Fear of traffic?

I’m a somewhat risk-averse individual. I was always the ninny who told my friends “We shouldn’t do that; we might get in trouble” when they wanted to do something foolishly insane, like climb a chainlink fence or throw a rock into the pond.

And yet, I’ve never been afraid of riding my bike with heavy traffic. Why is that?

Foothill Expressway traffic panda

Riding alongside 60 MPH traffic doesn’t bother me. If a car brushes past within inches, I usually don’t mind too much. For whatever reason, I’m not terrified of traffic.

But I also realize many people are afraid to ride in traffic, and I don’t know that they’ll ever be accustomed to riding alongside cars and trucks. I hope I don’t come across as condescending or superior — I understand that you feel traffic is dangerous in a very real, visceral way, and you probably see people like me as foolish daredevils. I think it’s probably something very primeval, and my fearless attitude to large, fast object in close proximity is probably not a survival trait — in the African savanna, I’d be the caveman focused on pounding a rock (you know, caveman high tech) when the sabre-tooth monster pounces while the rest of you all get away to safety.

But I still get annoyed at articles like this, encouraging readers to fight global warming with better driving habits to improve gas mileage. “Cycling is an ideal way to reduce one’s personal carbon footprint,” writes the editor at Good who then continues, “but the reality is that not every city is as bike-friendly as Portland.

Yes, there are stresses to riding with traffic, and I more-or-less prefer off-road paths to busy roads, but a lack of facilities doesn’t keep me from biking.

At the risk of upsetting some of my readers, I’m going to be transparent. The crusty, grumpy vehicular cyclist in me wants to scream, “PLEASE DON’T AFFIRM THAT INFRASTRUCTURE EXCUSE!” because I still really believe that, for most people, “lack of facilities” is an cop out. 98% of the American population drive cars to work because it’s easy and convenient. Build a bike path from their front door to their office or factory, and they’re still going to drive most of the time.

So please tell me: If you fear traffic, tell me about it. I’m interested in your stories too if you once feared traffic but found a way to overcome it.

45 Comments

  • January 25, 2011 - 5:17 pm | Permalink

    what brand of handlebars are those? Looks like a nice elevation

  • January 25, 2011 - 5:21 pm | Permalink

    I find that in my everyday riding that I am more uptight while riding along side cars and trucks. Because after all it is just a white painted line on the road. Easily crossed like changing lanes. I have found that by adding more lights and reflective goodies to the commuter my personal fears subside a bit.
    The thing I fear most is my wife, daughter and future child grow up with out me. It is a fear that I think is good though. It propelled me to kick Cancer it propels me to ride safer.

    I like your comment on building a path to american’s door. you are absolutely correct. They will still drive.

  • January 25, 2011 - 5:38 pm | Permalink

    About 1/3 of my commute is on-road and the other 2/3 on a multi-use trail (railroad conversion). Most of the time I’m taking the lane on a 4-lane road, so the cars really don’t seem to pass me very close. The issue is where riders don’t know the proper lane position (and why would they?, no one teaches it at school) and cars try to squeeze by them.
    I also think that separate bike facilities, multi-use trails and on-road bike lanes help people get over the fear of biking for transportation. I would guess that half of the people who started biking for transportation in the last year did so because of the availability of these bike facilities (a guess). I would also argue that safe vehicular cycling training would be just as effective as infrastructure to get people out on bikes (also a guess).

  • January 25, 2011 - 5:38 pm | Permalink

    About 1/3 of my commute is on-road and the other 2/3 on a multi-use trail (railroad conversion). Most of the time I’m taking the lane on a 4-lane road, so the cars really don’t seem to pass me very close. The issue is where riders don’t know the proper lane position (and why would they?, no one teaches it at school) and cars try to squeeze by them.
    I also think that separate bike facilities, multi-use trails and on-road bike lanes help people get over the fear of biking for transportation. I would guess that half of the people who started biking for transportation in the last year did so because of the availability of these bike facilities (a guess). I would also argue that safe vehicular cycling training would be just as effective as infrastructure to get people out on bikes (also a guess).

  • January 25, 2011 - 5:46 pm | Permalink

    I don’t like riding in traffic.

    I still do it – I ride to work at least 2 days a week year-round – but I don’t like it – at least not on many roads near where I live. I too feel safer when I add lots of blinkies and stuff – it makes “I didn’t see him” a ridiculous excuse – but if I didn’t have a multi-use trail that got me most of the way to work, I probably wouldn’t bike to work much. I find biking in fast traffic (35+ mph) stressful – and one of the major points to biking for me is that it relieves stress, so stressful biking doesn’t do much for me!

    I agree that mindset is a lot of it… but personally I think a lot still needs to change. I wouldn’t be comfortable with anyone under driving age biking the route I have to take. I think that’s the determining factor – “would I let my kid ride there?” – in getting cycling as transportation to go mainstream.

  • Hlbooth
    January 25, 2011 - 5:47 pm | Permalink

    I am from London and according to a recent survey here around 60% of people would choose to cycle more if there were segregated cycle lanes – where they felt safe and away from traffic. You might not mind cars whizzing by you at 60mph, but I don’t think you should expect others to feel the same. I have been riding for almost 40 years, in all different types of riding conditions and can honestly say I have only ever felt endangered on my bike while riding alongside roads filled with motorised vehicles. It takes a certain strength of character to clench your teeth and battle with the traffic every day knowing that one mistake from a driver can maim or kill you. Believe me, there are plenty of close shaves every day from drivers chatting on their phones, texting, fiddling with satnavs, turning without indicating, pulling out of side roads (had one almost kill me last year) and generally giving cyclists little or no respect on the roads. And while I agree that vehicular cycling is relatively safe (particularly in cities where traffic moves relatively slowly) I cannot ever see it being one that appeals to the masses.

  • matt
    January 25, 2011 - 5:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m pretty fearless about traffic, but I’ve had my days where I didn’t ride but I would have ridden if there was a path or other facility.

    In my case, I normally ride about a mile and a half out of my most direct route to take advantage of quieter streets with more generous lanes. What I avoid is a busy 4-lane where I have dealt with numerous aggressive drivers, where there is no shoulder whatsoever, and where making a left turn (which i must do to get home) is akin to suicide.

    My preferred route, while better, involves a place where I must merge over into a left turn lane on a 40 mph road to take advantage of a protected left hand turn, a right-only lane I have to ride down “the middle of the road” to stay out of, an unsignallized 4-way intersection with a blind hill for approaching traffic where I have to turn left, and two more “right only” lanes where I have to ride way out in the (45mph) road to keep going straight. All this in the progressive, green paradise that is the Greater Burlington, Vermont area. Add darkness and cold and snow on the shoulders in the winter and it’s a wonder I see anybody else out on that ride at all.

    I cannot imagine anybody who wasn’t already an experienced cyclist deciding to make a change from driving a commute like mine to biking it. And I have a shower and locker room at work (a big hill right before my office means there’s no “ride easy and don’t sweat too much” option!).

    If the infrastructure cop out is “there isn’t a path from my door to the door of my office,” I’m with you- that’s a cop out. But, if it’s something more like “I’d love to ride to work but there are some places along my route that, by design, are dangerous to a person on a bicycle,” I get it.

    There’s another element, which is actual aggressive drivers. How many of us encounter actual threats of violence against our person on a regular basis? Off the bike, I never do, but on my bike, I have experienced assault and battery, and the threat of battery, numerous times, always from drivers and their vehicles (traffic), always while commuting by bike. I don’t think it would be reasonable or healthy for me to “get over” my fear of those things happening (not that it stops me from riding).

    My point is “bike friendliness” is important and I don’t think the lack of it should be dismissed entirely as a cop-out. When we ask people to consider biking to work instead of driving, we are asking them to become a vulnerable user of the roads, to submit to insults and hurled garbage and intentionally-revved diesel smoke, we are asking them to get creative about their office wardrobe, we are asking them to learn how to fix a flat, in the rain, on the side of the road. A path, a lane, a sharrow, a street or intersection design that accomodates bikes- these things aren’t the be-all and end-all, but installing them removes a barrier for somebody, somewhere, who might just decide to learn to change a flat if they don’t have to ALSO worry about getting flattened at a bad intersection.

    I’ll admit, I’m still figuring it out. I’m trying to document that process on my blog- here’s an example: http://re-turn.blogspot.com/2010/11/off-bike.html

  • matt
    January 25, 2011 - 5:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m pretty fearless about traffic, but I’ve had my days where I didn’t ride but I would have ridden if there was a path or other facility.

    In my case, I normally ride about a mile and a half out of my most direct route to take advantage of quieter streets with more generous lanes. What I avoid is a busy 4-lane where I have dealt with numerous aggressive drivers, where there is no shoulder whatsoever, and where making a left turn (which i must do to get home) is akin to suicide.

    My preferred route, while better, involves a place where I must merge over into a left turn lane on a 40 mph road to take advantage of a protected left hand turn, a right-only lane I have to ride down “the middle of the road” to stay out of, an unsignallized 4-way intersection with a blind hill for approaching traffic where I have to turn left, and two more “right only” lanes where I have to ride way out in the (45mph) road to keep going straight. All this in the progressive, green paradise that is the Greater Burlington, Vermont area. Add darkness and cold and snow on the shoulders in the winter and it’s a wonder I see anybody else out on that ride at all.

    I cannot imagine anybody who wasn’t already an experienced cyclist deciding to make a change from driving a commute like mine to biking it. And I have a shower and locker room at work (a big hill right before my office means there’s no “ride easy and don’t sweat too much” option!).

    If the infrastructure cop out is “there isn’t a path from my door to the door of my office,” I’m with you- that’s a cop out. But, if it’s something more like “I’d love to ride to work but there are some places along my route that, by design, are dangerous to a person on a bicycle,” I get it.

    There’s another element, which is actual aggressive drivers. How many of us encounter actual threats of violence against our person on a regular basis? Off the bike, I never do, but on my bike, I have experienced assault and battery, and the threat of battery, numerous times, always from drivers and their vehicles (traffic), always while commuting by bike. I don’t think it would be reasonable or healthy for me to “get over” my fear of those things happening (not that it stops me from riding).

    My point is “bike friendliness” is important and I don’t think the lack of it should be dismissed entirely as a cop-out. When we ask people to consider biking to work instead of driving, we are asking them to become a vulnerable user of the roads, to submit to insults and hurled garbage and intentionally-revved diesel smoke, we are asking them to get creative about their office wardrobe, we are asking them to learn how to fix a flat, in the rain, on the side of the road. A path, a lane, a sharrow, a street or intersection design that accomodates bikes- these things aren’t the be-all and end-all, but installing them removes a barrier for somebody, somewhere, who might just decide to learn to change a flat if they don’t have to ALSO worry about getting flattened at a bad intersection.

    I’ll admit, I’m still figuring it out. I’m trying to document that process on my blog- here’s an example: http://re-turn.blogspot.com/2010/11/off-bike.html

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  • Jack
    January 25, 2011 - 6:05 pm | Permalink

    As a VC for over 50 years I’ve learned that “taking the lane” only occasionally insures that drivers stay in another lane, typically I’m buzzed. I’ve had neighbors from other countries who are used to cycling daily that are amazed at what cyclists in the USA must endure. One family on my block moved back to Berlin after experiencing so much hostility.

    But what about your children? Will you let them negotiate on their own the numerous 8 lane roads that surround neighborhoods on their bikes? As an adult I have years of experiences with drivers and know what to expect, children don’t have these experiences. The situation has gotten much worse over the years as drivers are more distracted than ever and driving larger, faster and higher horsepower vehicles.

    The greatest number of potential cyclists continue to drive (or request to be chauffeured) in in in cars as their fears are real. Without a seat at the political table of infrastructure design, latent cyclists will continue to chose cars over bikes to feel safer.

    Of course both views can find numerous examples…

  • Jessi Hance
    January 25, 2011 - 6:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m a coward. I am and have always been very frightened of traffic, whether I was walking, cycling, or in a car myself. Or perhaps I should say that I’m frightened of the inattention/indifference/hostility of drivers. More so in combination with challenging circumstances, such as a narrow, curving mountain road, or a city street with not enough room in the bike lane to avoid the door zone, and too much traffic to take the lane.

    I only bike a short distance every day along the streets of my town, but I still have to face my fears every moment of my ride, and get over the adrenaline/tachycardia experience every time there’s a close call. And this is Santa Cruz, which is presumably tons bike-friendlier than most places.

    Yes we need safer conditions for everyone, and yes more people would ride if it were safer! I have a few friends stopped from cycling by safety concerns, not by laziness.

  • archergal
    January 25, 2011 - 6:42 pm | Permalink

    My usual routes here have very little in the way of cycling infrastructure. There are a few miles of multi-use path, but it’s essentially like riding on a wide asphalt sidewalk. So I ride on the roads mostly.

    I don’t enjoy sharing the road with traffic. I do it, but I don’t enjoy it. Rides like that are not relaxing. I feel like I have to be hyper-vigilant all the time. So I tend to stay away from the heavily trafficked routes as much as possible. I’ll ride a couple of miles out of my way if it will keep me off a fast busy street with no shoulder, or keep me from having to make a left turn that feels unsafe to me.

    But maybe I’ve just read too many stories about cyclists being killed by inattentive drivers.

  • January 25, 2011 - 6:42 pm | Permalink

    It’s a Japanese sourced handlebar on Sanyo’s electric bicycle.

  • January 25, 2011 - 6:44 pm | Permalink

    I’m not anti-facility, and for the most part my bike commute is on roads with wide outside lanes either with shoulders or bike lanes.

  • January 25, 2011 - 6:45 pm | Permalink

    You and Jack bring up similar points about what’s appropriate for children. I agree that cycling should be made safer for kids.

  • January 25, 2011 - 6:46 pm | Permalink

    That’s part of the tragedy, isn’t it — perceived traffic risk for kids leads to very real increases in danger as more parents drive their children to school. It’s a very difficult cycle to break.

  • January 25, 2011 - 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for that Jessi.

    Santa Cruz as “bicycle friendly”:. Some drivers there are very aggressive and deliberately harass cyclists who venture too far from the bike path. I’ve had as many car-vs-bike ‘interactions’ in four years in Santa Cruz as I’ve have in 30 years of cycling anywhere else. It doesn’t take too many such incidents to condition us to hate riding in traffic.

  • January 25, 2011 - 6:52 pm | Permalink

    That’s the perspective I’m looking for, and I thank you for that.

  • Sarah
    January 25, 2011 - 6:58 pm | Permalink

    I am a regular cycle commuter, and recreational cyclist, and I even race from time to time. I am extremely confident in my own bike handling skills and help teach classes for others on bike handling. I am a “vehicular cyclist”. For many years, I have put more miles on my bikes than my car.

    I have been brave and relaxed in the past, but a near-fatal for my hubby (hit from behind, no witnesses-no rememberance, but GPS shows sudden acceleration from 18-37 mph as he flew into the bushes) and several close calls make me leerier and leerier every year of riding in traffic. It’s gotten so that I’m extremely anxious about going out around commute times. There is just too much distraction, aggression and hurry.

    On the other hand, riding a mutli-use path during a busy time, like on the weekend, can be hair-raising as well, and VERY inefficient. I did a section of the Steven’s Creek trail this last weekend, which was a constant exercise in emergency stopping and re-accelerating. I would love separated facilities where it is efficient. Like in Strausbourg, France, there are completely separate bike facilities and a sea of bikes, but everyone is moving efficiently and safely, though not at a pace that would give a “workout”. Likewise, in the suburbs in Germany, there are side paths on every major road where you can really crank along on your bike at a workout pace. They are not littered with pedestrians and children. They have their own separate system, too.

    A second alternative that I find palatable is a large network of quiet, residential or residential-commercial streets that can be connected without running into major barriers like 101, 280, colleges and elementary school entrances, or the various expressway systems.

    I do have several friends who live from 3-5 miles from work, who like to ride bikes, who do not commute because of the traffic hazards. Purely anecdotal, however.

  • Sarah
    January 25, 2011 - 6:58 pm | Permalink

    I am a regular cycle commuter, and recreational cyclist, and I even race from time to time. I am extremely confident in my own bike handling skills and help teach classes for others on bike handling. I am a “vehicular cyclist”. For many years, I have put more miles on my bikes than my car.

    I have been brave and relaxed in the past, but a near-fatal for my hubby (hit from behind, no witnesses-no rememberance, but GPS shows sudden acceleration from 18-37 mph as he flew into the bushes) and several close calls make me leerier and leerier every year of riding in traffic. It’s gotten so that I’m extremely anxious about going out around commute times. There is just too much distraction, aggression and hurry.

    On the other hand, riding a mutli-use path during a busy time, like on the weekend, can be hair-raising as well, and VERY inefficient. I did a section of the Steven’s Creek trail this last weekend, which was a constant exercise in emergency stopping and re-accelerating. I would love separated facilities where it is efficient. Like in Strausbourg, France, there are completely separate bike facilities and a sea of bikes, but everyone is moving efficiently and safely, though not at a pace that would give a “workout”. Likewise, in the suburbs in Germany, there are side paths on every major road where you can really crank along on your bike at a workout pace. They are not littered with pedestrians and children. They have their own separate system, too.

    A second alternative that I find palatable is a large network of quiet, residential or residential-commercial streets that can be connected without running into major barriers like 101, 280, colleges and elementary school entrances, or the various expressway systems.

    I do have several friends who live from 3-5 miles from work, who like to ride bikes, who do not commute because of the traffic hazards. Purely anecdotal, however.

  • January 25, 2011 - 7:09 pm | Permalink

    On efficiency — I really like the Ellen Fletcher bike boulevard on Bryant in Palo Alto. I think that’s my favorite bike facility ever.

    Since you and a couple of others have mentioned it, I can understand about how injury collisions involving yourself or those near you can change your attitude. I’ve been in a few ‘accidents’ a handful of times both on bike and in car, though none resulted in serious injury to me or passengers. I don’t know what my reaction would be if something life changing happened in one of those crashes.

    Have you heard about the rear-ender on Foothill this last weekend? Rene Wensley was hit from behind by an elderly driver who drifted into the bike lane.

  • January 25, 2011 - 7:39 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t say I fear traffic, but I greatly, greatly prefer riding where there isn’t much – largely from an aesthetic point of view. Heavy traffic streets are noisy, smelly, dusty, hot in the summer, splashy in the winter, and I just avoid that when at all possible, because I prefer to really enjoy my time in-transit. Plus, I like to be able to space out a little and look around me and not just be completely focused on holding a straight line and stopping quickly if somebody decides to cut into the bike lane without looking or cut me off or whatever.

    So, I would say I’m capable of riding in traffic, and I’m not that scared of getting hit, I just don’t enjoy it, so I avoid it. There are definitely some roads that I just won’t ride on though – I’m not going to ride in the lane on a road with a 35mph speed limit where everyone drives 40mph.

  • January 25, 2011 - 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Richard,
    I think fear is a barrier to entry, but removing it is not an incentive to bike. The countries and cities that have the highest bicycle usage are also places where the bicycle is faster and cheaper than cars. It is not enough for people to feel safe. Cycling has to be a more attractive option than driving if cycling is ever going to grow beyond the enthusiasts.

  • Andy
    January 25, 2011 - 8:10 pm | Permalink

    I don’t particularly like traffic, but I’ll take that over a no-traffic route with wandering pedestrians any day. At least for my commutes, I have no issue taking a lane. There’s a few sections that are just easier if I stay in the leftmost lane since I have an upcoming turn. I get funny looks, but it’s just easier than trying to cross 2 lanes closer to the turn a few blocks down the road.

    My route home goes up a fairly steep and narrow state highway. When I started commuting, I would hug the curb as close as I could, assuming that giving drivers the most room would be best. Over time, I’ve learned to give myself more room, now riding about 2-3 feet off the curb. Cars pass slower, they’ll often wait to pass when it’s safer, and I have plenty of room to bail right if needed. When I hear a semi approaching, I take the lane on the hill long enough to let them know they can’t just barrel past me unsafely. Too often they would approach at 30mph when I’m doing 12, and leave nearly no room. It took a lot of time to realize how best to handle this.

    I’m surprised when I think back to riding to school. Mostly around 13-15 I was riding a mtb on the roads 6 miles each way. I have zero recollection of traffic issues, or worrying about traffic. I’m not sure if people just gave more room and I had no issue, or maybe it just didn’t bother me then, who knows. I just remember thinking it was silly that I was biking that far, but knew many people 1-2 miles from school that still got driven all the time. It was a fairly rich area though.

  • Sarah
    January 25, 2011 - 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I did hear of that incident. And, it’s the type of thing that makes me think twice before heading out. I hear she is relatively OK, which is a good thing.

  • January 25, 2011 - 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes riding in traffic scares me a bit but not nearly as much as driving a car in traffic. Seriously, I don’t understand how people put up with that every day!

  • January 25, 2011 - 9:26 pm | Permalink

    I feel the same about the traffic. If cars are doing their own thing and driving conscientiously, I don’t mind that they’re going 60 and/or are very close to me – I only worry about those drivers who are out there with the attitude that any cyclist is in the wrong and drive aggressively or those who aren’t paying attention (cell phones, cheeseburgers, spilling their coffee in their lap etc) and make sudden turns or meander.

    That being said, I’ve found other cyclists to be just as difficult albeit less dangerous, as they don’t have the momentum of a ton of steel. Either from riding overly aggressively and blasting past other riders who are stopped at a light or whatever as well as riders who are less experienced and ride unpredictably especially when there are large groups of other cyclists around (see the broadway bridge around 5 or 6 pm.

    We can do something about the motorists that aren’t paying attention and inexperienced cyclists through education, and hopefully the overly aggressive cyclists who want to blast past everyone will grow up and go to non-commuter areas to race, but the motorists who are angry at cyclists won’t get better until they can be assured that cyclists aren’t stealing their roads away from them. Well, I guess that’s education as well. Once these barriers are overcome or greatly mitigated, I think more and more folks who live a reasonable distance from their places of business. will get on bikes. I have friends who are not bike commuters who say that they would not be opposed to the idea, but they just don’t know how to get over the initial hurdle to get started. Their thinking is that it will take much longer than driving or even taking the bus (biking to work for me takes half the time door-to-door as public transportation), or what route to take, or basically fear of the unknown – once again solved by education. If the local news would have pieces like “How to Get Started Biking to Work”, “Bike Commuting Safety” or “How to Stay Dry on Your Bike” rather than “THE WAR BETWEEN CARS AND BIKES!!!” nonsense that seems to be po0pular, that might be a good first step.

  • Jessi Hance
    January 25, 2011 - 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for that perspective, Richard. It actually encourages me to know that it’s not always as bad elsewhere! And the benefits of cycling over the hassles of car-owning are still enough to keep me pedaling.

  • Erik Thatcher
    January 25, 2011 - 11:15 pm | Permalink

    If I ever get off my butt (on my butt, maybe?) and start riding the *whole* way to work again, I’ll see ya in the bike lane (on Foothill). For now, I just ride a few miles to Sunnyvale Caltrain.

    On the upside, Foothill has a nice wide lane most of the way. The scariest part about that road, in my experience, is catching a green light at an intersection and hoping the right-on-red’ers see you while you’re going through the lane they’re about to turn in to.

  • Rootsid
    January 26, 2011 - 12:43 am | Permalink

    I have a bike path that keeps me off busy roads for 9 of my 9.7 mile commute. I commute whenever there isn’t snow or ice on the ground. I avoid busy roads whenever I ride for two reasons 1. Car and trucks passing within a couple feet at 40-70 miles per hours is terrifying. 2. when I do get some assbag passing too close I find it difficult to shoot accurately from the saddle of my bike.

  • Britton
    January 26, 2011 - 4:15 am | Permalink

    Personally, I’m not a fan of biking in traffic. I’m not afraid of it to the point of avoiding it entirely: making the choice to not own a car and not having lots of cash for public transit leaves me with few options. I will say, though, that many of my rides are full of very very frightening moments. Lots of near misses, especially at intersections where cars are making right turns into my lane, often without looking. Someone had written earlier that the inattention of motorists causes their anxiety, and I’d have to agree. Granted, back when I had a car I felt he same way :)

  • Adrienne
    January 26, 2011 - 7:32 am | Permalink

    Traffic fears me!! Mwaaahhaaaahaaaaa!

    Seriously. I find that drivers do really stupid things simply because I am pedaling along doing my own thing in my little part of the road. I will ride just about anywhere, I have no problem taking a lane and they can scream at me about it all they want (my new comeback is “enjoy your stress related heart attack!”)… but I would go to great lengths to have some infrastructure that keeps me from having to deal with the fear / anxiety / frustration / stupidity of many people behind the wheel of a car. Until that time, take the lane and take it with a smile!! Oh, and kids can learn how to as well. Middle kid is 11 and she knows when to assert her right to the whole lane and when not to (and how to wave and smile to the screamers).

  • January 26, 2011 - 9:39 am | Permalink

    Hey!

    This one is a great post, Richard. Strong words. Congratulations for it!
    I decided to add it to the section “today’s favorite rides” of my “Cycling London Online” blog here: http://cyclinglondononline.wordpress.com

    Have a nice day!
    Cheers,
    Marco

  • Hlbooth
    January 26, 2011 - 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Cheers. I think another issue, and one that’s particularly off-putting for female cyclists is the level of aggression you encounter from motorists. I’ve had everything from verbal abuse, to drivers deliberately following me, driving at me and forcing me to get out of the way, to stuff being chucked out of car windows at me and even drivers getting out of their cars and physically threatening me. All this for daring to question a motorist’s behaviour… And I’m a 5ft 4, 120lb woman. And these incidents have all involved men…

  • Hlbooth
    January 26, 2011 - 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Cheers. I think another issue, and one that’s particularly off-putting for female cyclists is the level of aggression you encounter from motorists. I’ve had everything from verbal abuse, to drivers deliberately following me, driving at me and forcing me to get out of the way, to stuff being chucked out of car windows at me and even drivers getting out of their cars and physically threatening me. All this for daring to question a motorist’s behaviour… And I’m a 5ft 4, 120lb woman. And these incidents have all involved men…

  • Murali
    January 26, 2011 - 3:44 pm | Permalink

    I could not agree with you more. You are so right that the infrastructure excuse is such a cop-out.

    I wanted to add that I too feel comfortable riding along motorized traffic. Even fast traffic, if there is enough room on the road for both my bicycle and cars. In fact, I feel more comfortable on the bicycle than when I drive on the highway.

    The fact is that when you are cruising along at 65 mph, one small mistake by you or another driver could cause you to decelerate to 0 mph in a short amount of time, scrambling your internal organs fatally. But people are unaware of this danger when the air conditioner is keeping you cool, the music is playing, and the road noise is eliminated. The metal cage, air bags, anti-lock brakes give people such a false sense of security.

    The fact remains that you are much more likely to die in a car than on a bike.

  • Roadblock
    January 26, 2011 - 4:41 pm | Permalink

    I ride as a vehicular cyclist in LA for most of my commute because I have to.

    I’ve been hit from behind and left for dead by a speeding drunk. Yep I survived. But 30 yards from where I landed, a ghost bike was chained to a pole commemorating someone who didn’t.

    One day someone will spill their coffee, send a text, be drunk or just make a mistake and tag you too mr fearless. Then come back and talk about riding next to 60mph traffic inches from you.

    I still ride. And things have gotten better for me. But nothing will ever compare to the lazy days riding across the entire country of the Netherlands never once riding in fear. Ever.

  • January 26, 2011 - 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I’m from Asheville, NC, and enjoy biking to work during the spring through fall. I commute 18 miles each way on country roads and side roads, yet I’m still fearful about traffic. However, I dare not risk biking through our city which has a less than adequate cycling infrastructure and a culture of hostility toward bikers. Even while descending one country road, Ox Creek for those that are interested, this past November I had a gigantic white Ford truck completely enter my lane of traffic and challenge me to a chicken duel while I was descending and accelerating downhill. Fearing for my life, I quickly went left, he followed; I quickly turned right, he followed; and during the final second before collision, I rapidly merged into the left lane where we passed each other. Not cool!

    I almost stopped road biking completely after this incident. I have many other experiences where my commute has almost resulted in serious injury by other drivers and this is all on the less traveled side roads. Yes, I’m especially fearful of riding my bike on the road and sometimes wonder if I should just stick to mountain biking on the trails.

  • Clare Salisbury
    January 26, 2011 - 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know about fearing ordinary traffic. I can empathise with the fact that it can be exhilarating. But this is definitely not always the case in urban areas.
    Whilst at university, I and many other students were encouraged to cycle into campus because of the clearly designated cycle routes marked on the road. (And I do believe that this was partially the reason that so many of us used our bikes, even in mid-winter.) This meant you were naturally in close proximity to the traffic but quite clearly separated.
    The more intimidating aspect of my daily rides used to be the buses, which at points in the route, shared the cycle lane. – Or more accurately, the cycle lane became part of the bike lane. Cars are one thing, but large vehicles are another. And buses are so frequent in all British city centres, especially at prime commuter time. Not to mention the speed at which they travel in specially designated lanes. We’re always hearing about the tension between car owners and bike riders, but we rarely think about the tensions between ‘more eco-friendly’ ways of urban travel do we?… http://www.claresalisbury.wordpress.com

  • Larry
    January 26, 2011 - 5:40 pm | Permalink

    While there have been some experiences with inconsiderate drivers (including a mass transit bus driver that intentionally flew past with inches to spare), my experiences cycling in traffic have been strongly positive.

    Perhaps motorists are more considerate because they want a better view of the unusual looking folding bikes I ride ;-)

    By the way, I do bike with a mirror mounted on my sunglasses so I can have a clear view of what’s coming up behind me and that’s a safety device I heartily recommend.

    Larry
    RideTHISbike.com

  • Larry
    January 26, 2011 - 5:40 pm | Permalink

    While there have been some experiences with inconsiderate drivers (including a mass transit bus driver that intentionally flew past with inches to spare), my experiences cycling in traffic have been strongly positive.

    Perhaps motorists are more considerate because they want a better view of the unusual looking folding bikes I ride ;-)

    By the way, I do bike with a mirror mounted on my sunglasses so I can have a clear view of what’s coming up behind me and that’s a safety device I heartily recommend.

    Larry
    RideTHISbike.com

  • Jack
    January 26, 2011 - 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Matt, good luck to you and your young family. I too go out of my way to avoid certain road risks (risky by design!) especially with my young sons. Many small risks often add up to a large risk for many potential cyclists and thus old car habits remain in control.

  • Jnolan
    January 26, 2011 - 7:53 pm | Permalink

    “But I also realize many people are afraid to ride in traffic, and I don’t know that they’ll ever be accustomed to riding alongside cars and trucks.”

    Actually I believe that to be the case. It’s something you get used to. No body “likes” it or “prefers” it, but after a while, people adjust.

    Unless they are Republicans or Tea Partiers, that’s a whole ‘nother story.

  • January 26, 2011 - 10:30 pm | Permalink

    I guess the nerve comes with time. I am new to biking (as a grown up), but am very cautious, at least right now – I am not ready to ride in the street.

  • MikeOnBike
    January 26, 2011 - 11:17 pm | Permalink

    From my own experience, and from observing other cyclists, we often unwittingly create frightening situations. Most often, it’s by riding too far right in narrow lanes. That makes us hard to notice from a distance, and is naturally interpreted by motorists as “no need to change lanes, just squeeze past”.

    For me, learning when and how to control unsharable lanes made a huge change in my attitudes about traffic. Heavy traffic may be annoying, noisy, unpleasant and smelly. I may prefer quieter routes when they’re available. But if my route requires a busy street, I know I can manage the situation.

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