A common thing for new people to inquire about on cycling forums or to ask other cyclists revolves around riding “in traffic” and “out there” in general. As in - “You ride your bike on the roads versus a dedicated and separate MUP?” It seems that society has become a bit fearful of the unknown - when really there is not that much to fear once you get out there on some rides, gain some experience, and ride safely.
I won’t refute the fact that riding a bike in traffic or on roads with vehicles can be dangerous business. There are ass-hats all over driving cars. There are also cyclists riding like ass-hats on the roads. There will always be accidents and that is just part of life. As a cyclist - or someone who wants to experience the thrill of cycling - you just have to ask yourself, “do I want to live life in fear of the unknown? Or do I get out there and take the bold first crank of the pedals?” In the infamous words: “Just Do It!”
Sometimes when meeting people - and the conversation turns to my recumbent cycling hobby - they become wide eyed musing, “You ride that on the roads?” Yes indeedy. Some people would never dream of doing this. Maybe they are watching too much TV and have acquired a sort of “George Gerbner” syndrome, where the “CSI” media saturated masses start to believe that the world outside their front door is full of nothing more than criminals, muggers, stabbers, drug dealers, and everyone is out to get you. Well, I am here to report that “out there” is not all that bad, the world is not a CSI TV show criminal filled wasteland, and people are pretty much good-natured. People who think otherwise and choose to stay home all the time are really missing out.
I will admit that my first “real” venture riding far from the safety of a familiar place was pretty scary. It was a wobbly venture full of worry. At the same time there was an awesome sense of wonder and discovery. I had driven some of the roads, but they were now completely new. I saw so many things that I had not noticed before, aside from the wind in the face and all that stuff. As I got bolder and ventured further, and signed up for longer organized rides, the sense of accomplishment and discovery grew. When riding, there is a connection to the surroundings that just does not exist when you whiz past in the “safety” of a fossil-fuel (or any fuel) cage. Places become “real” from the vantage of a bike and you look at them differently. The world becomes less-scary and you realize its not all a Gerbner style self-fulfilling prophecy of media-land horrors.
For people wanting to really experience the world, I cannot think of a better way than by a bike. In my last five years of local solo rides I have been to more remote places and had more sensory experiences of the real world than in all the years of my life before cycling. On organized group rides I have seen and experienced places that I will never in my life visit by a car. I mean, I got to ride up to and then around Crater Lake. Ride around and experience Crater Lake... via a bike. On a recumbent no less. It stands as maybe the best (and hardest) cycling experience ever for me to date. If I can do it, everyone can.
Quite frankly, after being to these many places on my bike, going there by car would seem boring and the experience would pale in comparison.
So, take that first step and ride “out there” wether it be commuting or signing up for an organized event ride. You will experience places like never before - from your own neighborhood to places far far away - and be getting healthier by the minute as an extra bonus.
Writer and “Talking Heads” band fame David Byrne, who commutes and rides bikes pretty much everywhere he goes, wrote in his book “Bicycle Diaries” this:
“...getting around in a way that doesn’t feel completely divorced from the life that occurs on the streets is a pure pleasure.”
Indeed it is.