My Fear of Bicycling. ~ Cassandra Smith

Via on Jul 26, 2012
Photo by Carly Carpenter

Excuses, Fear & a Pink Bicycle.

When I moved to Boulder four years ago, I had planned on joining the environment-loving two-wheeled warriors in their journey toward sustainability.

That plan failed miserably. And it’s all my fault. Well, mine and the person who stole the bike I brought up with me for college.

The part of it that’s my fault is the part where I used “my bike was stolen” as an excuse to mask my fear and intimidation of cycling in a busy city.

As I drove my car around Boulder, I was both amazed and terrified by the seemingly courageous commuters who wove in and out of traffic only inches from cars. Every time I passed a bike in the bike lane, I could feel my muscles contract and anxiety level rise.

What if I hit someone? What if the biker lost control and veered straight into my car? 

The only biking experience I had prior to moving to Boulder was riding around the suburban sidewalks of my childhood, going to friends’ houses, and of course, the mall. I don’t remember ever seeing anyone riding in the street with traffic.

In bike-crazed Boulder, my intimidation level rose to outright fear. I pictured myself as the person who accidently veered straight into oncoming traffic. I became content and comfortable taking the bus and hiding behind my little excuse.

But recently, I saw that my excuse was just that, an excuse. I could afford to get another (used) bike. I was just too scared to ride it in Boulder.

Photo by Carly Carpenter

So, I took action. Inspired by my bosses Waylon Lewis and Brianna Bemel who ride their bikes virtually everywhere they go, I bought a cute little $25 pink and purple bike at Goodwill and got back on the road.

I was really nervous the first time I took it out to campus. The street I live on has a bike lane, so I had no choice but to just get out there and face my fear.

With butterflies in my stomach, I waited until there were no cars coming and edged off the sidewalk onto the pavement. As I started pedaling, I heard the whir of an engine coming up fast and my knuckles tightened on the handlebars. I was about to be riding side by side with traffic.

What happened next caught me off guard. It wasn’t scary at all. To my surprise, there seemed to be plenty of room in the bike lane, and I didn’t feel like I was going to get hit by any cars. My knuckles relaxed, and my butterflies subsided.

Far from the terrifying experience I had expected, I actually had a lot of fun.

I found that when riding my bike, I experience so much more. Since I’m going much slower, there’s actually time to look around and remember how beautiful Boulder is. I get the chance to experience the smell of flowers and yummy food, the sound of the water rushing down Boulder Creek and the taste of mountain-fresh air.

To my surprise, biking actually reduced my stress level. And apparently I’m not the only one.

A 2011 study showed that people who commute by bicycle have “lower stress and greater feelings of freedom, relaxation and excitement” than their car-driving counterparts. One startling infographic also claims that long commutes in cars can increase risk of heart attack, obesity and divorce.

Now that I’ve been riding for a couple of months, my old fear-based excuse for not riding my bike seems silly. Not only did I not have anything to be scared of, I was purposely excluding myself from having a good time and improving my wellbeing.

Getting over my fear of bike riding has also taught me something about fear itself.

It taught me that sometimes fear is there to test us, to push us further along our journey. If we make excuses about why we can’t face our fear, we won’t ever learn what it has to teach us.

Facing my fear of city bike riding opened up a new world to me. I’ve made new friends, improved my stamina and discovered parts of Boulder I never knew existed.

What might facing your fears do for you?

 

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Cassandra Smith is an editorial intern at elephant journal.  She is a fifth generation Colorado native who believes dance has the potential to liberate human consciousness from its cultural prison.  Cassandra formerly trained at Boston Ballet and is currently a senior at University of Colorado Boulder studying journalism, sociology and philosophy. Visit her website at cassandralanesmith.com, and follow her on Twitter.

 

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12 Responses to “My Fear of Bicycling. ~ Cassandra Smith”

  1. Robert Piper Robert_Piper says:

    Cassandra, great article on fear! I just posted it to Facebook.

  2. [...] Fear is an immensely powerful emotion. [...]

  3. Patricia says:

    Cassandra, I totally get it. I’ve been embarrassed by my fear of city biking, especially since I live in the bike-hipster mecca that is Brooklyn. But I’m moving to a new neighborhood and it just makes sense for me to ride to work. I’m going to follow your lead and hop on that bike!

  4. Benji says:

    I just got on a bike again after 10 years and it's even better than I remember. My last bike was stolen and it wasn't cheap so I did the stupid thing and got mad instead of just getting another bike. Now I ride stronger and faster than I did before. It's completely liberating and makes me feel free and fun like a little kid. Thanks for sharing your cycling story!

    • cassandralanesmith says:

      Thanks Benji! I definitely didn't know how much fun it could be, I'm so glad we've both found our way back to the freedom of cycling!

  5. ha ha, you cute chicken ( :P ). But yea, completely understand the 'first ride' moment. Man, I tell you, I took like ages just to get out riding, though I was able to ride by that time. It was just the feeling of either someone hitting me or me losing balance and hitting someone, kept haunting me. But well done, glad you are not scared anymore :D

  6. [...] I am terrified of you. I know that every time I get on my bike, I am risking my life. I know that I will not win in a collision. The fear that I must conquer each and every time I ride is beginning to do a number on my head. I am beginning to think it’s not worth it. [...]

  7. [...] need solutions that fit our pocketbooks and our lifestyles. Biking is not for everyone, but it isn’t the only option. Creative combinations of biking, walking, [...]

  8. Anna Sheinman SOFLY_Anna says:

    Hi Cassandra,

    I am glad to find your article. I just moved to Boulder 2 months ago. I learned to ride a rental bike in Boulder last year…before we moved, my husband bought me a nice bike for my birthday and I really loved it! It seems very easy and I fun so I overdid it to splatter myself and to heart my chest muscles so I couldn't sneeze w/o pain for a week. It's been a month and I am fully healed. I am back on the bike, riding around the parking lot and my neighborhood, slowing getting my bearing. Learning how to bike is a part of my daily yoga practice. Allowing myself to fail, fall and learn is pretty encouraging and exiting. In a way, I feel like a child again!

    p.s. I posted the comment twice by mistake – so exited about the article:-)

    Anna. <a href="http://www.streamoflifeyoga.com” target=”_blank”>www.streamoflifeyoga.com
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/author/anna-sheinm

  9. annqueue says:

    Driving a car in Boulder is scarier than cycling in Boulder. I do both, and my nerves are always shot after driving.

  10. jk272 says:

    thats awesome! i thought i was the only one. well, used to think. i, too, got myself back on the bike and for over a year now have been riding fearlessly and shamelessly! :) for the most part :) i'm starting to think i should start wearing a helmet though……even at risk of looking silly, i want to keep this noggin safe!

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