Author Topic: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?  (Read 2937 times)

tomatops

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Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« on: June 08, 2017, 09:44:34 AM »
Hi all,

I loved MMM's recent article on the efficiency of biking to work.

Presently, I walk pretty much everywhere I need to get to as I live in a city (work, groceries, social events, etc), but I realize my time could be spent even more efficiently if I got on some pedals.

I know how to ride a bike, thing is: I'm terrified of city biking. My city has some routes with dedicated bike lanes (100% comfort) but for 95% of it, you share the road with cars (0% comfort). There are side street options available, but based on where I am, that would involve biking through busier streets to get to them first.

Have any of you overcome that fear of biking in a city? What did you do to become comfortable?

marielle

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2017, 09:55:40 AM »
I did...I kinda just went for it. It wasn't as bad as soon as I got on the road. I made sure to get a vest, lights, etc, so that I'm visible. The more the better. I'm not in a downtown city area but in a suburb area with really bad traffic at times, and NOT friendly to pedestrians or cyclists at all. The lack of sidewalks is depressing.

jeromedawg

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2017, 09:59:56 AM »
I did...I kinda just went for it. It wasn't as bad as soon as I got on the road. I made sure to get a vest, lights, etc, so that I'm visible. The more the better. I'm not in a downtown city area but in a suburb area with really bad traffic at times, and NOT friendly to pedestrians or cyclists at all. The lack of sidewalks is depressing.

^this.

I think you just have to get out there and start riding around. But do know how to signal with your hands and use it. Getting into a left turn lane with cars can feel awkward but it's generally not a huge deal. I don't bike much so I know exactly how you feel about being freaked out by cars, etc. The most important thing is visibility - get good front and back lights, reflectors, etc

Hvillian

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2017, 10:33:54 AM »
I highly recommend taking a class even if you are experienced and more so if you are not - very informative and confidence building.  They covered topics I hadn't thought of, and then we tested it on the streets in a group.  My wife and I both were very happy with Cycling Savvy, but there are probably others out there that are just as good.

Also, look online for casual or "slow rides" in your area.  There are a few each week in our medium size city.  It is fun, social, laid-back, a great way to learn routes, and build confidence in a group of other rides.

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2017, 12:39:15 PM »
Yep, you just gotta do it.  I remember the first time I biked in downtown SF after moving here.  It was overwhelming to say the least.  You get used to it quickly, all the fast moving cars and too much going on for your senses to process, it all starts calming down and your brain learns which parts it can filter out as unimportant.  There's nowhere in SF I would hesitate to ride now, bike lane or not.  The more crowded the better, because then I get to laugh (internally) at the traffic jams I'm whizzing by.

JLee

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2017, 01:53:56 PM »
Wear high visibility clothing, put lights on your bike, and be exceptionally alert. My brother commuted via bike in Phoenix and was hit by cars three times in about a year - fortunately none of those collisions caused serious injury.

2wanderers

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2017, 04:28:00 PM »
I don't know about overcoming the fear. I've been biking in my city since I was 12 (well, longer, but 12 is when I was allowed to start biking to school, about 8km away.)  My wife still complains that she's afraid of biking, even though she does it with some frequency.

But I was curious about your route statement.  I'd be interested to take a look at a map, because often times there are better alternatives that you haven't fully considered.  Route finding that avoids busy roads is a skill that takes years of practice, and anytime I see someone biking slowly with a wobble along a major road, I just cringe, because I know they just haven't figured out that skill yet.

GuitarStv

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2017, 06:29:51 PM »
Learn to control your bike.  Basic skills that anyone in traffic should know:
- Starting your bike from a stop by standing on one pedal
- Stopping your bike and coming off the saddle smoothly
- Riding in a straight line while signalling with one hand
- Riding in a straight line while looking over your shoulder
- Correct braking technique (which means predominantly using the front brake in most conditions)

Once you've got that down, yeah . . . just go for it.  You'll figure things out as you go along, but it is worth reading this site:  http://bicyclesafe.com/  to get you thinking about the situations that arise in traffic.

Your fear should disappear when you have skill controlling your bike, and knowledge of situations to avoid.

obstinate

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2017, 09:22:53 PM »
It's not a bad thing to have some fear of biking in the city. Fear keeps us safe. Fear stops us from doing idiotic things. On the other hand, it's important not to become debilitated by your fear.

A big part of it is experience. But it's not bad to take a defensive cycling class and learn how to be careful.

Stupendous

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2017, 10:07:43 PM »
You should be scared. I limit my fear by only riding where bike lanes exist but I live in a city where that is easily possible. Limit your time on the busy roads without a bike lane or don't ride at all. IMO, not safe.

http://bicyclesafe.com

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2017, 11:27:55 PM »
Learn to control your bike.  Basic skills that anyone in traffic should know:
- Starting your bike from a stop by standing on one pedal
- Stopping your bike and coming off the saddle smoothly
- Riding in a straight line while signalling with one hand
- Riding in a straight line while looking over your shoulder
- Correct braking technique (which means predominantly using the front brake in most conditions)

Once you've got that down, yeah . . . just go for it.  You'll figure things out as you go along, but it is worth reading this site:  http://bicyclesafe.com/  to get you thinking about the situations that arise in traffic.

Your fear should disappear when you have skill controlling your bike, and knowledge of situations to avoid.

These are good, especially the last two, those are often lacking.  Most people are afraid of using the front brake, thinking they'll fly over the handlebars if they touch it, but most of your braking power comes from the front, because that's where the weight shifts.  You can stop unbelievably fast on a bicycle by properly using both brakes, which can mean the difference between stopping before you hit that car that just turned right in front of you, or stopping after you hit it.  Practice emergency braking often.

Freedomin5

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #11 on: June 09, 2017, 02:56:35 AM »
For me, it helped to do a few practice runs during off times when traffic was not super busy. So for example, I left home at 6 AM and biked a shorter distance. The next day, I left at 6:15 and biked the same route when it was slightly busier. I worked my way up until I was biking during busy times.

valsecito

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2017, 06:30:24 AM »
A busy street with traffic jams is safer to cycle than a quiet street with little, but often fast traffic...

Rubic

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2017, 07:32:20 AM »
... because often times there are better alternatives that you haven't fully considered.  Route
finding that avoids busy roads is a skill that takes years of practice, ...

I don't know if I'd agree that it takes years of practice, but I'm often amazed when I
see somebody riding down a high-traffic road in an area I'm familiar with.  I'm like:

"Dude.  There's a parallel road one block north with no traffic and a bike lane that
will take you to your same destination."


I don't actually shout this out at them.  It's just a virtual thought balloon hovering
over my head.

FIREandMONEY

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #14 on: June 10, 2017, 05:18:43 PM »
Bike with confidence! 

I wear this shirt on my commute.  Truck are for wimps.  Real men use real muscles!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071K31ZJF


BrendanP

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2017, 03:06:54 PM »
I just started biking to work in NYC a couple of weeks ago. Live in Harlem and work in the Bronx. Took a few trips to find a path that I enjoyed, but it is much more pleasurable than the subway.

Especially beware of expansion joints on bridges. I totally bit it on my second day of riding but picked myself up and have not had any issues since.

Just get out there with a helmet and be aware of the vehicles around you.

hyla

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #16 on: June 11, 2017, 11:46:01 PM »
Start with biking on less intimidating routes (roads with bike lanes, or bike during less crowded times - early mornings, sundays), and slowly work you way onto busier roads as your confidence grows.

Be aware that crossing busy streets while riding on lower traffic streets is not too intimidating if there is a stoplight. 

Remember, if you ever find yourself on a road that you aren't comfortable biking on, you can always get off your bike and walk for a few blocks until you reach a safer place to bike.


PaulMaxime

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #17 on: June 11, 2017, 11:53:00 PM »
I did...I kinda just went for it. It wasn't as bad as soon as I got on the road. I made sure to get a vest, lights, etc, so that I'm visible. The more the better. I'm not in a downtown city area but in a suburb area with really bad traffic at times, and NOT friendly to pedestrians or cyclists at all. The lack of sidewalks is depressing.

Please don't ride on the sidewalks ever. You are legally a vehicle and you need to stick by the rules of the road. Believe it or not it's much more dangerous to you, cars and pedestrians if you are on sidewalks with driveways and such.

You are much faster than a pedestrian and so cars don't know to look for you there on the sidewalk and they are likely to pull in front of you at a bad moment. Much less likely if you are in the street where you belong.

GuitarStv

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #18 on: June 12, 2017, 06:14:24 AM »
I did...I kinda just went for it. It wasn't as bad as soon as I got on the road. I made sure to get a vest, lights, etc, so that I'm visible. The more the better. I'm not in a downtown city area but in a suburb area with really bad traffic at times, and NOT friendly to pedestrians or cyclists at all. The lack of sidewalks is depressing.

Please don't ride on the sidewalks ever. You are legally a vehicle and you need to stick by the rules of the road. Believe it or not it's much more dangerous to you, cars and pedestrians if you are on sidewalks with driveways and such.

You are much faster than a pedestrian and so cars don't know to look for you there on the sidewalk and they are likely to pull in front of you at a bad moment. Much less likely if you are in the street where you belong.

Counter-intuitively, I've been in far more accidents with cars while riding on sidewalks than staying in the street.  Cars are not expecting to see you at any crossing of the sidewalk, and will hit you sooner or later.  It's why I stay off them completely these days (unless walking my bike).

marielle

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2017, 06:15:59 AM »
I did...I kinda just went for it. It wasn't as bad as soon as I got on the road. I made sure to get a vest, lights, etc, so that I'm visible. The more the better. I'm not in a downtown city area but in a suburb area with really bad traffic at times, and NOT friendly to pedestrians or cyclists at all. The lack of sidewalks is depressing.

Please don't ride on the sidewalks ever. You are legally a vehicle and you need to stick by the rules of the road. Believe it or not it's much more dangerous to you, cars and pedestrians if you are on sidewalks with driveways and such.

You are much faster than a pedestrian and so cars don't know to look for you there on the sidewalk and they are likely to pull in front of you at a bad moment. Much less likely if you are in the street where you belong.

I don't ride my bike on a sidewalk.

Case

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #20 on: June 13, 2017, 06:01:26 AM »
Hi all,

I loved MMM's recent article on the efficiency of biking to work.

Presently, I walk pretty much everywhere I need to get to as I live in a city (work, groceries, social events, etc), but I realize my time could be spent even more efficiently if I got on some pedals.

I know how to ride a bike, thing is: I'm terrified of city biking. My city has some routes with dedicated bike lanes (100% comfort) but for 95% of it, you share the road with cars (0% comfort). There are side street options available, but based on where I am, that would involve biking through busier streets to get to them first.

Have any of you overcome that fear of biking in a city? What did you do to become comfortable?

My thoughts are counter to MMM's thoughts, but biking in a city has inherent risks to it.  When you are biking in high-traffic areas, and when your vehicle is way smaller than other people's and offers no major safety mechanisms, there are absolutely are risks.  It gets complicated to argue whether or not it is safer than driving (how do we compare them?  overall frequency nationwide?  frequency versus time on the road?  frequency versus severity of injuries sustained?).

The purpose of saying the above is, you should have fear.  Just like you should have some fear when driving to work.  Having training and knowledge on how to bike with cars safely will certainly help.  Life is full of risks.  You need to be paying attention at all times.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 05:59:34 AM by Case »

GuitarStv

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of biking in a city?
« Reply #21 on: June 14, 2017, 06:42:00 PM »
There's a difference between cycling with a healthy respect for and understanding of the dangers associated with the activity and being in fear.  You should not be in fear when cycling.  I certainly wouldn't cycle if I was terrified while doing it.