakes while he swerved. Invisible idiot had the nerve to give ME the finger!

          1. Hellanon

            I get that in my downtown-adjacent neighborhood all the time – the cyclists dressed in all-black and riding against traffic on unlit bikes. Death wish much?

          2. Anon for This

            I’m very nervous driving anywhere near cyclists. I’ve seen too many who ride sans helmets, who blaze through stop signs, and who ride outside the bike lane (even when the bike lane is empty).

            1. Grad Student

              In many cities and states, cyclists are allowed to Take The Lane and not required to ride in the bike lane. Many times bike lanes are poorly designed, like right in the door zone of parked cars. Many times they abruptly end. Many times there is plowed snow/other debris/a giant hole/a car parked in the lane. Not all bike lanes are created equal.

              1. Ella

                This. Lots of “bike lanes” in my city are just gutters with a biking symbol painted on. I know they’re gutters because they’re on streets I used to ride on before they got “bike lanes.” No thank you, this bike lane does not help me, therefore I will not use it.

              2. OriginalEmma

                Helmet use is not an indicator of safety. They do not protect against nor are they rated for side and front impact on the helmet (when most people are most likely to have their heads hit pavement), just for impact on the crown of the head. Unless The Undertaker pile drives me on my head, that little plastic hat won’t help. Additionally, there are studies showing that drivers give bicyclists less room when the bicyclists are wearing helmets.

                Mandated helmet laws in places like NZ and in certain American cities and states have caused bike usage to plummet. Safety does not lie in a little plastic hat but in completely separate, dedicated and maintained bike infrastructure as well as in strength in numbers. How many Dutch people do you see wearing a helmet? Pretty much none, because they have the infrastructure for safe riding and their head injury rates are similar to countries with high helmet use. If helmets were effective, we’d see lower rates in helmet countries. But we don’t, because they are not the panacea to our bike injury problem.

              3. OriginalEmma

                A great new study just came out that said those “Share the Road” signs were ineffective (car drivers thought the bicyclists should be giving way to them) but the “May Use Full Lane” signs were effective at ensuring cars give bicyclists their fair share of the road.

      2. Dynamic Beige

        Hell, I do that with a few people around here who walk their dogs. We have no real sidewalks, street lighting is minimal, it’s pitch black at 5pm and you’re out walking your dog wearing all black at 9pm? Granted, there also isn’t a lot of traffic, but it only takes one car. There’s one couple who wear the crossing guard style vests with the reflective strips and I want to kiss them every time because it’s so easy to spot them.

        1. Not So NewReader

          I have a battery powered red blinking light that I put on my dog’s collar. If I lose my grip on him he will still have something on him that makes him a little more visible.

      3. Bostonian

        Yes. I almost hit a cyclist the other day – I had to cross the bike lane into a turn lane, and it was dark and raining and she was unlit and wearing dark colors, and even though I did check over my shoulder I didn’t see her. She had the right of way, but I’ve biked around the city plenty and I would have slowed at that spot to be sure the car saw me, and she just sped on by. Scared the crap out of me.

    2. Blurgle

      My mom broke her hip due to a cyclist who refused to ride on the road and instead chose to mow down pedestrians instead. I have very little sympathy for cyclists who use sidewalks.

      1. Natalie

        It’s more dangerous for cyclists, too, as they’re generally traveling fast enough that cars intersecting with the sidewalk (at a driveway or crosswalk) aren’t looking far ahead/behind enough to spot a cyclist.

  10. Just Visiting

    Ha! Not pleased about your predicament, OP, but it’s interesting to see the shoe on the other foot for once. I’ve gone my whole life with people asking why I wouldn’t be driving somewhere or trying to figure out why I don’t drive.

    Just say you’re not feeling it. Don’t say it’s dangerous (if you’re riding as a group, it’s really not), just say you don’t feel like biking. Bike people understand that biking isn’t for everyone, which isn’t often the case with drivers.

    1. Hellanon

      People used to ask me whether I skied, bicycled, etc, given that where I live runs pretty strongly to both activities. My answer always that while I’d probably enjoy the activity itself, I just couldn’t make time in my schedule for the 6 weeks I’d need to recover from the broken bone I was sure would ensue….

  11. KarenD

    One more thing to mention: Those ride-share bikes are rarely adjustable and they’re usually too big for women who are not tall or don’t have long legs. We spent a few days in a city known for its ride-share bikes about a year ago, and using the bikes was a big part of our plan for seeing the city. I bike a lot, and I’m not really short (5’3″) but they were all too big for me, to the point where I felt unsafe. I ended up renting a bike that could be adjusted, and the bike-store owner said it was a very common problem.

    1. Anonsie

      This is exactly what I was going to say. I looked into it in my city and found that I’m straight up too short to actually use the stupid things.

      Unlike most of the commenters (and Alison) I would also be pretty anxious about this situation and worry that I was the odd one out and also, specifically, the odd only lady out. I think pointing out that the bike shares don’t fit you is the safe beg off here by a mile. If they’re big bike evangelists, this will still make absolute sense to them.

        1. Anonsie

          I did consider the possibility that then they would think it was a super helpful gesture to all find a way to get you a bike that fits somehow, yeah. If she makes it clear that this is not something she feels she’s missing out on (keeping the “I am not comfortable riding in traffic” in there but keeping the sizing centered as the more immediate barrier since it’s not about preferences but a more base level of safety), coupled with the biking already being relatively rare, I feel that would make it overall very unlikely.

  12. bridget

    I love my city’s bike share program, and would usually much rather bike to things than drive. Riding in traffic is not a concern for me. So I’d totally be doing what your co-workers are doing. But, if you were my co-worker, I’d imagine the conversation would go something like this:

    Me: Hey, a bunch of us are going to head out at 11:00 for the meeting, and ride city bikes there. Would you like to join us?
    You: Oh no thanks, I’m not comfortable biking in traffic.
    Me: Okay, sounds good. See you there! [Walks away assuming you are an adult who can handle her own transportation across town, whether by driving, walking, or taking a cab].

  13. FarFromBreton

    Minus a few details, this sounds like my work! People at my office (including myself) often bike to work and meetings, sometimes together, and it’s often the fastest way to go. (For example, skirting traffic on side streets vs taking a city bus in heavy traffic and/or walking 2 miles.) Like others have said, I’m sure there are alternatives to biking to these meetings, since sometimes weather or cargo don’t permit even dedicated cyclists to bike to them. I used to be uncomfortable riding in traffic, and even now, most of my meeting-appropriate outfits are not bike/sweat-friendly. (I usually wear non-stretchy skirts/dresses and heels or nice flats to meetings, while my male coworkers wear laced shoes and pants.) On the very rare occasion that coworkers guilt-trip me for not biking, I point out the above and they let it drop. Generally, as long as I get to the meeting on time, no one cares how I get there. Also, in my case, I wanted to get more comfortable biking in traffic, and I found that my coworkers’ general enthusiasm for biking as transportation meant they were very willing to gingerly bike places with me and answer questions.

  14. West Coast Reader

    I’ve ridden bikes before in the city but that was a small, very bike-friendly city with lots of dedicated bike lanes, and I avoided the busiest streets. I’m now living in a bigger, somewhat bike-friendly city, and I wouldn’t do this without trying it with an experienced group first. I don’t think any reasonable person would raise an eyebrow if you said you are uncomfortable biking in the city. Most people share the same feeling.

    Is there any reason why walking is unfeasible? I don’t know what the weather is like in your city or if you are unable to this physically, but a 20-minute walk is really not that long. You can think about the meeting, roleplay in your head and brainstorm ideas. After the meeting, the walk back would be a great time to reflect. Built-in exercise, down-time for your brain and fresh air will increase your productivity if this is an option for you.

    1. Ella

      Your comment about trying it with an experienced group first made me think…OP, I hear and understand that you’re not interested in cycling, but if you are, even a little bit (or if you think you would be curious if not for the fear of traffic and such), and if you have a good rapport with your coworkers, riding rideshare bikes (which go slow by design) with coworkers (riding in a group is more safe, and groups also tend to go slower), riding to these meetings with your coworkers might not be a bad way to wade in the water of cycling in the city. If your coworkers are supportive, you’re really unlikely to find a safer scenario.

      Again. Not trying to talk you into anything you don’t want to do. I respect the lack of desire to cycle. But if. Just gently suggesting an if.

  15. Mean Something

    “The gents I work with seem really enthused about using the bikes” but no biking to meetings has happened in the two months OP has been there–in addition to all the good advice here about not overthinking it and being straightforward that biking isn’t a reasonable option for OP, doesn’t this sound like one of those situations where everyone is in full agreement that they would just love to do that thing that for some reason never seems to happen? I have a few of those myself.

  16. Not So NewReader

    OP, I think you are looking for wording to address this now rather than let it go on and on. That is wise.
    So how about:

    “Boss, I heard a couple people talking about biking to meetings. That is not going to be doable for me. I can walk/drive/take a cab to get there. I hope that is a workable solution.”

    Or how about an opened ended question, where you remain silent until the end and the boss describes the process.

    “Boss, I hear people bike to meetings, can you tell me more about that?” Here you are waiting to hear him say that this is optional or a few people are involved everyone else drives, something like that. Going the question route, saves you from putting your foot down if there is no need, you can have a soft landing by saying “eh, I never was good at riding bikes. I’ll take a cab instead.”

  17. Starfleet Project Manager

    LW/OP here!

    Thanks for the advice, Alison and everyone else. “I haven’t ridden a bike in years and don’t want the company to have the liability when I fall straight into a passing car.” — This in particular might work best for me given my pleasantly sarcastic relationship with my team.

    I appreciate people backing me up on the “not for novices” nature of city biking and particularly bike share bikes. On the latter I’ve had other people tell me “Just lower the seat” when I’m staring at a giant heavy bike where the distance between the seat and the handlebars in the entire length of my chest and then some. I’m not the most adventurous person ever and so it can be hard to tell between things that are outside my comfort zone but that I should try, and things where my “Danger! Danger!” radar is pretty accurate.

    To provide a bit more context: Part of the reason I wrote to Alison is that I had two conversations with my coworkers, who I’ll Joe and Tim (neither being the CEO/my supervisor), in which I was feeling pressured on the bike thing. One was on my first day when Joe told me about the program. Unobviously I was unprepared to react at that time (and didn’t want to be overly negative on my first day) so I said something like “I’m not much for biking” and then he responded about how it was super useful for when they were all running late for meetings. The second conversation with Tim I was slightly more prepared for and said something like “The idea of biking in the city makes me really uncomfortable so I’d rather avoid it.” to which he responded about the convenience and the fun of riding around. So there’s that and there’s the fact that I have on a few occasions at this job felt awkward about my physical limitations when these guys have injuries from their service.

    I actually have an update of sorts though. A few days after I sent this to Alison the topic of bikes came up again over drinks (never fear, Alison, plenty of social eating/drinking happening already :) ) Joe made a comment about being a reckless biker and ended up agreeing that biking downtown was “terrifying but in a fun way”. I perhaps should have saved the argument for a better time, but I was a bit too concerned about the issue, so I pointed out that something that former-Special Forces Joe found terrifying was perhaps not for me. To which he said, “We’ll figure something out for you” and that was the end of it for the time being but it made me feel universes better.

    So I have ceased and desisted on the worry and, with the backing of the lovely folks here, will confidently say “I’ll be walking/hopping on my tauntaun/using the transporter, etc.”

    1. Observer

      I perhaps should have saved the argument for a better time, but I was a bit too concerned about the issue, so I pointed out that something that former-Special Forces Joe found terrifying was perhaps not for me. To which he said, “We’ll figure something out for you” and that was the end of it for the time being but it made me feel universes better.

      This is actually perfect, in my opinion. It came up in a natural conversation, not as A Thing That Needs To Be Discussed, and in a way that gave you a perfect out.

    2. Ella

      I think the two things that make cyclists hard to deal with sometimes (and I am a cyclist, so I know of what I speak) is that we all had to deal with and get over the fear of cycling in a city. It’s not that cyclists aren’t afraid or have a sense of immortality (well, maybe some do, but I most certainly don’t), it’s that we’ve gone through it and dealt with it and figured it out. Cyclists also have to be strategic problem solvers (how far am I going? What route can I take that has the least cars? Am I carrying a change of clothes? In my saddlebags or backpack? Do I need to bring food? Where can I store my bike? Etc etc etc), so when you mention obstacles to your bike riding, we treat them as problems to be solved, not as reasons to not do it. Hopefully they have heard your refusal for what it is, refusal, rather than reluctance, but be prepared for needing to be firm.

      1. Starfleet Project Manager

        That is definitely interesting perspective. Fortunately (I think?) these guys are not cyclists per se (I don’t know that any of them regularly ride bikes outside this context) just more adventurous than I am.

    3. Not So NewReader

      “So there’s that and there’s the fact that I have on a few occasions at this job felt awkward about my physical limitations when these guys have injuries from their service.”

      I was wondering what was driving all that worry. Usually worry of that size does not come from just one thing, such as riding bikes.

      It looks like you found a good solution for the bike story, now you can begin to ponder this, too. I am not clear if you are supposed to help treat an injured person or if you are concerned about being asked to replace them and do their work while their injury is being treated. Either way, just as you did here, confront it head on. Find out what they expect you to do. I am willing to bet that one will go well also.

      1. Starfleet Project Manager

        Hahahaha I wouldn’t underestimate my capacity to worry about getting in bike accidents without other factors involved.

        The injury thing refers less to any specific situation(s) than to workplace culture stuff which comes partly from working with vets and partly from working with a flexible, fast-moving team. It’s hard for me to set boundaries, even ones I feel confident are necessary for my own well-being, without feeling guilty and it’s hard to not feel like the odd woman out when I’m the only one who isn’t essentially up for anything the job requires.

  18. This-Is-Fine Dog

    I think this is a common anxiety — the way most people become out-of-shape is by just ignoring that it is happening; just focus on work, or the kids, or whatever, and don’t think about the slowing metabolism, the nights in front of the TV, the “too tired to cook” take-out, subconsciously avoiding the stairs because more than a couple flights and you’re breathing hard, driving 10 yards to park in a new spot when going shopping at stores that are next to one another… When a workplace culture starts to fixate on exercise, whether it’s Japanese-style company calisthenics, the new bike-to-work CEO, “walking desks”, etc. suddenly it’s impossible to ignore, which brings all the simmering mixed feelings people have been avoiding about their health, hobbies, body image, and growing older all to the surface at once, which is often worse than whatever silly business notion (like biking to business meetings) caused the issue in the first place.

  19. Freya

    As a small woman who always had hand me down bikes that were too big for me when I had a bike as a kid, bikes that don’t fit are dangerous. People underestimate how difficult it is to stop when you can’t reach the ground unless you’re sitting on the top tube (or, in one particularly egregious case, the down tube – that was the bike I was expected to ride when I couldn’t reach the pedals at the lowest point of their rotation). I’m 5’2″ and the correct size of bike for me, according to the charts, is the very smallest available for women. Just.

    1. Pointy Haired Boss

      I wonder why smaller sizes aren’t easily available? 5′ 2″ is the average female height in China, a country with over a billion people and the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of bicycles.

  20. Aisling

    As a woman who’s only 5’1″, your size will probably be an issue unless the city bikes are different sizes. The last time I rode a bike was in a country where the average size of adults is 5’10” (hello, Scandinavia), and I promptly crashed my bike within 20 minutes of riding it- it was just too big for me.

  21. Justin

    I feel bad for the OP. She sounds like a nice person who is there at work to do the work and doesn’t go in for all the gimmicky “team-building” nonsense that someone invented in 1985 or 1990 and that the people in charge still think is relevant. Riding bikes to an offsite meeting? Are you serious? I have a business trip to Miami in January. Should I take a ride-share with three stoned college kids so I can learn about the nuances of their oh-so fascinating and unique life stories? This bike riding to off site meetings sounds like a bunch of ill conceieved hippy mumbo-jumbo. The fact they didn’t offer people a choice is testimony enough to the odd, cultish characteristics of such a work place dynamic. I have asked this question before and I will ask it again: when did work stop being about just the WORK? There’s always some added little extra piece of foolishness some half-baked nitwit cooked up to waste people’s time and to cause them grief. It’s enough to give you angina.

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