The Chainlink

Im in commercial insurance sales  (yeah, I know, evil sales person...Boo Hiss).

So, I occasionally do in-person cold calls to businesses.  

Instead of driving/CTA, I want to start cycling.  

My issue is that in the back of my mind I always wonder if people will judge me for being a cyclist.  

Do people view cyclist as losers that are unprofessional and unsuccessful?

Or does this belong in the category or "You shouldnt care what those types of people think"?

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I would say the harshness is dictating someone's cycling purposes to them as they try and figure out how biking fits into their life, maybe, while using the words "insecure"? 

People advocate and work to bring things into their life at their own pace--you don't get to tell people they're worse off or how to be because you want to be at the vanguard. I personally don't believe that cyclists are essentially "second-class citizens" because they ride a bike (and frankly, you might want to talk to some actual oppressed groups about that?), and that a sea change of incorporating active transportation and better infrastructure to support non-auto based places to live is going to be more than some mission to "prove" anything to anyone. But to each their own and enjoy your hill. I hope our differing missions ultimately ends with anyone having the ability to enjoy riding a bike on their own terms, and even if they don't always choose to, they have that opportunity. 

Thanks Carmen, well said. 

If you question (as Jason is in this discussion) whether people will categorize you for your transportation choice as being an unprofessional, unsuccessful loser, (his words) you are showing signs of insecurity. I am obviously trying to instill confidence and a healthy assertive attitude in all cyclists in our community. He answers his own question with the statement, "you shouldn't care what those types of people think."

I'm sure that you've read articles which classify us cyclists as 'second class citizens', which I also don't appreciate and work against the placement in this category.

well, I'm not sure this is a confidence or a self-image thing. There's the world we hope to live in, the world we think we live in, and the world we actually live in. The golden rule- he with the gold makes the rules. And cycling in the business world just hasn't been fully embraced; at least in some industries, like mine. But I'm still chugging along where I can! (however, I also don't make a million dollars or run the company)

Its not about people knowing im a cyclist...its about meeting someone for the first time and their first picture they have of me in their head is me getting off a bicycle.  

Im not sure that projects trust to many people.  

Ive been a 365 day commuter for 12 years (with the scars and medical bills to prove it)...but being a cyclist advocate during working hours does me no good.  I dont get paid unless I produce, so I have to be as neutral as possible when first meeting people.

Of people get to know me, they will know im a cyclist.  Especially because I work with businesses in my neighborhood, its kind of hard not to see me around the neighborhood on my bike.

I get what youre saying though.

Do many people see cyclists as unprofessional? Of course they do. Like so many wonderful/less wasteful/more conscious activities and modes, it differs from the general perception of a fully functional adult consumer or whatever. It's viewed as what people do before they get a real career, or something people grow out of. I assume that's changing - people must observe scores of "professional" looking people commuting to loop. I only wish sweating profusely wasn't seen as so "unprofesdional."

Since we're talking about visual first impressions here I'd say it really depends on your bike and kit and to a degree what neighborhoods you work in. If you have nice professional looking kit that keeps you dry and smelling good and making calls in Wicker Park or Logan the bike will probably help your appearance. The farther you get from trendy areas though the more likely you'll be frowned upon for the same things that got you bonus points in other areas. 

It's kind of sad that people have such emotional responses to something like a bicycle that should be no more controversial than walking but they do...

I think this is spot on as well.

People will judge you for all kinds of reasons. I judge people for driving to work by themselves, in an air-conditioned car that seats 5 people, sitting in traffic for an hour. I'd rather slip by on a bike.

Cycling has never hurt me professionally, but neither has driving, walking, or taking the train to work. 

I work in Wealth Management at a bank downtown, where we have to wear a suit every day.

I'm known to my friends and coworkers as a 'cyclist' (on chainlink I would be a commuter)

People absolutely judge you for cycling, and they absolutely think there is a level of unprofessionalism associated. I have to show up early and leave later just to avoid crossing paths with coworkers with me in biking gear (I wear street clothes more or less). It's not necessarily about biking at that point, it's more about people not thinking the attire is appropriate for the office.

Additionally, people don't bike in the city (metra, drive, CTA). So they associate all the negative connotations with cyclists that they pick up, and I get a sense of projection. Even if they don't project, most can't understand why I like biking in the city. Right off the bat they see a disconnect in relating (this guy bikes in the city? He must be off, cus I would never).

These people aren't bad or stuck up, just not about this life. I'm the outlier, so I get the 'scarlet letter', if you will. I have to work a little harder to change perceptions, but, I'm up for it. :)


I like what you said about projection. I think it comes out in two forms: assumptions about your judgment and your financial success.

For example, when a coworker sees my helmet hanging next to my raincoat on a rainy day, I get asked, "You rode today?" They might think I'm irrational for riding in the rain, and then project that judgment toward other work-related decisions I make.

"Unprofessional" may also relate to connotations about people who cannot afford a car and the assumption that you don't make enough money and therefore aren't 'successful'. I see how that could have an impact on how you are perceived/evaluated professionally.

There's no hiding to my coworkers that I ride, but I keep my thoughts on cycling generally in the same pile as religion and politics: to myself during the workday. Eventually they might figure out it's the best way to get around the city, but until then the secret is safe with us!

Well said! And yes, I've learned the hard way about discussing cycling at work......who would've thought this would be on the same level as those?!?! So I changed my approach to ask questions and listen. It's much more effective.


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