Whenever I see a biker stopped on the side of the road, or walking their bike down the street, or bending down around some imperceptible thing on their chain, or really doing anything at all that seems like it might portend something bad for the rest of their commute, I always stop and ask if they’re okay. Generally, it’ll be someone at the tail end of fixing a flat tire, or maybe someone who was just checking something out. Generally, the response I get is “I’m fine, but thanks!”
Sometimes, I switch up the question, because once in a while I remember that people don’t always like to admit that they’re “not okay.” So instead of asking that, then, sometimes I ask “do you have everything you need?” That way, whoever it is can say no and get help without admitting that they need help. It’s like giving them a chance to say, instead of “I need help,” something more like “I could certainly fix this problem on my own if I had tire levers,” for example, “but since I don’t, can you please fix my flat tire for me?”
The majority of the time, though, people I ask don’t need anything. But they generally seem pleased that I stopped to make sure, and I usually get some form of “thanks for asking.”
Tonight, I was thinking about that after I passed a guy on the Hawthorne bridge–he was one of those bent-over-his-bike kind of fellows, and I thought I’d make sure all was well. “I’m fine,” he said. “Thanks!”
I biked off thinking about how smiley people get when you make time to check in on them. I was thinking about how happy it makes me for people to look up and say “thanks!” like I totally made their day. And then I ran into another guy stopped on the side of the road as I was turning off onto Division Street. Just to be clear, two people in the span of 5 minutes is not a normal ratio of people who may potentially need roadside assistance. But regardless, I slowed down, and when he looked up at me, asked if he needed any help.
“No,” he said. “But want some gum?”
Heh. It wasn’t a thank you, but it totally made my day:)