Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cycling without Fear

Aqua Velo
I talk to a lot of beginner cyclists who are afraid to ride on the road. Some try to conquer their fears by riding anyway, only to find that they end up being more afraid, not less. The proximity of the passing cars frightens them so much, that their bike handling suffers. This in turn makes them more likely to experience close calls and drivers honking at them, terrifying them even more. It becomes a vicious cycle. 

Fear is a nasty, crippling emotion. I don't mean the philosophical kind, where you are thinking "Gee I don't think I can handle this." What I mean is the visceral kind: that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, adrenaline, heart racing, trembling, weak at the knees. It is debilitating and difficult to control. But it can be avoided.

If an aspect of cycling scares you at a strong visceral level, my suggestion would be to take it down a notch - to a point where you do not experience the fear - and work from there. If cycling on busy roads gives you panic attacks, try riding on quiet side streets exclusively, until that feels so comfortable that you are ready for the next step. If even that is too much, stick to bike paths, parks and empty lots until you are ready for side streets. If your neighbourhood has none of these things, try riding in the middle of the night or very early morning (with good lights of course). Even in a busy city, the roads will be nearly empty. Whatever it takes, find a way to ride so that you are relaxed and not in panic mode. I would apply this to every aspect of cycling - from riding for transportation, to learning new skills, to trying drop bars, clipless pedals, and riding off road. 

It's also important to understand that when we ride with friends and spouses, their level of comfort may be very different from ours. Without meaning any harm, they might coax or pressure us to do things we cannot handle. When we are ready for it, being encouraged to push ourselves can be a good thing. I've certainly received more than a couple of nudges that were helpful. But overcoming nervousness or timidity is one thing. Intense, limbs-atremble fear is not good and can affect our behaviour in unpredictable ways. It is our responsibility to know the difference.

Conquering one's fears is a worthwhile endeavor. But it takes time and there is more than one way to approach it. In my experience, those who find cycling more frightening than enjoyable, stop cycling. Therefore, I suggest sticking to riding in a way that feels fun and avoiding riding in a way that feels terrifying. Cycling should be a positive experience.

56 comments:

  1. On the 40th anniversary of Title IX and after the Olympics in which female human specimens killed it, I see this post as somewhat non-comprehensive.

    It's not about conquering one's fear, as there are very good reasons to have it, nor is it about cycling advocacy; it's about common sense.

    Riding in my locale knowing the streets and driving patterns perhaps I have too little fear.

    Riding on some backwater narrow busy two-laner the features the occasional 18 wheeler, poor sightlines, high meth use and general lawlessness riding a rando in the middle of the night featuring a full moon...I think one would be stupid to not listen to the sound of one's own stomach getting sick.

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    1. Not sure why you would focus on our author's gender. Fear is not feminine.

      It is natural, healthy even to fear or at least have a heightened sense of caution when riding in unfamiliar circumstances. Nonetheless, it remains the case people are more apt to be involved in an accident on familiar territorty than when away from the norm.

      Partly pure numbers to be sure, but no doubt people are less apt to do things by rote when they are away from the norm.

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    2. Re author's gender and gender in general: I wasn't writing about myself at all actually. Even at the beginning I experienced almost no fear riding in traffic - not necessarily a good thing arguably. I might logically decide that I shouldn't do something, but it takes a lot to shake me up at a gut level. But taking myself out of the equation, debilitating fear is probably the #1 reason that women tell me keeps them from riding. I've never heard this from men, though one could argue men are less likely to admit it.

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    3. I am absolutely certain Matthew responds to my comments in order to pick a fight. Sure of it.

      Does anyone truly think even a few men email V with concerns about riding?

      Yes, my point is without reservation women are weak but extremely smart and men are always, always strong yet stupid. Always. Wait...

      okay off to shoot myself.

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    4. Men do email me with concerns about riding. Usually it's older men and the concerns are pain-related. Nothing about fear so far though.

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  2. If I were a beginner cyclist I'd be afraid to ride on the roads as well, especially in Boston! But when you say beginner what do you mean? Someone who has never ridden a bike before or someone who is new to riding a bike for transportation? If the former, clearly, stay off the roads and instead find a place with no obstacles, like a playground or parking lot, until you are comfortable on that specific bike. Stand up and pedal, sit and pedal, stop, start, turn, play, let go of the bars, go as slow as you can, go fast...If the latter, find a nice neighborhood or quiet streets. It's a balance of being defensive and standing your ground. Go slowly. Then find a route from point A to point B that you are comfortable with and do it daily. Eventually you'll find a bit of confidence to broaden your experience. Add safety features to your bike and yourself. Small steps and small victories will add up. Also, going in groups is helpful. Experiencing the road with others is helpful in gaining confidence and knowledge of what to expect and how to handle the various conditions. Ultimately, if riding on the road is not your cup of tea, there are many other ways to enjoy the experience of pedaling and soaking in the environment.

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  3. Brilliant image - gives a nice edge of unease to a skilfully reassuring bit of writing ...

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  4. All good advice. I just started regularly riding a bike about three months ago. First I had to be comfortable with being on the bike, let alone riding on streets. Riding in parking lots and around the block and short rides to the store all helped me gain basic bike handling skills.

    Then I started riding three miles to work along a city route that is well-traveled by cyclists. Drivers are familiar with seeing cyclists on that route and it seems they are not as threatening as on some other routes.

    I realized yesterday that I have come a long way when I rode about ten miles to do various errands, mostly on city streets, and my husband said to me "You really get around on that thing!" (You can see that he does not :-))

    Some streets are better than others, but I was not at all afraid. It also helps me that I feel no compelling need to speed from place to place. If everyone else passes me, I don't care. I am comfortable with my riding and I absolutely love it.

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  5. I go back and forth riding in areas that make me more uncomfortable. I have basically 4 areas I ride. I don't venture too far out in 3 of them because of increased traffic risk and because I ride alone. I long for different scenery at times. Once in a while I'll shoot out into the bike lane of a busy 4-lane to do a short commute or down a busy state road. I ride like hell and check over my shoulder to make sure oncoming vehicles are passing me with enough distance.

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  6. One way to overcome this fear is to take a class in effective cycling. The League of American Bicyclist (LAB) offers a multi-day course, "Traffic Skills 101" . The one I took was free as a member of the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen. We were in the classroom for two days (3 hours each) and then on the road for two days (3 hours each). We leaned how to care for our bikes, fix flats, etc.. and how to ride safely in traffic. It was the most valuable course I have ever taken and the knowledge I gained has saved my life many times. It has also made cycling way more fun.

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    1. I took this course and it was helpful. Since I was already riding a lot and had studied Street Smarts [used in the course], I had questions, especially about approaching the top of a blind hill on a narrow road. I had a close call once when a vehicle was passing an oncoming car on such a hill. I had to move to the right very quickly. I'll probably take the course again in the future to refresh my memory.

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  7. Thank you for writing this entry. I'm glad to have stumbled upon your blog. I am a beginner cyclist and have yet to ride on the road amidst cars and trucks here in Seattle. I hope to do that someday but for now, I am sticking to bike paths where I ride early in the morning on weekends. I must say that I feel less afraid riding alone because there is no pressure from other people but like you, I did receive helpful tips from friends who rode with me. I guess it takes a certain type of person to understand how beginners like me feel. Anyway, I am glad to have taken up cycling and so far, it has been positive.

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  8. Fear is the mind killer.

    Yoda said "fear leads to anger, anger leads to hatred, hatred leads to the dark side." And no one wants to go there.

    Nice post. Cheers.

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  9. If the fear is more related to cars than feeling uncomfortable keeping the bike upright, then I suggest riding dirt trails.

    I have some crazy mountain biker friends who have no problem finding a line through a rock garden, but are frightened enough by cars that they ride on the sidewalk in places the vast majority of roadies are perfectly comfortable.

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    1. Here we have deep sand, logs, high roots, bears, rattle snakes, moccasins, rabid raccoons and miles of being alone in the woods. I chose the road.

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    2. Sounds a lot like my back yard.

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    3. Yeah, Liz. When it comes to fears, it's "to each his own." We have rattlesnakes here too, plus mountain lions.

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  10. When I first started riding again, I stuck to the footpath (technically illegal in Perth, but not actually policed). This meant I stop whenever I needed to, I could wobble all over the place, and I picked a route that was quiet so there was rarely anyone else on the path. After about six months of riding this way, a little old lady stopped me and told me to get on the road, the path is for pedestrians (fair call).

    It was the little push I needed to face my fear of riding on the road, I was capable of riding in a straight line and fit enough that I didn't have to stop and catch my breath.

    So now I ride on the (mostly) quiet roads next to the path. I was initially nervous, but now I'm fine. Only one bus takes this route, so I know when to avoid it. I took a short beginner's course to learn how to signal properly and use gears. Eventually as my fitness and confidence improve I'll use the bike lane on the (busier) more direct route.

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  11. I began biking as a full-fledged adult in Boston in 1992. I was profoundly depressed at the time, being in a very wrong graduate program and a continent away from my love. The exercise helped me climb out at one level, but so did the regular exposure to mortal danger. I biked through the Winter of 92-3, quite a blizzard, on icy arterials at night because I knew no better but also because I found the danger tonic, learning to value my life through regular, visceral acquaintance with its fragility. Not suggesting that anybody emulate me; just that fear isn't always nasty and crippling. There is nothing to fear in the universe, including fear :-)

    These days, quite happy, I ride much, much more cautiously.

    Riding with friends and lovers, yes: never, ever coax the other to take risks, nor allow oneself to be coaxed. This is a firm rule: whenever crossing an intersection or other point requiring judgment, each person decides alone when is the time to go, or not.

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    1. Wait. Hold it right there. When riding in a group the first rider should enter the intersection if and only if everyone behind can get through safely. Following riders are likely simply to follow the leader. Yes, the followers should make decisions. First, they should decide if they want to follow the leader of the moment at all. Yes, they should make their own traffic check. But the lead rider has to assume they are following blindly. Often they are. Makes no difference what the followers should ideally do. What matters is how people in fact behave. And we know that followers follow.

      If someone on your wheel gets hit you can try to disavow responsibility. You will not feel good about it. The follower who got hit won't be your friend.

      Anyone who doesn't want to take simple responsibility for the rider on their wheel should ride alone and only ride alone.

      The idea that "each person decides alone" is a philosophical proposition. It has nothing to do with how people behave.

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    2. Re following the leader: This is something every riding group or pair needs to decide for themselves and vocalise. I've been in situations that are sort of the reverse to what anon is describing: The leader says "clear" when in fact it is not clear. There is no way for a leader to anticipate everything that will happen by the time the Nth rider arrives at the intersection, which is why some clubs/groups believe it is better to say nothing. On the thankfully (because it's hard!) rare occasions I am riding with an inexperienced cyclist who relies on me to lead, what I do at intersections is hover in slow motion to make sure it really, truly is 100% clear for them. I have seen other leaders do this. But others just yell "clear" and gun it, which can be more dangerous than agreeing on an "everyone for themselves" philosophy.

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    3. Todd - In the situation you're describing, I would argue that you weren't really afraid. You knew what you were doing was dangerous, and you worried on some level about your actions, but viscerally you experienced a rush of excitement rather than fear.

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    4. A band of 'N' riders strewn over a roadway is not a group ride. Those rides are one of the few things I am absolutely afraid of. Whoever imagines they are leading those rides made a long series of mistakes before a foot was on a pedal. Make a hard right turn and get out of there asap.

      A leader can most definitely know where the last rider is. A leader can convince a rider with only 2 or 3 years experience he has eyes in the back of his head. And a leader simply turns and looks back a lot. And rides up and down the line. Counts. Gets reports from the rear. None of this is harder than breathing.

      In traffic areas groups travel as gruppo compatto. There is no other possibility. Nothing else works. Groups are led from the rear as well as from the front. If there is someone who's floundering and cannot remain compatto either the ride slows or the back door gets closed. I say "See ya next week".

      If someone calls "clear" when it's not (it happens) they get to be contrite and apologetic and then be quiet for a good while. If they blow the whole thing off or repeat the behavior why would anyone ride with that person? Again, make a hard right turn asap. Or just hand them a gun and ask them to finish the job.

      'Hovering' as you describe is the right thing to do fairly often. If there's any uncertainty, hover. Uncertainty is real common in this world. It seems you picked that up from example. Easy to learn because it's simple and right. It's just common sense and good manners and we should be thankful those still exist. They are enough to handle any riding situation if the accumulated clutter of nonsense can be pushed aside.

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  12. It's all about building confidence, and knowing the correct road positioning at junctions, etc.

    It's not always possible, depending on where you live but I think cycling is a much more enjoyable experience if you deliberately seek alternative routes from the main ones. They usually exist with a little planning. I think what many do wrong is to try and cycle the same routes they drive. The best route by car is rarely the best route by bike.

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  13. A really great post. Learning to ride a bike for the first time when older is terrifying on it's own, let alone getting out amongst traffic.

    I tried going out on busier roads after just a handful of hours of practice. I was so frightened I turned around, went home, and put my bike away. Since then I have only ridden my trike again, dreading having another go at the 2 wheeler.

    When I do go out for more practice with the 2 wheeler I will be sticking to beach front rides and quiet roads until I really feel more confident. I can't even take bikability lessons because to get to them I have to ride the bike.

    At the moment I find no pleasure in riding a 2 wheeler. To me it's more scary than ones first driving lessons. I do intend to persist though as there are places I will be able to go with a 2 wheeler that I can't get to on my trike.

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  14. I've started cycling in traffic last year, after 10 years of not touching a bike. It took one year before that to be convinced to even buy one. A friend of mine had to go with me to a bike shop and stayed there until I made a choice.

    When the first car passed me by I stopped in panic. I did that many times in traffic and put people in difficult situations. I used to plan my trips carefully according to traffic lights and bike lanes. I couldn't signal. I was a terrified mess!

    Cycling with my friends definitely helped me realise my strength and limitations. Estimating distances, riding between cars, through narrow paths - all these seemed impossible until I watched people in front of me achieving all that.

    One year later I feel I can control the bike better. I can signal, which is a great relief. I can keep my balance for longer and going through slow traffic is not such a big deal anymore. I feel too confident, I might say, I hope I won't lose all my instincts and become reckless.

    I still have a lot to learn, but my point would be... If I managed to do it, anyone can, really!

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    1. "after 10 years of not touching a bike... It took one year to be convinced to even buy one"

      Similar situation here. Initially my husband suggested we get bikes and I thought that was an insane idea in a city like Boston. However, once I got on a bike again for the first time in 10 years, it was super exciting and I didn't feel afraid. My only regret is not getting back into it earlier.

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  15. If Im worried about a busy road I get drunk.

    This way I couldnt care less

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  16. the bike makes a difference, powering on at speed on a light carbon framed racer is different from plugging away desperately on something heavy and ungainly on a busy B road - perhaps it's an illusion of control, but it does help with the "feeling" part of the fear

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  17. Some of the fear is justified.
    There's a guy here in Pittsburgh who worked out a bike map for "scaredy cats", with safe (low speed, low traffic) routes between "islands" where Pittsburgh is relatively flat and has quiet streets to ride on. (The map is at bobsmaps.com). It's interesting to point out that he denigrates bike lanes on busy roads because they aren't really safe -- a line of paint isn't going to protect you from a drunk or distracted driver. Which is fair enough.
    But with practice, you can learn to bike defensively, and notice potentially dangerous situations -- places where you might get right-hooked, where a driver might cross in front of you, etc. -- and then be able to ride with confidence even on roads that scared you earlier.

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    1. I think a scaredy cat map is a great idea; someone should do that here in Boston! After 3 years of cycling, I accidentally discovered a fabulous alternative route to a nasty stretch of main road I used to hate doing. There are so many little pockets like that all over if you know where to go.

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    2. Well, this guy (Bob Firth) does these maps professionally, so maybe you could have somebody contact him.

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  18. Interesting post and something I hadn't really thought of before. When I was a lot younger, I had the opposite problem -- no fear. I rode on highways and busy streets (even short stretches of freeway), whizzed through stop signs, and threaded my way through traffic at breakneck speeds, all without a care.

    Now that I'm older, slower, and (hopefully) wiser, I'm a lot more cautious. But I agree that fear is not something you want to feel when riding a bike. It causes you to be less assured in your handling of the bike and ride too close to the curb. Plus, motorists can sense your vulnerability and will be less likely to treat you as an "equal" on the road.

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  19. I had a friend with cancer who used to say death has a lot going for it - not least oblivion, we used to joke that that's the only way religion makes sense ("heaven" etc.), a lot of the comments to this post felt liberating in the sense conversations with her did (many being about life, death and the irrelevance of both)

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  20. I'm lucky to live in an area that's quite bike friendly with lots of bike lanes and wide streets. In fact, this week they just painted bike lanes on the major street by my house!

    I enjoy biking on the road when there's space for me. When there is just enough room for the cars, I switch to the sidewalk until the road widens again. One thing I'm not very good at yet is changing lanes to turn left. Instead, I will cross the street twice to make the turn.

    I was running downtown today and saw a police officer riding his bike on the sidewalk. Every biker uses the sidewalk sometimes.

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  21. I can completely relate to this entry. I started road biking here in Boston two months ago. Riding in traffic still makes me feel like I want to throw up every time I get on my bike. In fact, I got side-swiped by a car on Mass. Ave. just a week ago. Luckily, my bike handling skills have progressed to the point that I managed to keep the bike upright and was not hurt.

    Interestingly, everyone I've talked to since I started the road biking seems to want to push me further and further. I heard repeatedly that I should start riding with clipless pedals "right away" so that it became natural and I got "good" at it. I tried this and while I could ride with the clipless pedals, it made the whole experience torture because I was so concerned about managing traffic AND my shoes. So, I've decided that "everyone" can take their own advice and I'm going to do my own thing. Which at this point means not riding at rush hour and wearing my sneakers - even on a road bike.

    Interestingly, I am far, far less scared of riding in traffic on my vintage Raleigh Twenty. Something to do with feeling more in control of it?

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    1. It's nicer to be in traffic on an upright bike to some extent. I like that my city bike puts me higher (high bottom bracket), I always get surprised after I don't ride it for a while. It feels more natural, and it's a clearer view of the road. I can see over SUVs. Being upright also makes it easier to see behind you, I think.

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    2. By the time I finally started riding clipless, it felt ready for it and the experience was an absolute joy. No panic, no nervousness, just so natural and fun. I would never wish upon anyone for it to be any other way. I was also lucky that none of the roadies I rode with during the year prior to that pressured me to go clipless, even when every single girl in the paceline ride was clipless but me. As long as I could keep up in my Power Grips, it was all right by them.

      After 3.5 years now, I still hate riding road bikes in city traffic and much prefer to be on an upright step-through bike for urban travel.

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    3. I broke/bent far too many chain rings, derailleurs, and even an IGH before I discovered the flat bar road bike. Higher end drive trains last so much longer for me.

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  22. "Fear is a habit, I am not afraid."
    Aung San Suu Kyi

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  23. Thank you, Velouria. I have been terrified of riding my road bike. I only ride on the busy but wide bike paths in the park but that is still scary to me because it the bike is so responsive. I only can ride up to 3 miles at a time now because it is so uncomfortable (still not accustomed to the seat yet). Anyway, thanks for bringing this up so I don't feel so alone.

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  24. Cycling in traffic with distracted drivers on cell phones is why they invented sidewalks! I don't think it's a matter of emotional fear to avoid busy traffic on streets... it's just a matter of logic to not trust drivers. Emotions or trying to build up courage has nothing to do with it.

    I frankly don't give a fig if it's illegal in theory to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk. When it's a matter of me surviving I ride my bike on the sidewalk. I am always courteous to a fault when meeting pedestrians.

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    1. Interesting, as stated below I feel the most vulnerable when riding on the pedestrian pavement (sidewalk) that runs just beside the road, especially when it runs beside a 70 mph road.
      However, put a few feet of grass verge between the cycle/pedestrian path and a fast road and it makes all the difference in the world to one's piece of mind and safety. Increasingly we are seeing joint cycle/pedestrian pavements (sidewalks) here in England and on the Continent.

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    2. John:

      I too will use sidewalks when safety is a concern. I ride to a job where the road narrows and there are NO shoulders. I do not feel comfortable holding up a line of cars filled with people coming home from work. I do not know their emotions, their mental status, or if they stopped at the local watering hole on the way home. Honestly...where I live in Northern NJ almost no one walks. The only pedestrians I see this stretch of sidewalk are squirrels, chipmunks and deer. When I feel safe to be on the road, I will take it, but sometimes you need to practice prudence.

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  25. Velouria,

    Thanks very much for this. I have been cycling for two years now and am happy with most scenarios, but worst of all is 70 mph traffic beside a combined cycle/walking sidewalk/pavement that drops immediately to the open road. I don't feel the same way on streets where there are cycle lanes or motor traffic at urban speeds. These are fine, but if I am in a situation like the first where I feel uncomfortable, I will dismount and walk and continue the journey when I feel it is safe to do so. That is usually when the speed limit slows and an on road cycle path appears. My favourite of all are dedicated cycle paths well away from motor traffic.

    When I started to cycle I was nervous in even light traffic, but we had an astro turf area at work and I practiced there until I felt safer among traffic. It just takes time and confidence.

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  26. Yes, thank you for this. My partner sent me the link to this article because I'm struggling with my fear. I just got my bike a week ago and I'm getting better, but sometimes my fear just gets the best of me; it actually makes riding more dangerous because I tense up, wobble, and fumble. I do a lot better when I stop thinking, let go, and trust my body to do what it already knows how to do. And I would ask the fearless types out there to be patient with us scaredy-cats; we're doing the best we can! When you get impatient, it makes us tense up more--be kind and gentle with us and we'll get there.

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  27. This is an interesting topic. I've ridden in some pretty busy cities including Washington, DC, (west) LA and, as a boy, Delhi and Karachi -- not to mention the less crowded but even more suicidal feeder roads outside of Nairobi -- and can say with confidence that confidence in cycling comes with experience. Even now, seasoned as I am, I am less confident in heavy urban traffic than in the past because I ride less in urban conditions; most of my riding now being more suburban than urban.

    I was fortunate that I cut my commuting teeth as a boy of 12 or so in Delhi (old and new) back in the late '60s where, despite the very heavy and chaotic traffic, bicycles were simply a part of the vehicle landscape: I learned without knowing any better simply to act and react as part of the urban traffic scheme. I think it is this experience, acquired relatively young, that made urban cycling in my later years so much more easy.

    A conversation just now with my brother who, for 30 years has been cycling in west LA and Santa Monica, bears out the premise that it is habituation that counts. During my visits to LA some 10 years ago, I found cycling rather intimidating despite my own urban experience -- I had been living in Albuquerque for some time -- but my brother tells me that his own experience is that LA's traffic was no more dangerous for the cyclist than Albuquerque's -- it is a matter simply of getting used to your riding environment. (He also tells me that now, in 2012, the cycling infrastructure and legal environment is far, far better for cycling than it was a decade ago.)

    One particular rule I've learned over the years is that you are really safer riding a bit more "aggressively" than in being excessively timid; for example, I think one is less likely to be hit -- because one is simply more visible -- if you don't creep along the curb but ride far enough out to avoid curb/roadway cracks, crumbling pavement edges and suddenly open car doors. I also pull out to the center of the lane at intersections to avoid the dangerous "right hook" (I've been hit that way) and this, in addition, also discourages oncoming left-turners from trying to beat you across the intersection -- just had this experience twice this afternoon.

    To sum up: get used to your riding environment as and how you can, and you will find the right combination of comfort and habitual alertness.

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  28. Jennifer in ScotlandAugust 19, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    For me, conquering cycling-related fear is not an altogether linear process. Generally I am much more confident cycling in traffic than I used to be but I find that my confidence levels vary according to stress levels in other aspects of my life. If I'm feeling anxious about work, say, I've noticed that I'm more easily 'spooked' when cycling in traffic.

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    1. I totally agree, Jennifer--I definitely have braver, more confident days and nervous, less confident days. And it's worse when I'm tired; I've been riding in the evenings, but I want to try to switch to the mornings when I feel more energetic (100 degree days here lately, so afternoon doesn't work so well!)

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  29. Great advice. This summer I've been helping a co-worker who's trying bike commuting for the first time. Even on quiet side streets, she has a lot of fear, but she loves the bike path, so I encouraged her to stick to the path until she feels more comfortable. Baby steps. Easy for an experienced rider to remember how scary biking with cars can be.

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  30. This post is perfect for my situation! Do you mind if I reference it in my blog? I recently added "become comfortable as a bike commuter" to my long term to do list.

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  31. I got a lot out of your post. It is indeed true that there are people who try cycling but got scared because of the cars passing by, which most of the time are just way too fast. I agree that it takes time to feel comfortable bicycling in such roads. Just try one safe road or two and gradually graduate to a busier spot. One baby step at a time. :)

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  32. fear is good, especially for biking. because as a biker, you are a target, they are out to get you. I've been riding for 12 years in Philadelphia. won the door prize more times then I can count, got in several fights with drivers (and other bikers). Recently moving to the burbs, it's even worse. In the city people hate bikers, but are A. used to them. and B. aren't going very fast. in the burbs it's the opposite. drivers are regularly hitting speeds of 55mph in 25 and 35 mph zones. (that alone should tell you something) they are not expecting to see a biker and get down right insulted when they do. as if you're purposely there to slow them specifically down. be careful and never get too comfortable.

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    1. It all depends on where you are. We moved to Belgium just before Christmas and I have to say the drivers are extremely polite and give way to cyclists. We live in Flanders near the Dutch border and there are cycle paths everywhere, on road, off road, but most here seem to be split pavements (sidewalks Am) with the pedestrian lane stone coloured and the cycle lane red coloured. Often there are cycle paths for each traffic direction and the traffic lights have special lights for cyclists.

      I am looking forward to trying out the Dutch cycle paths just to the north of us. They are very wide and safe and there are special long distance paths.

      The danger I have encountered here comes from fellow cyclists. Some here complain about the weekenders on racing bikes, but as a relatively new cyclist I have found the racers skilful in overtaking. However, there have been one or two rather pushy upright roadbikers who have the patience of a flip flop and forced me off the cycle path and over the curb on to the road. For this reason I prefer either wide cycle paths suitable for safe overtaking or cycle paths that run along the side of the road without a curb. These are easier for a novice cyclist.

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