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I am terrified of my bike

September 17, 2010

For those of you who don’t follow us religiously (what’s wrong with you?), I recently bought a new bike, which is its own story. (I did replace the bike, thanks to Two, with the exact same thing).

I love my bike. I think it’s beautiful, with it’s lovely pannier and rack and light, it makes me so stinking happy just to see it. But I’m terrified by it, so I’ve ridden it so very little. Poor, sad bike.

See, I grew up in southwestern Virginia in the middle of no stinking where. Rush hour traffic doesn’t exist, traffic jams happen when you get behind a tractor, and I’ve seen multiple folks riding to the store on their lawn mower. It’s perfectly acceptable to let your kid run around all day, riding their bikes up and down the river, and you don’t have to worry about their safety.

And that’s what I did growing up, Nessa lived pretty far away, Justin was further, and the only logical way of hanging out was to bike it. I grew up on my white and blue bike, then graduated to a lime green mountain bike. But 16 came around and I got a truck (an amazing, antique, red-orange truck, I might add), and I feel out of the practice of biking. Then I went to college, to a small campus, lived on campus, and the process of unlocking a bike and locking it back up would have taken longer than actually walking to class. Radford was not a biking school (and, i’m not going to lie, it’s really stinking hilly, and we’re lazy). I got out of the practice of biking.

Flash forward ten years and I have huge bike lust. Atlanta is relatively flat, compared to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I love the speed and agility of biking. And darn it, I wanna be a cool kid, too! However, I’m so mortally scared of biking in this city that I’ve ridden very little in the two months I’ve actually had my bike. In fact, I think I’ve ridden twice. I make lots of excuses. It’s too hot. It’ll be faster if I drive. I don’t have a stinking bike rack anymore. Truth be told, it’s because I’m afraid of riding on the streets, and I live no where near a bike path. I live on the I-85 access road for crying out loud, I might die!

Last weekend a cyclist was doored, causing the 23 year old girl, who rode her bike everywhere, to be hit by a bus. To make matters worse, the woman who hit her left, saying it wasn’t her fault. To be doored is just what it sounds, the woman opened her car door as the cyclist was riding by, knocking her off her bike and into the bus. She died at the scene; the driver went to a baby shower.

People in cars don’t care about people on bikes, they see cyclists as nuisances. I’ve seen many drivers yell at cyclists, telling them to get out of the way, off the streets, etc. And in the war between cars and bikes, cars win. It never works out well for the bike. I’ve been there, I was hit by a car in high school, and trust me, the car, which ran a stop sign, didn’t feel a thing.

So until I can work through my irrational fear of biking in Atlanta, or they start adding a lot more bike lanes and get rid of all the cars, me and the bike will have a love/ hate relationship. I love her, but I hate myself for never riding her.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. CCTgirl permalink*
    September 17, 2010 1:00 pm

    I’m going to call myself out for using “stinking” as an adjective three times in one post. My vocab skills are amazing.

  2. September 17, 2010 1:33 pm

    I’ve now been riding my bike to and from work for about six weeks straight, and have no intention of ever going back to driving. Here are a few things that helped me get over my fear of riding in traffic.

    Most importantly, I’ve started following traffic laws religiously, and I don’t ride on the sidewalk. I bought a really good handlebar-mounted rear-view mirror, a loud bell, a set of front and rear lights for evening riding, and I always wear my helmet. As I’m riding in the street, I ask myself, “What would a car do in my position”, or “How can I keep this situation from becoming dangerous.” Sometimes I pedal more slowly in the leadup to a narrow bridge to allow more people to cut around me. I routinely “take the lane” in cases where it would be dangerous for people to pass me in-lane. I also, wherever possible, ride on multi-lane streets so that nobody is “forced” to be stuck behind the slow bicyclist. This has worked out surprisingly well.

    The other thing I did to overcome the “lazy” threshold is something I wrote about in detail in a previous comment: I purchased an electric front wheel for my bike. It’s not powerful enough for me to just motor around everywhere without ever pedaling, but it helps when I come to a hill or need to get going quickly after stopping at a stop sign.

    • CCTgirl permalink*
      September 18, 2010 5:35 pm

      I’ve bought lights and know to wear bright clothes and all that, but it doesn’t help that most drivers are oblivious to bikes. It should be a part of drivers ed, bike awareness.

  3. September 17, 2010 4:12 pm

    I drive by a rather lengthy bike route on my way to and from work. While on one hand I avoid it some days just not to deal with what is definitely a nuisance, I don’t have any ill will for those that choose to bike. Hell I mostly have envy because there’s no way in hell I’d bike a 45 min car ride no matter how awesome it made me feel. In the multiple months I’ve been on this route I’ve yet to see anything particularly troubling except for the occasional biker pull some really weird “I have the right of way but really not” stunts but the same could be said for 90% of the driving population.

    As each day progresses on my life, I constantly evaluate every decision against “Do I *really* want to do that?” My biggest regrets have come from simple non-action and some of them haunt me *tremendously*. If I could impart anything it would be to simply just do. If this is what you want, just do it to paraphrase a certain overpriced shoe company. If you die being doored at least you aren’t dealing with the crippling regret that I can’t be the only one experiencing. I have a feeling it’s in epidemic proportions especially related to ‘this economy’. Certain people will sink (do nothing) and I’ve seen a select few choose to swim and I’m always impressed by the swimmers even if I think there’s no way in hell I’d do that.

    Having said all of this I know all about lack of motivation too so I get where you’re coming from. It’s also easy to be enamored by the little things we consider “big and shiny” only to rip the wrapping paper off and be disappointed or specifically disappointed that reality isn’t quite matching up to an experience we very much have to create for ourselves. You’ve got this though, if you so choose but no pressure. We all figure it out with the proper amount of time.

    • CCTgirl permalink*
      September 18, 2010 5:33 pm

      O I’ll get this, just you wait.

  4. Bob S. permalink
    September 17, 2010 6:22 pm

    Your fears are well founded. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition has some classes on city riding skills that might help. http://www.atlantabike.org/classschedule

    I use my bike rack religiously to go to good spots to ride (your are going to have to get another rack). Or I get up early on Sunday morning and ride before everyone else is out. Of course, this is not a solution if you want to use your bike as transportation.

    • CCTgirl permalink*
      September 18, 2010 5:30 pm

      I have been intending to take the ABC class and do one of their rides, like Heels on Wheels, but I’m so stinking busy all the time! Thanks for the tips and for stopping by!

  5. reb1 permalink
    September 18, 2010 4:01 am

    Fear is a sign that something is not quite right. There is a reason for your fear and you should listen to it. I believe your common sense is letting you know that you are not quit ready for the commute to work. I like the suggestion to take classes. I would also like you to read some publications on bicycling. The bicycle street smarts booklet on the web is a good start. The boyscout cycling merit badge book and I mean it is a book would be very good. Another thing that would be very good would be to contact a local club or that coalition Bob was talking about and get somebody who is experienced to do some riding with. And practice in areas with light traffic if possible.
    A skill level test and a written test is required to drive a car is it not. Well it might not be required but these things exist for bicycling. If you do not know how a simple thing like crossing rail road tracks on a two wheeler can cause you to crash or even be severely injured or worse. The freshly thick painted white or yellow lines in the road or man hole covers when wet can cause you to spin out slide or even fall or worse. Do you know how to avoid a car starting from a stop or a right or left hook. Are you confident in stopping without going over the bars. All of this and more are discussed in the literature I suggested and no doubt the safety classes will help with this. Take some time and learn what you can and ride with someone else when ever possible.

    • CCTgirl permalink*
      September 18, 2010 5:17 pm

      Uh, railroad tracks and man holes? One broke his wrist on the Beltline riding his bike over the tracks. This was not a reassuring comment!

  6. jenvanleigh permalink
    September 18, 2010 4:36 pm

    You should have included another (probably my favorite) Hyperbole and a Half!

    • CCTgirl permalink*
      September 18, 2010 5:15 pm

      That is one of my favorites, too! I did really consider including it.

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