Scared of bicycling. Seriously!

Venice Beach Skatepark
Image by shiner.clay via Flickr

In a previous post this week, I mentioned that my all-time favorite exercise period so far was riding a bike along Venice Beach in California. I had so much fun! But it was also a little scary, since I hadn’t been on a bike in a decade (give or take). Okay, maybe more than a little scary…

When I first stopped riding a bike, it wasn’t something I set out to do. The last time I rode a bike, I didn’t stop and say “Ayup, I’m not doing that again.” I had every intention of riding again the next day, or the next week, or definitely the next month. Time has a way of getting away from a person, though. And that’s what happened. A couple of months went by, and that turned into a year, and we get to this point.

Somewhere along the way, though, I started to become afraid of getting on a bike again. When I was a teenager, I was riding a bike down a hill. I stupidly thought I could ride down it hands-free. I thought damn, I look cool! And then I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to stop at the stop sign at the bottom of the hill if I didn’t grab the handlebars and hit the brakes.

The stop sign design currently used in English...
Image via Wikipedia

I was right, I couldn’t stop for the stop sign. I went straight through it and ran smack dab into the side of a truck. The thud was sickening, the world stopped for a second, and suddenly I was on the asphalt. I stared up at the sky, wondering if what I thought happened had actually happened. The driver of the truck came running around to see if I was all right.

Obviously I was all right. Just had some bumps and scrapes and bruises. But that memory stuck with me. I was able to block out that image by riding my bike a lot more. Get right back up on that horse, right? I rode through my high school and college years. But once I stopped riding? From that point on, when I think of a bicycle, I think of slamming into the side of a car while going a good 15-20mph.

Denver B Cycle program.Back to the present: The city of Denver started a bicycle sharing program called Denver B-Cycle. The concept is as simple as it sounds. A person pays a token amount of money to rent a bicycle. You can then ride it throughout the city, returning the bike to any of the numerous B-Cycle stations around the city. It’s an easy way to get in some exercise without having to lug a bike in to work.

Denver b-cycleEver since I heard of the B-Cycle program I’ve wanted to do it. I’ve come close – one day I actually planned on taking my bicycle helmet with me to work. I can’t get up the courage to do so, though. I imagine myself riding on that bike. I see myself hitting the brakes too late, riding out into the middle of the busy streets around my office building. I see myself not getting lucky this time, and running out in front of a car instead of smashing into the side of it.

As I sit here, I have two dueling thoughts running through my head. I want to start riding bicycles around town. I’m afraid I’ll get hit by a vehicle if I do. How do I reconcile these?

– M

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