We all know that bicycling is a great form of physical activity and a cost effective mode of transportation. But despite the many benefits of bicycling, bad driving, poor infrastructure, and dangerous roads are some of the top reasons we don’t see more bicycles on the road than we do cars. Unless you’ve received a comprehensive bicycling safety and competence training (like our CYCLE Kids program), coupled with practice and experience, bicycling around town can be a daunting experience!
In many cases, avoiding fearful and dangerous experiences are absolutely necessary. But, with the proper education and practice, bicycling can be a safe and fun physical activity and transportation method. With the following methods, you can learn how to make friends with fear through bicycling.
Learn about your bike
It’s easier to trust your bike to do it’s job when you get to know it a little bit better! A simple place to start is to learn your bike ABCs. A is for air. Knowing how much air your tires need, and knowing how to pump air into your tires is essential to riding safely on the road. B is for brakes. Always test both your right (your rear) and left (front) brakes before you go out for a ride. Make sure they are working properly, and that you feel confident to use them when needed. C is for chain. Make sure the chain is set properly on the gears, and is clean and free of rust. We also recommend taking your bike to a local bike shop for a tune up every year, to ensure that your ABCs are in good working condition!
Make sure to wear a helmet, check your ABCs, have reflective lights on your front and rear wheels, have a front and rear light on your bike in case you are caught riding in the dark, wear light colored clothing (and reflective clothing if it’s dark outside), and stay alert while riding. A simple rule to follow is to ride as if cars and pedestrians can’t see you. As a bicyclist, you have to be the most self-aware person on the road in order to look out for your own safety.
Know the Rules of the Road
As a bicyclist, in order to remain safe, you have to follow the same rules of the road as cars. This means riding in the same direction as traffic, stopping at stop signs and red lines, and yielding to pedestrians. It’s also important to know your hand signals so you are able to communicate with cars and pedestrians. Being able to use your left arm to signal “right”, “left”, and “stop”, and making sure that you are visible on the road will allow cars to anticipate your movements and ensure your safety on the road.
Set Small Goals
Riding a bike isn’t an all or nothing game. Start by setting small goals, like riding up and down the street to get used to being on the bike. From there you can start riding to your favorite nearby areas, like your favorite restaurant, park, or coffee shop. Once you feel comfortable and build up your confidence, you can work your way up to longer and more challenging rides.
Have a Plan (and a Backup Plan)
When you are first getting started, it’s important to have a plan before you go out on a long ride. If you’re riding to a specific destination, make sure you know exactly where you’re going and how you’re going to get there and back. Have a backup plan in case you get more tired than you expected, or in case there is a road closure and you have to take a longer route than expected, or if the weather becomes unsafe for riding. You might need to find a bus that you can take, or have a friend or family member you can call if you need to be picked up.
Are you someone who is scared of cycling? Are you willing to try any of these tips to face your fear? Let us know in the comments below!