Early this past summer, I was riding down a busy street when I collided with a car door. I never even saw the door opening — one second I was zipping down the road to an appointment, and the next I was crumpled up against an unknown object (later identified as a door) and wondering what had happened. I was lucky – after waiting in the emergency room for several hours, I learned that I didn’t have any broken bones or cracked ribs, despite the rather excruciating pain in my chest (as it turns out, crashing into something chest first hurts!). They gave me a prescription for pain pills and sent me on my way.
At first I didn’t have to think about the ramifications of my accident, since I had a perfect reason not to ride. Narcotics and activities that require alertness do not mix, so I took the bus. Even once I had transitioned to ibuprofen, I was still in too much pain to seriously consider riding a bicycle. But eventually the pain faded, and I had to move forward
I had three options.
A few people strongly urged me to just stop riding my bicycle in populated areas. I must admit that it was tempting to comply. After the accident, I was more than a little bit frightened to get back on the road. While I had always known that city riding was dangerous, this was the closest I had come to facing that reality, and I would be lying if I said that it didn’t shake my faith in my ability to stay safe. But that is exactly why I couldn’t just stop. If I gave up bicycling out of fear, then I would be telling myself that I’m not safe, that the world is too dangerous, and (worst of all) that I can’t take care of myself. Few things are more dangerous than that kind of learned helplessness.
The other reason I couldn’t give up biking is simply that I enjoy it too much. I feel better physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually when I am riding regularly, and the only way I’m going to do that is by using my bicycle as transportation, not just recreation.
Live in fear of car doors
This is another tempting choice. After all, I was viciously attacked by a car door! And I could have been seriously injured. It was sheer luck that I smashed against the door rather than flipping over the handlebars.
There are two reasons why I couldn’t do this. First of all, if I’m going to live in terror every time I ride my bike, I might as well just stop biking, and we’ve already established that wasn’t a viable option. The other reason is that it is actually illogical. I had ridden past probably thousands of parked cars in my life, and only one of them had posed a real danger. It would hardly be fair to blame all car doors for the actions of one.
Be alert (but not afraid) while biking
I would be lying if I claimed this was easy. The first time I rode my bicycle after the accident I was hyper aware of every parked car I passed, verging on paranoid. My relief when I finally got off of the road and onto a bike path was palpable. But I did it. And I kept doing it, and every time I went out I was less and less afraid. I have become much more careful about keeping a safe distance between myself and parked cars, but I’m not letting it consume all of my attention. There will always be hazards on the road when biking on busy city streets, but I have to believe that I will continue to be up to the challenge! And so should you.
The moral of the story, of course is not to let accidents, setbacks, or mistakes keep you from living your life and pursuing your goals! Don’t give too much credence to the voice of fear – listen instead to the still, small voice that urges you towards your dreams.