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Irrational Fear 

If I do a search on the web for cycling related stories, as I often do, it is most times depressing, many of the stories are related to cycling deaths.

If one is not careful this can give a person a totally distorted view of cycling and the risks cyclists take. It is probably the reason many people who would ride a bicycle, are afraid to do so.

If you are a cyclist you cannot allow fear to take over your thoughts, and one must constantly push negative thoughts from your head. Most people believe in the power of positive thinking, and that success and good things happen to those who constantly think good thoughts.

By the same rule, if every time you ride your bike you think, “Is today the day a car will hit me,” chances are at some point a car will hit you.

It is not so much thinking those thoughts, one has a hard time not to sometimes with all these negative stories occurring on a daily basis. The important thing is to be aware of those thoughts and constantly push them from your mind, or better yet, replace them with a positive thought.

One has to get the whole picture in perspective. 40,000 people died in automobile accidents in the US in 2018. That is 109 people a day who got out of bed in the morning climbed in their car without a second thought, and by the end of the day were dead.

In that same 24 hour period two cyclists were killed. (800 annually, 2.3 per day.} The difference is most of the 109 people who died in their cars each day did not get a mention in their local newspapers, but the two cyclists did.

Fear that I might get hit by a car when riding my bike is an irrational fear. Compare the 800 cyclists who die each year with over 3,700 people who drown each year, an over 2,800 die in a fire. And yet does the fear of drowning or death by fire ever enter our mind? Of course not.

So the next time you prepare for a bike ride and a nagging little thought that you might get hit enters your head, ask yourself, would I have these same thoughts of death and doom, as I walk down a flight of steps, or that I might choke while I am tucking into a nice juicy steak in a restaurant?

I refuse to let irrational fear stop me from doing what I love, that is to ride my bike on the road. I don’t take chances, and I choose the safest routes, and I ride defensively. I also look at statistics and I like my odds of survival.  

If I consider the odds of getting hit by a car in America today is roughly half that of my being either intentionally or accidentally shot, maybe I should wear a bullet-proof vest along with my helmet.  


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Reader Comments (15)

Dave BOLLOCKS Your article is just that. Anyone that is stupid enough to ride a bike on the roads is taking a chance that should NOT be taken. Most cities and town have some sort of bike path and that is where riding a bike should be done."He died doing what he enjoyed" I AM 100% AGAINST ANYONE RIDING A BIKE ON THE ROADS IRRATIONAL FEAR???? IF you are dumb enough to even THINK about riding a bike on the public roads you SHOULD be scarred to deat doing so. IT IS NOT WORTH TAKING THE CHANCE All the stats in the world will not bring back to life all those that have been killed riding a bike on the roads. SORRY MATE This time I do not agree with one woord you have written. " As my dear Dad would have said "Put that in your pipe and smoke it"

September 30, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

Somehow i want to believe that Mr. Crump forgot to add /s (sarcasm/satire) at the end of his post.

The only issue i have with your post, Dave, is the use of the word "accident."
It's been a kind of crusade for me to replace "automobile accident" with "automobile crash," or to those who perhaps find "crash" inappropriate, i may recommend "incident." i and other like minded folks have been after newspapers &c. to stop using "accident."

Also, i find the phrase "hit by a car" or "a car lost control" diminishes the driver's responsibility in a collision (incident, crash.) The car (or truck, bus, scooter, what-have-you) doesn't drive itself.

Just my 2 cents.

September 30, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermike w.

Dave, Thanks for the thought provoking article! Determining which is safer between cycling, autos, falls, fires require comparing rates that have equitable exposure values, which is just about impossible. Is it fatalities per 1000 miles driven, per time driven (exposure time), per 100,000 population, per licensed driver? The Irrational Fear might very well appear quite rational for some if you compare fatalities by miles driven (bike versus car) since bike miles are much less than car miles! This is similar to the fact that it is safer to fly than drive when comparing fatalities per total people-miles traveled. I have seen a couple of sources stating that cycling is on the average 6X more dangerous than driiving based on miles driven.
However, I believe that the bigger question is if the risk of injury is acceptable to the person with respect to the reward that it gives them? And an even bigger question is how to minimize the risk to that acceptable level?
Risk = Probability X Severity (of incident). Automobile and airline risk reduction has been studied for many years with vast improvements to reduce both probability and severity. Most of the improvements in bicycles has been in performance by reducing weight and improving efficiency. I know that I am oversimplifying this, but in cycling, reducing probability and severity of an incident is mostly up to the rider. This includes wearing a helmet, not wearing earbuds, following the rules of the road, choosing a ‘safer’ route, etc. Every activity has some value of risk, each of us needs to decide if the perceived risk justifies the reward. For some folks the risk of road riding with cars is not acceptable and that is a personal decision, neither right nor wrong. While others, including myself, I try to mitigate the risks as much as possible and enjoy the reward of country road traveling on two wheels. Lately my cycling has increased on lesser travel gravel roads, less (no) cars but more wild turkeys and deer!
A couple of good articles:

September 30, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMike S.

Mike W. I was been far from sarcastic. In the past year, we have had in the Parker, Colorado area at least six cyclists killed, including last month a very close friend by a hit and run driver, all on the open roads. WE are very fortunate in this area to have a network of paths that you can ride over 100 miles on. BUT cyclist think they are boring and not challenging enough, so they still ride on the open roads, WHY? is it the macho thing "only sisses ride the bike paths?" as one rider on his zillion thousand dollars super-duper machine as he said to me. when I asked him why he rode on the open roads. Of course, he was wearing an expensive helmet and all the top-line kit, Maybe he will lucky and be hit by another idiot driving a Mercedes or Lexus, he would be very upset to hit and killed by a Toyota or Chevy. This reminds me of another time that a chap rode up at the rest stop on his Harley Motorbike, NO helmet, A gal there waiting for him with his Bike in her SUV for him to go for a bike ride, he gets on his bike and puts on a bloody bike helmet!!! By the way, 86 years old I am now. still riding a bike ON THE PATHS ONLY and still alive to tell the tales

September 30, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

Ride On

October 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom Knoblauch

" Maybe cyclists should be banned from riding on the streets ??"

And that, John, is exactly the reasoning behind many advocates of segregated cycle paths: the ghettoization of cycling.

i'm happy for you that you have 100+ miles of paths in your area, but are they linked? Do they provide direct routes to places folks need to go?

Where i live there are few off-street paths that go anywhere useful. If i wish to ride 25, 50,100+ miles at a go, i guess i could drive down to the local velodrome and ride myself dizzy.

In over 6 decades of cycling on streets and roads, my worst injuries were mainly self-inflicted and involved no motor vehicle. i rode for years in Chicago when there were essentially no off-street paths. i commuted to work in all weather, ran errands, visited friends, or just rode for the hell of it. In all those years, i was struck by a stupid driver once (no injury incurred) and was broadsided by a Mk IV Lincoln once when i stupidly ran a stop sign, again emerging mostly unscathed minus one bike.i acknowledge that i have had a great deal of luck, but i also acknowledge that i do try not to ride with my head up my arse.

Enjoy your segregated paths. i ride them when they get me where i want to go. i've ridden and will ride some absolutely beautiful trails.. i might remark that at your age you probably don't have any interest in riding any long distance, but i still do and will do so as long as my health will allow. This will include the city & suburban roads that will take me to the rural farm roads and the occasional rail trail. i will not have cycling and cyclists be confined to off-street ghettos because someone thinks riders have no business anywhere else.

Mike, I had deleted Crumpy's last post as I knew he was "Trolling" Dave

October 1, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermike w.

The biggest problem these days, of course, is NOT the cyclists. When I started driving in the USA in 1957 you had to bloody drive the car, roll down the windows shift the gears turn the non-power steering wheel.. Driving a car took your attention, NOW Automobiles are almost self driven.add to that the open use of drugs and other pain stimulants, many drivers, half the time are no longer in control of themselves never mind the MURDER WEAPON they are driving. Of course, I did enjoy 100% the true feeling of cycling and be able to enjoy exercise outdoors, see the countryside, enjoy the life I have ridden all over the world on the open roads., I have over the 70 plus years that I have been cycling, riding and racing, must have well over ONE MILLION miles by now. It's a different world we live in now. Computers have taken over everything. almost all that we do. It is a great shame, that in MY mind we can no longer enjoy the sport we all enjoy just as we can no longer enjoy driving cars as we once did. ONE cyclist death is unacceptable NOT as now, the hundreds that we are seeing due to this change in the way we live IF I have upset anyone tough shit. maybe my words will save your life AT LEAST I AM WILLING TO SAY SO (If you are curious about who I am. Google my name on your bloody PC JOHN CRUMP CYCLIST)

October 1, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

Dave, sorry that you felt that John was "trolling." Whilst i vehemently disagreed, AFAIAC he's entitled to his opinion. No harm done to me, i'm not going to drink over it. Your blog, your rules.

John, i wholeheartedly agree with your P.O.V. about driving & "drivers." The automotive industry seem to invent more and more shiny new things to distract from 400W sound systems to backup cameras, GPS screens (and g-d help us touchscreen controls!) etc, etc.... i have watched drivers get progressively and demonstrably worse by the day- not just by the year! If the USA had driver license testing anywhere near half as strict as in the UK or Europe, more than half of these jamokes would be permanent pedestrians!

i understand that you are an opinionated geezer (and i mean than as a compliment, actually, since i also could be so accused.) i just refuse to be forced off the road just because i'm riding a bike.

PS: ALL road deaths are unacceptable!

Peace. Out.

-mike w.

October 1, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermike w.

@John Crump:
I sympathize with your feelings, but do not drink the kool aid. There have been several car / bike situations in the Colorado Front Range this year, this is true. However, allowing this to be the justification of wishing others to decide to ride elsewhere is simply wrong.

I am a long-time resident of the same community you claim, yet I rarely encounter situations requiring more than a hand wave, or the occasional one-finger salute. Most are willing to work around a road cyclist with their cars. Once in a while, there is the self-important driver that has to make some form or statement that is a honk, close drive-by, or yelling. The good news is that while they may make their statements, they also surely see me. If not, I wouldn't have seen their puerile actions.

I will continue to ride, and will enjoy every minute of it. I do so as safely as I am able, and hope to enjoy the large buffer of room you'll afford me each and every time you may pass me by. Other drivers learn by seeing. Provide the best situation you can for a cyclist, and others learn to do the same.

Watch for the Fuso, odds are it's me. ;)

October 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEric Conrad

Eric Conrad A few weeks ago Red Miller a member of the Creekside Bikes group and a dear friend, was riding alone by the Aurora Res he was KILLED by a hit and run driver. What was he doing there? Just riding his bike as we all love to do. It IS dangerous out there, drunk, spaced out drivers driving almost self-drive cars. Things have changed, I just feel that we all need to rethink where we ride and why we ride. It is NOT like it was many years ago, Eric As you know Colorado is now the do as you please state, Smoke pot screw who you like, fine that's why we have all the pothead bums around camping out everywhere. I have ridden all the passes all the big rides never a problem Organized group rides. I have to every day, ride down the Pinery Parkway 3 miles, I am scared to death doing it, Cars pass me going at least 60-70 mph, going up is even worse I am doing 10MPH they pass me doing 60 mph who knows who they are, Trucks pass me so close I can smell the cig smoke of the drivers, perfume of women driver's doing their hair and texting? Why take the chance? life is short enough as it is, I should have died 16 years ago per the so-called good book. Luck or prudence? Dave says IRRATIONAL FEAR? BOLLOCKS. Common sense is all it takes. ONE accident, that's all. you can't win against a car NO WAY STAY OFF THE ROADS PLEASE

October 1, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

We sure flogged that one to death didn't we, NO PUN intended

October 2, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

What, Me worry???.....If you live in fear, maybe you should take up bowling.

October 3, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBill K

thank you

October 4, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMircea Andrei Ghinea

I have been hit 7 times in about 140000 miles. I have had two crashes one where I cracked 3 teeth and one where I bent a fork and a 1.5 inch 4130 steel down tube. About once a year some one tries to hit me. I have also been shot at twice. My best estimate is cycling is 600 times as dangerous as driving per mile. However it takes me 5 times as long to reach a destination as a driver so the danger goes up to 3000 times per trip. I accept my role as a test pilot. I willing endure the danger to make the roads safer. So I have also forced 300 governments to comply with road laws. Most of these have been unsafe storm drain grates. These are actually illegal under federal law since they can trap a wheelchair. A sample can be found on flickr under bicyclehazard.

October 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCharles Ramsey

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