I feel like a pile of excuses, and honestly? I think I'm a little afraid. I've read many stories over the winter (thanks, Twitter) of people being hit and killed by cars; I feel torn by the advocates for bike lanes and those who support more assertive interaction with cars. I resent that I have to take a helmet and bike lock with me everywhere I go. I'm not a pedestrian and I'm not a car, and I don't feel welcome on sidewalks or on busy streets. I'm frustrated that it takes me longer to ride than drive, and that arriving at my destination means lugging a bicycle inside or finding a place to lock-up, which takes additional time, when time-management isn't my strong point to begin with. Riding in the dark requires me to make sure lights are mounted and charged, and my rear-view mirror on my upright bicycle keeps getting loose and flopping over, making it functionally useless. I just want a designated bike path or lane everywhere I go, so we can all agree where the bike goes. Is that crazy? Oh, and I don't want it in a door zone, or shoved into a shoulder, or just hanging out on some street where the speed limit for the cars is 40mph when my top speed is, like, 12. Going downhill. With the wind at my back.
I enjoyed riding when I was a child, and I could just get on the bicycle and go, but I don't feel like I can do that anymore. There are too many shoulds and oughts. There are more difficult hills and too-few gridded streets, which makes side-streets impossible to access or exit in so many places between me and my destinations.
When I rode last summer and fall, I forced myself through these things, and I will again, for the same reason I'm pushing myself slowly back into running: because the benefits outweigh the drawbacks and a huge part of succeeding is telling the negative and scared voice in your head to shove it.
I feel guilty even writing (and thus, admitting) these feelings, because I want this blog to be a place of excitement and advocacy, so that more people will consider riding, and I'm afraid if I admit there are aspects of it that I don't like, that I'll keep someone from riding who was considering giving it a go, and the reality is that the more people who ride the better biking becomes for everyone. More numbers encourage more bike-friendly infrastructure. More numbers encourage drivers to look out for riders more often. More numbers mean more drivers are also riders, which cultivates inclusion and empathy, instead of the "cars vs. bikes" or "us vs. them" mentality that makes riding less pleasant for everyone.
I also want to name these feelings because if I'm feeling this way, so are other riders (or would-be riders), and I think breaking into cycling and feeling like you're an authentic part of that community can be a little scary. When I question my desire or willingness to ride, I feel like I don't "deserve" to be here. And I don't want to be part of any message that makes someone else feel like they aren't "doing it right" or "enough" or whatever. If you get on a bike, you are a cyclist, and your feelings and thoughts count and should be considered as we all figure out how to make cycling, driving, walking, and mass transit better options for everyone.
Further, I know there are readers out there who have overcome these feelings. I welcome any tips to help me get excited about getting back on my bikes. How do I get past my hesitation and my excuses and just get on the bike already? If you're feeling the same and need a little encouragement now that spring is finally here, please feel free to join the conversation.