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?
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.