Let’s Talk About Fear and Cycling

It’s unfortunate, but there are a lot of people who have a fear of riding a bike.  This generally applies to road riding, but no matter what kind of riding you do….this post is here to fill you with suggestions on how to overcome this fear.

As with all editions of our “Let’s Talk” series, this post is all about you and the content will come from your tips, suggestions, and comments.  Don’t be shy…speak up and help others out by providing ways to ride a bike without fear.  If you have a question about the fear associated with riding a bike, please add that to the comments as well so that it can be addressed.

Remember, you deserve to be out there….so let’s make it happen.

 

  • streetexile

    One thing I do to encourage other drivers to be safer around cyclists is actually when I am driving myself. When passing a cyclist I indicate (left) as if overtaking and give the cyclist 5 feet or more room as I pass, I also reduce my speed. What’s interesting about this is that, 9 times out of 10 if i lead with that example I’ll see cars behind me doing the exact same thing. Often I’m amazed and saddened at cars passing me too fast and too close when they have a bike mounted on their bike rack, you’d think fellow cyclists would be more courteous/sensible. When cyclists drive i think they could do a lot to lead by being positive examples to other drivers. The one point drivers seem to miss when criticizing cyclists is that the majority of cyclists are drivers to.

  • velo girl

    I totally agree with predictability, confidence, and attentiveness.

    I also try to set a good example as a road user by working with traffic and yielding to motorists when safety and courtesy is involved. I commute daily to work and do early morning rides on the weekends. I am lucky to to have a generous shoulder to ride with only a few “pinch” points. I am one of the few bicycle commuters in my community.

    Some of my riding involves pre-daylight riding and I use lighting. Hopefully my lighting trains motorists to recognize bicycles. I use a steady light as I find the flashing systems irritating.

    I consider non-shouldered roads to be too high a risk when speed limits exceed 35mph or traffic volumes are moderate or greater. For me it is not a fear issue, but acceptable risk.

  • http://twitter.com/HelenBlackman Helen Blackman

    When my mum taught me to drive she told me to think of the most stupid thing that the driver in front could possibly do, then I wouldn’t be suprised when they did it. It’s good advice that extends to cycling too. The only thing I would add is that, imaginative as I am, sometimes people do things so stupid I couldn’t have predicted them. So basically, cycle defensively.
    I had a couple of cracking falls one very icy winter which made me very cautious. But since cycling is my main form of transport I just kept cycling until it was so routine that the fear diminished.
    I blogged some other advice here http://helenblackman.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/how-to-survive-on-the-uk%e2%80%99s-roads-top-tips-for-cyclists/ but that is for the UK so in some places you might just have to keep reading ‘left’ for ‘right’!

  • http://twitter.com/kanebicycles Kane Bicycles

    You cannot ride scared. You own part of the road too. Act like you’re invisible, ride defensively, and use your head.

  • Mark Beaconsfield

    “If you were worried about falling off a bike, You would never get on.” -Lance Armstrong.

    Everybody has a fear when getting on the bike. No matter how good a rider you are. So many things can go wrong out on the roads. But we all need that little bit of fear to keep ourselves safe.

  • mtme

    It’s the braking. Braking is naturally done with the foot, not the hands. You hang on with the hands. Most people have a fear of falling, falling leads to breaking something. Cycle manufacturers need to reinvent the bike and give riders the choice of braking with the feet or the hands. You don’t brake a car with your hands. Put both kinds of brakes on the bikes and riders can just set the bike for which braking system they are comfortable with. When I got my first hand brake bike it scared the heck out of me. I never fell off my bike since I learned to ride but when it was time to get a new bike the brakes were on the handlebars. The first time I needed to stop in a hurry to avoid hitting something I couldn’t go around, I applied the feet to stop. I didn’t stop. My feet just turned the pedals backwards. By the time I remembered the brakes were on the bars, I was already into what I tried to stop for. I didn’t want to ride the bike anymore. Also there are people who just cannot ride a bike because of the brakes on the handlebars. I know several people who don;t bike because of this. For example. One man does not have much strength in his right hand and can’t grip the brake lever so he can only apply half the brakes and it has sent him over the handlebars. Now his bikes sits in the garage. A former co-worker use to bike to work, summer and winter but had an accident at his workplace and lost two fingers, now his bike sits in his shed because he can’t ride it because he can’t use the hand brakes. Both have a fear of riding because they can’t stop. A friend has one arm shorter than the other so sitting on the bike and braking is difficult to do for her and she loves to ride. In order for her to reach the brakes she has to sit very awkwardly on the bike. She gave up riding. Again, not being able to handbrake puts a big fear in riders. You see a car coming on the side street and see he is not going to stop at the stop sign and you can’t brake properly, you know what is going to happen to you in two seconds and you can’t get stopped.

    • http://twitter.com/HelenBlackman Helen Blackman

      You could consider riding fixed, then you would be braking with legs rather than hands. Sad stories though – but surely there must be ways of adapting bikes for those with limited use of arms or hands?
      Re. seeing cars about to leave a side road, a couple of things help. First, you might want to keep your speed down so that you can brake in time. Second, consider putting your hand out to them, palm flat, in a ‘stop’ gesture. Works surprisingly well with UK drivers, who seem to have some sort of automatic response to it.

  • radar50

    I’ve been riding in the gutter a bit. I’m mostly travelling on secondary highways out in the country and have to deal with 90+km/h cars and trucks. At those speeds motorists don’t even slow down so there’s no chance of me owning the right tire track. Can anybody recommend a good mirror? I gave this thing a try but just can’t get it adjusted well enough…

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/290742598937?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1497.l2649

  • http://twitter.com/StevieDexter Stevie Dexter

    The most important thing to keep yourself safe when riding on the road is being predictable. Hold a confident line on the right-of-the-middle (left-of-the-middle over here in the UK!). Don’t ride too close to the gutter, this will encourage drivers to pass you even if it’s not completely safe and ensure you signal early and make any movements with confidence and conviction.

    The sad death of Euskaltel Euskadi rider Victor Cabedo today outlines how even the most experienced riders can be caught up in a freak accident but there are lots of things you can do to keep yourself safe.

  • http://mghollis.blogspot.com/ Melinda

    It’s kind of interesting this came up today, because I was riding this morning with a friend who won’t ride roads because she’s scared of the traffic. I’m going to have to send her to this page. I used to have the same fear, and in some ways, still do. 1) I ride earlier. 2) I use lights. 3) I’m going to get a very bright jacket that has some reflective material. 4) I’m a bicyclist. I deserve to ride in the middle of the lane if I need to. As long as I am obeying the law, you need to learn how to deal with me and my fellow cyclists.

  • Dona

    Ok, not a fear, but a question. I wear contacts, but my left eye is has MUCH decreased vision. Question: Mirrors. Right now I rely on sound and decreased (almost legally blind) type vision when I look for traffic on the left. I have mastered slowing down and looking toward the right for traffic. If there is a car close, I am prepared to stop (riding on suburban/urban roads with parked cars). I’m comfortable with this. Is this safe? Would a little mirror on my helmet work? Would it work on the right side? I’ve used other mirrors, but I have to turn my head more than the avg person to get a good look if it is mounted on the left side. Like I said, I’m comfortable with what I’m doing. Just looking for opinions. I’m am a recreational rider with a hybrid. (No REAL fast rides for me!)

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      Hi Dona, great question. Vision is very important of course and you definitely want to be able to see clearly. You are very right in that hearing can also be a good indicator for what’s around you and I would think that a mirror could help you as well. You could mount it to your right side if that’s what you need. Be sure to let me know if you have any additional questions or want to discuss this further.

  • Dona

    I have a fear that when I’m out riding, I’m enjoying myself so much I won’t get home in time to pick up the kids from school. Learning sooo much from this website!

  • Craig

    I generally feel safe, but when I see drivers on cell phones it scares me. Those are the ones that don’t pay attention and do things that are not safe. I’ve had a few instances where a driver almost hit me because they were looking down at their phone.

  • Norm

    If you’re able to ride at the more quiet time of day with less traffic, I find that makes it feel safer on the road.

  • Michael quinn

    A bike shop owner told me to ride where the cars right side tires would be. Reason – cars won’t be able to squeeze by without slowing down- they would have to slow down and wait until traffic clears and can pass safely. Don’t ride in the gutter, you’re better than that- you’re a cyclist! Also, ride with a rear blinking light!