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  1. #1
    I need more cowbell. Digital Gee's Avatar
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    Overcoming irrational fears...

    Got any tips?

    I'm not sure why, but lately I've become more fearful of cycling. After reading the thread about how to fall, and watching the news about the San Diego cyclist killed by a hit and run driver, and all the other reports about accidents and bad drivers and such, I'm just more anxious than ever. My cycling is primarily urban but as much as possible on side streets. It's fun and I love it -- but I cannot afford whatsoever to be off work for several weeks with broken bones, let alone come to an untimely end.

    The more I read, however, the more convinced I am that sooner or later, I'm either going to fall, causing some relatively big injury, or I'm going to crash or be hit by a car driven by someone not paying attention.

    For those who don't know me, I've only returned to cycling about three months ago.

    I believe these fears are irrational, or perhaps a better way of saying it is "blown out of proportion" but the intellectual understanding hasn't eased the fears. Can anyone offer some suggestions to ease my mind?
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  2. #2
    Dare to be weird!
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    I think collisions and falls are completely rational fears. What I do is try to learn from my mistakes. Every close call is an opportunity to ponder how to avoid that situation the next time. The most important thing I've learned so far is that when I'm hot or tired I make lots more mistakes.

  3. #3
    Berry Pie..the Holy Grail GrannyGear's Avatar
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    Digital,
    I can understand where you're coming from...especially from the guy who rightly said "cycling is 50% physical, 90% mental." FWIW, I've been riding steadily since 1983 and, on my road bikes, have only fallen, crashed, etc. once....a few weeks ago--and it was minor. I ride mostly suburban and country, but frequently in some heavy traffic. Like all riders I've had some close calls with cars due to their poor, careless, reckless driving or my own ineptitude-- but have never been touched by a car in my 22 years of adult riding.

    My point: bad stuff does happen, but it is not necessarily inevitable or, for that matter, deadly or often involving serious injury. In the end, risk is everywhere, but the emotional/physical benefits of sensible cycling still seem to outweight the hazards.
    Take Heart....and know that such thoughts, I believe, are common to us all.

  4. #4
    Roadie
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    The dangers are certainly not blown out of proportion, however fear is counterproductive.
    Replace it with greater environmental awareness, precautionary and safety measures, defensive riding techniques and sound judgment, including not going out on a ride if you are not up to it.
    Dangers exist even when you cross a street, drive a care or work around the house. So take care and enjoy your life.

  5. #5
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    Dangers are everywhere, I love some of the references at the base of posts. One I enjoy notes a list of alternatives with the end line being "or you could fall off the couch while watching TV and die."
    You have got to make your own choices, loosing income is not a good thing, but do you curtail things you enjoy so you can work, or do you work so that you can do the things you enjoy.
    I had an experience about 2 weeks ago during my morning ride. One part of the ride has a long curving downhill run, (say 1/2 mile). I usually top out at about 32mph on this stretch and love it. On this particular run I could see a car pulling up at a cross street and I felt that in the dark, even with my front strobes flashing, he did not see me. Sure enough he began to pull out and I began to angle further to the left and pull up on my suicide levers, (aptly named). Needless to say there is no way I could stop in time. A final thought crossed through my mind that this was probably going to hurt! Anyway, at the last second he finally saw me, slammed on his brakes and I had angled enough to the left to still get by him. Life can be dangerous, but I still love that long hill!!

  6. #6
    Fritz M richardmasoner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digital Gee
    After reading the thread about how to fall, and watching the news about the San Diego cyclist killed by a hit and run driver, and all the other reports about accidents and bad drivers and such, I'm just more anxious than ever.
    I understand the feeling. Every once in a long while I'll get struck with anxiety. Intellectually, I understand that cycling is as safe or safer than many other common activities (including driving). If this fear thing happens, though, I take a tip from accident recovery, which is to just get out there and push myself through the irrational fear.

    I think what helps me more than anything is that I got rid of the television. TV news often overemphasizes the sensational over what's useful which gives viewers a skewed sense of reality. If it bleeds, it leads.

    We get about a dozen traffic fatalities every week in the state of Colorado. There might be a little note in the local paper police blotter and that's it. The two or three cyclist deaths that happen in Colorado each year, though, are front page news throughout the entire state, often with followups, commentary from the clueless about how "dangerous" cycling is, editorials, and letters to the editor. That's not necessarily all bad -- I think heightened awareness for motorists that their vehicles are capable of killing needs to happen -- but I think it also underscores the fact that the news is big because it's so rare.

    Portland Oregon has seen an unusual number of cycling fatalities this year. I think they had something like five deaths in the month of June. This is sad, and it would be good to find out why this is.

  7. #7
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    I have been driving a car for 40 years, and most of that as a Sales rep on high speed roads. I have only had two accidents in that time. My daughter does 1/4 of my milage, and on rural/ city roads and she has had 2 in 6 months. You can see situations arising and I make certain that I am not going to be hit by the idiot in the car coming up behind, or at the T junction coming up. By making certain that I am not in the wrong place, at the wrong time, I don't get many cars damaged. Similarly on the bike. I make certain that other road users know what I am going to do. I keep my eyes and ears open to not be in the wrong place and I make certain that my brain registers that ALL other road users are out to get me. It works.

    What it is not going to do though is cater for the Car drivers that are out to get me. No chance with them, but by keeping an eye open for them, we do not meet very often.

  8. #8
    displaced AZ Wildcat Clayton's Avatar
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    Be proactive with your growing caution. Think about what you can do to lesson the risk exposure but don't give up riding.
    I love going fast but I recently installed a drag brake on our tandem because the down hill speeds can quickly become a lot faster than I'm comfortable with. Especially when I realize that a spill would injure not only myself but my wife as well.
    I'll slow down, but I won't stop descending hills because of the fear ... besides it's too much fun pedaling up the hill to worry about going down.

  9. #9
    OM boy cyclezen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digital Gee
    Got any tips?

    I'm not sure why, but lately I've become more fearful of cycling. ... My cycling is primarily urban but as much as possible on side streets. It's fun and I love it -- but I cannot afford whatsoever to be off work for several weeks with broken bones, let alone come to an untimely end.
    The more I read, however, the more convinced I am that sooner or later, I'm either going to fall, causing some relatively big injury, or I'm going to crash or be hit by a car driven by someone not paying attention.
    ...
    I believe these fears are irrational, or perhaps a better way of saying it is "blown out of proportion" but the intellectual understanding hasn't eased the fears. Can anyone offer some suggestions to ease my mind?
    I'm not sure there are any 'tricks' that can effectively negate these kinds of fears. I'll have to admit to the same psychosis (I say psychosis not because itz unfounded, just that it works towards handcuffing me). A result of a mishap this past dec. involving a hummer that rode me off the road and caused multiple fairly serious injuries. Thankfully none that couldn;t be compensated for after recovery.
    The point being that I could react and reduce my exposure by not riding, thereby reducing not only that threat, but also something that enriches my life, gives me greater and broader perspective, and is one of the few things in Life still left for me to control.
    Platy and others have hit upon important points to 'reducing' exposure and still being a participant in the things like cycling that integral to living.
    Thankfully we never really know how or when we are to expire, except those relatively few unlucky people who will go because of some defined illness. To that point the decision becomes how we reach it.
    If cycling is less essential to your being than other things, then maybe its worth not opening that risk.
    Ultimately, IMHO, there just are no 'tricks' to making the conscious decision to be a participant in some things and not others. The real 'trick' is that once a decision is made, humans are both resourceful and surprisingly tenacious in surviving and getting our way. Trepidation just opens you to the unlucky side of doubt.

    SD is suffering from the same urban/suburban sprawl that most of SoCal is afflicted with (as is the Virigina to Boston corridor in the NE, and prolly many other areas in the US). Addressing and 'surviving' the inherent dangers has the making of a real good 'sticky' thread here in the '50+' world. With as many experienced (and surviving) riders we have on this forum, should make a good read and would prolly bring a lot of viewers from the other forums.

  10. #10
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clayton
    ... besides it's too much fun pedaling up the hill to worry about going down.
    Masochist==especially as its 2 up.

  11. #11
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    I agree with these last several posts. They are much better thought out than my own. Reducing the risk factor to a comfortable level for yourself is much the smarter way to go. The key item of course is to continue cycling. There are ways, through being more attentive to dangers for one, where you can get back into a comfort zone. Then you can proceed to enjoy riding!!
    Keep at it Digital Gee

  12. #12
    I need more cowbell. Digital Gee's Avatar
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    This has been very helpful, and I'd like to thank everyone who responded. I think one of the most important keys for me is to identify the fear (rather than deny it) and ride through it anyway. When I let the fear get a grip on me, and refuse to admit that it's there or say anything about it, I begin rationalizing and limiting my options. By simply saying to myself that I have (for whatever reason) some fear, I can choose to acknowledge it and ride through it. I'm looking forward to today's ride.

    I think a little fear keeps me alert, and is actually healthy (like a little stage fright keeps the performer from being stale). It's good to review all the input from this thread and "resize" my anxiety. In other words, I think I was simply letting fear get the best of me, and by owning it, and talking about it here, I've resumed command of it.

    Thanks!
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  13. #13
    In Memory of One Cool Cat Blackberry's Avatar
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    I try to do practical things to limit my risk, knowing very well that risk can't be completely eliminated:

    1. Always wear high vis colors. I'm talkin' super bright orange and high vis green.This gives me a real boost of confidence, especially when my cycling buddies shield their eyes in mock horror. At least I know I'm likely to be seen.

    2. Ride on low traffic roads.

    3. Stay well to the right and if a driver might have trouble getting around you, find a way to help him ( For example--pull into a driveway and just let him go by).

    4. Do your own thinking in a group. Forget about pacelines with people you don't know and if someone says an intersection is clear, make sure it is with your own two eyes.

    I realize some people won't agree with some of this especially number 3. But that's what works for me. Good luck and enjoy your ride!
    Dead last finish is better than did not finish and infinitely better than did not start.

  14. #14
    I need more cowbell. Digital Gee's Avatar
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    Well, I got 25 miles in today in the beautiful town of Coronado, California. Turns out it's about 6 miles in circumference. It was such a gorgeous day, I couldn't stop riding, so I just pedalled around the loop four+ times. Coronado is a peninsula that seems like an island, and is home to countless retired admirals and Navy captains and such.

    There's plenty of opportunity for all kind of urban cycling -- Orange Avenue is crowded and treacherous, the side streets are wide and far less busy, and then there are the dozens of tourists riding those six passengar four-wheel canopy bikes (usually, against traffic, of course). There's also a long stretch (8 miles?) of bike path down the Silver Strand which I did not visit today.

    I seem to have refound my confidence. Again, thanks for all the tips!
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  15. #15
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    Digital:
    I feel for your concern. I must do exercise for many reasons. Biking is the best sustained effort I can do at my age of 63.
    I did have (2) bike accidents in 15 years. NOT involving cars. I slipped on wet leaves and flipped over due to a deep rut in a bike pad.
    That being said, I am addicted to speed biking and constantly try to increase my average speed.
    So, how NOT to have bad accidents?
    I drive by car to designated bike trails. I will not bike on roads with cars if at all possible.
    I drive to a state park where speed is restricted to 35 MPH. This helps because all the cars are aware of the bikers.
    Yes, I still may have an accident. But the alternative is also not acceptable. I can eat what I want and have energy I did not know existed.
    I truly hope this helps you.

  16. #16
    Senior Member DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Everything you do (or don't do) has dangers.

    Don't exercise - die of heart attack etc.

    Several hundreds of folks die each year from falling off of the couch or down the stairs.

    So, do the things with dangers which you enjoy!

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