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Guest post: Embracing fear (and tips to feel it less often)

Posted by on December 12th, 2017 at 10:08 am

Happiness is a new bike. 1990.
(Photos courtesy Eva Frazier)

This post was written by Eva Frazier, co-owner of Clever Cycles.

“I’m tired of being told to be safe/ride safe/stay safe. I want to have fun.”

I grew up in a quaint little town called Rhinebeck, about 90 miles north of New York City in the Hudson Valley. I started riding a bike as a little girl, somewhere around 3 years old. As soon as my folks let me, I started riding my bike to school. Most days I could beat the school bus, though, in the winter, my freshly washed hair would freeze on the way in. The bicycle was my ticket to freedom. Because I was living in a small town, I was allowed a wide territory to roam by myself, no questions asked. As long as I made it home by dinner, I could ride my bike anywhere I pleased. Most summer days I would go to the pool. Some days my dad, brother and I would take an 8 mile loop out to Rhinecliff and back. Sometimes I would ride up the Knollwood hill and then come flying back down, seeing how far I could coast before pedaling. I didn’t wear a helmet and all I carried was a puny little chain lock wrapped around my seatpost. Perhaps I was naive, or maybe I lived in some sort of paradise, but I never felt unsafe or scared.

Three wheels for my 3rd birthday. 1986.

Fast forward to now. I’ve been riding a bike for transportation and enjoyment for 30 years. At this point, my bicycle has put me in the ER once, and bucked me to the ground more than a handful of times. Never have I collided with a car, but perhaps, statistically, that day is still to come. There have been multiple close calls, a few of which have brought tears, a few have brought intense anger and harsh words, not to mention lewd gestures. I’ve come to a time in my life where I’ve lost my naiveté and sometimes get really scared while riding my bike. Gone are the carefree days of my childhood.

Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Fear is one of those feelings that we can’t control. An emotion that overtakes us before we can even think about it. It’s that gasp when you drop a knife close to your foot or an inner tube explodes. If it’s not a threat, then we can relax. If that fear is real, then we get riled up — that fight-or-flight response. Muscles tense, breath quickens, blood pressure rises, heart races and we’re ready to take on whatever threatens our survival. Sometimes this is just what’s needed to get away from a difficult situation, but too much reaction is detrimental, and sometimes can scar us in such a way that our fears control us. Let the fear control you and it becomes phobia.

Fear dictates the roads I take, the space that I give to other riders and drivers, the lights I use and the bikes I ride. I’ve come to the conclusion that fear is what keeps me alive, so I embrace it. I let it dictate, but not too loudly. I won’t let it keep me from riding. For more than a year I wouldn’t (maybe couldn’t) ride down the road that put me in the ER. With time, I overcame that–rationalization and statistics can only be so helpful–sometimes we just need time. That time can help define where fear is helpful and where it’s debilitating.


I’m tired of being told to be safe/ride safe/stay safe. I want to have fun. Of course I have concern for my safety, but bicycles are fun. Bicycling is freedom. Bicycling is an act of rebellion. Uncaged and free to travel where we wish at the speed we like. We can take the lane or ride off on a dirt trail. We can act as pedestrians at a crosswalk or as a car in a turn lane. We can ride in en masse to disrupt or quietly take the sidestreets.

First time riding on my own. That’s my dad behind me. 1988.

Despite the occasional terrifying moment, bicycling is pretty fantastic. Fresh air, that feeling of freedom, the chill on your cheeks on a crisp winter day; these are the most joyful feelings where all senses are activated. I can’t imagine being caged in a car suffering through rush hour traffic day in and day out. I’d much rather be able to work out the day’s stress in my commute home. I prefer parking right up front and never worrying about how much money to put into the meter. Staying fit by riding to work and the grocery store is icing on the cake. Everyday I’m on my bike is a better day — rain, snow or blustery wind be damned.

All that being said, here are a few things to help make your ride safer and more fun:

1. Be observant. People often don’t signal their intentions, but if you hone your observational skills, you can usually interpret their next move. Trust that, and if someone looks like they’re slowing to make a turn, give them space. Better to avoid collisions than deal with the aftermath, or as the old timers say: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

2. Be visible. Get some good lights, but not those retina searing flashy jobs. Invest in some quality lights that put light on the road–ahead of you and behind. I personally have dynamo lights on all my bikes and am not sure how I lived without. They’re always on, never need charging and are never lost at the bottom of my bag. Try reflective tape and loud clothes if you’re so inclined. I still wear black (blame this classic camp song).

3. Allow yourself enough time. If you’re in a rush, you’re more likely to make rash decisions. If you give yourself time or allow yourself to be late, you’ll be more likely to ride safely and not rush through yellow lights and sketchy intersections.

4. Don’t blindly trust Google Maps. Trust your instincts. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or upset when you’re riding, it might be the route. Take roads that are slower and less trafficked. Side streets are your friend. For every busy street, there’s usually one a few blocks away that might have some stop signs, but will keep your blood pressure at a reasonable level. Some roads feel totally different at rush hour, so consider time of day as well. Ask someone who rides a lot for advice if you’re looking for alternative routes. Portland has some great bike maps that are helpful if you’re going somewhere new and want to see the options.

5. Get a more upright bike with wider tires. Since entering my third decade on this Earth, I’ve come to appreciate a more upright ride. One advantage is a clearer field of view without neck strain, another is a slower pace to allow better reaction time, tertiary is enjoyment. Wide tires mean I’m not afraid to ride on sewer grates or in the wet leaves when forced to take to the side of the road–they’re also super comfortable and don’t require topping off every three days.

6. Be nice. People tend to mirror those around them (save a few bad seeds). If you’re nice, people are more likely to be nice back. Smile and wave. Appreciate a kind gesture by passing it on. The jerks out there don’t deserve your attention. Often feel the need to give the finger? Wear mittens.

— Written by Eva Frazier: Bicyclist, shop owner, mitten-wearer.

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  • Alex Reedin December 12, 2017 at 10:26 am

    “I’m tired of being told to be safe/ride safe/stay safe.” Me too! Whenever I am told this, I respond with “Drive safe!” (if the person is leaving by motor vehicle) or “Have fun!” (if the person is biking). I wish I could find a way to shoehorn in a diatribe about how biking has huge positive health benefits and the injury risk is almost negligible in comparison without it being a shoehorned-in diatribe 🙂

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 12, 2017 at 10:28 am

      I cringe when people tell me that too. I just think.. “Well, if you’d simply drive safely and with respect for others, we wouldn’t have any safety problems at all!”

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      • Kristin Faurest December 12, 2017 at 11:33 am

        YES, right on!! When will we stop treating cycling like a dangerous activity…?

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        • Kyle Banerjee December 12, 2017 at 12:33 pm

          “We” could do it anytime — many of us did long ago 🙂

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          • soren December 12, 2017 at 12:59 pm

            So you are going to stop lecturing bike portland commenters about how dangerously they are cycling?

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            • Kyle Banerjee December 12, 2017 at 1:35 pm

              Are you and some of the other commenters going to stop howling about how totally normal situations are so dangerous?

              If people don’t ride because they fear traffic because the infrastructure is inadequate as so many would have it here, you’d think that there would have been a lot fewer cyclists when there was little if any infrastructure, the equipment wasn’t nearly as good, and the laws not nearly as friendly. You’d think that some of the totally separated infrastructure wouldn’t be so empty as often as it is.

              If those who have been riding for years consistently describe a terrifying and hostile experience, why would anyone want to start? I sure wouldn’t.

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              • BradWagon December 12, 2017 at 2:29 pm

                The perceived and often very real dangers of cycling are absolutely a factor in keeping many people from riding for transportation (recreational/experienced cyclists included). “Totally normal” current conditions are what’s resulting to single digit bike trip mode percentages. I would feel ethically negligent encouraging someone to just go get on a bike and ride wherever they need to go without also coaching them in good route finding and riding habits and warning them of the dangers. Acting like the current environment is totally normal is what would keep non-cyclist me from getting on a bike “You’re ok with that?! That’s ‘normal’?!”

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            • Alex Reedin December 12, 2017 at 2:00 pm

              Kyle, I don’t think you’re being fair here. Soren is very steady in insisting, rightly, that biking in Portland is a safe, normal activity.

              He HAS noted that people he bikes with who are less comfortable with sharing space with motor vehicles than he is feel afraid of being hurt when biking, even when biking on relatively calm inner-eastside side streets. This feeling of fear doesn’t need to be supported by a real, high risk in order to vastly modify people’s behavior.

              And modify people’s behavior it does, in large numbers. To address your point about the number of people cycling vs. infrastructure… well, the number of people cycling in Portland has increased markedly since even the weak, incomplete, gap-ridden, poorly-marked, winding, indirect, inconvenient infrastructure network we have was put in. From about 1% to about 6% from 1990 to present. Infrastructure has a huge effect.




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              • Kyle Banerjee December 12, 2017 at 4:31 pm

                You put his words more eloquently than he did. Most people would interpret his words as a jab. Soren presents himself as a provocative person, and I would credit him with knowing what he’s doing.

                In any case, this is not a good forum to find fair discussions. Anti driver and anti vehicle rants dominate with malicious intent consistently projected on anyone who drives. Anyone who suggest otherwise is even possibly the case gets pounded with all kinds of qualities projected on them. The practical effect is there is virtually no tolerance let alone acceptance of opinions outside a very narrow range and those who fall outside this band tend to be driven off.

                Safety concerns is one reason people don’t ride, but another is that being a cyclist in Portland carries baggage that a lot of people don’t want to be associated with. If you don’t believe me, ask around. I seriously doubt I’d ride except I’ve been doing it my whole life.

                I do feel a little bad for my role in a discussion that detracts from an excellent article of exactly the sort we need more of.

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              • soren December 12, 2017 at 7:21 pm

                “cyclist in Portland carries baggage that a lot of people don’t want to be associated with”

                mea culpa. i admit to using panniers occasionally.

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              • Kyle Banerjee December 13, 2017 at 12:24 pm

                Sadly, well over 90% of my rides are with panniers. Much more fun to ride light and fast.

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              • Middle of the Road Guy December 14, 2017 at 2:27 pm

                Any time I hop in my “weapon” or “death machine” and drive someplace, the ONLY thing on my mind is murderous intent.

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        • Alex December 13, 2017 at 11:12 am

          We could use your voice in opening up Forest Park to mountain biking.

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      • Manville December 12, 2017 at 2:16 pm

        Why isn’t it ok to “ride safely” as we control that part of the equation. Why do cyclist have such an entitled outlook on safety v. say a motorcyclist? Eva’s tips aren’t too far from the Motorcycle Saftey Foundations general safety guidelines. It is all of our responsibilities to ride and drive safely; we share a road (like it or not).

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        • Alex Reedin December 12, 2017 at 2:25 pm

          We all share a road, but those of us biking and walking are unlikely to kill anyone else in the event of a collision. That’s why the lopsided emphasis towards safe behavior when people bike and walk feels wrong. The shoe should be on the other foot.

          When I drive, I am morally obligated to make absolutely certain that I minimize the risk of harm to others, knowing full well that I am human and may make mistakes. I must and do go slower than the speed limit at all times – usually much slower. I plan my trip to avoid adverse driving conditions if at all possible and cancel or take another mode if necessary. 99% of people I’ve met have a much more entitled view towards their “right” to endanger others while using a motor vehicle.

          When I bike or walk, yeah, I follow the laws and try to be safe. But it’s nowhere NEAR the level of obligation and stress I rightfully feel when I drive.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty December 13, 2017 at 2:08 am

            My understanding of why Eva objects to “ride safe” has nothing to do with the potential to injure, but rather that it focuses on a single, negative aspect of cycling (as opposed to, say, “ride fun”). Similarly, I think it likely that Manville is focusing on the safety aspect of danger to riders themselves. Motorcyclists are trained on defensive riding, as a way of staying alive, and that is not controversial, yet a similar focus for cyclists is. Do you think “ride safe” would be (or should be) equally offensive to a motorcyclist as it is to you?

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            • Kyle Banerjee December 13, 2017 at 2:12 pm

              FWIW, I’ve never heard of anyone taking offense at the suggestion of riding or doing anything else safe except here, nor has it ever occurred to me to interpret a well meant salutation in such a negative light.

              Some of the people I hang out with are very, very good at what they do and we tell each other to be safe all the time for a variety of activities as well as driving.

              If you must impose some spin on a well-intentioned phrase, why not interpret it more in the spirit of “have fun, but not *too* much fun?” After all, cycling is fun…

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            • Middle of the Road Guy December 14, 2017 at 2:31 pm

              I am ALL for offending people equally.

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          • Middle of the Road Guy December 14, 2017 at 2:29 pm

            If I knew I was the most vulnerable user of a system, I would go out of my way to try and be safe…rather than leaving that up to others.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty December 12, 2017 at 10:50 am

      I’ve had many people wish me a safe drive when seeing me off. I take it for what it is — a general expression of concern for my wellbeing by another person. I interpret “Ride safe!” in the same vein.

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      • John Lascurettes December 12, 2017 at 10:58 am

        Keep the rubber side down.

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      • Alex Reedin December 12, 2017 at 11:25 am

        I’ve had many people tell me that too, but a much lower percentage than when I bike, and I think ALWAYS when there’s some sort of adverse condition (darkness, rain, long drive, etc.)

        I don’t think I’ve ever had someone tell me to drive safe when I’m departing on a short trip on a dry day. Maybe if I’m at an event where people are drinking. But hearing “bike safe!” is routine when I’m going by bike on a dry day.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty December 12, 2017 at 11:28 am

          Hmmm… we must not have had the same mother.

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          • Alex Reedin December 12, 2017 at 11:31 am

            Ha, parents excepted 🙂 I will word more carefully. As an adult, I think I’ve never had a friend or acquaintance tell me to “drive safe!” when there was no adverse condition. While, I think people tell me that somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of the time if they know I’m departing by bike with no adverse condition.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty December 13, 2017 at 2:37 am

              Sadly, my friends seem less concerned about my wellbeing.

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      • Chris I December 12, 2017 at 12:57 pm

        Not once have I had a coworker say that to me when I’m leaving the office to get in my car. I have heard it dozens of times when they see me holding a bike helmet, on the days I ride. There is a bias out there, so don’t pretend like it doesn’t exist.

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        • Brian December 12, 2017 at 1:02 pm

          Every single day I walk out of school with my bike. Every. Single. Day. They are surprised when I tell them I feel much safer cycling than driving on HWY 26, after I tell them to drive safe and be sure not to hit me.

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        • Ted Gresh December 12, 2017 at 1:32 pm

          Bias? What’s the bias you are referring to?

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          • Chris I December 13, 2017 at 10:07 am

            That cycling is more dangerous than driving.

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      • BradWagon December 12, 2017 at 2:35 pm

        It’s like they don’t realize I ride a bike every day to work, duh I’m going to be safe, I think about getting killed with a slightly concerning regularity, you think I need some cliché reminder?

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      • Middle of the Road Guy December 14, 2017 at 2:31 pm

        Fly safe!

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    • B. Carfree December 12, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      A few years ago I read a comment from someone (here?) regarding this. It involved a couple, both of whom ride, who had fallen into telling each other to “be safe” when one of them headed out. They realized this put a darkness on the ride that didn’t belong. They decided to switch to “Tear Up the Road” as their departing words. My spouse and I promptly copied them and it does lift the mood back into the fun zone, at least for us.

      Now go out there and tear up the road everyone.

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  • Jocelyn Gaudi Quarrell December 12, 2017 at 10:39 am

    Thank you for writing this, Eva! I absolutely empathize and relate to your observations on fear when riding around town – and agree that taken as a whole, cycling is still the best transportation option available. Thanks for sharing your great tips! I’ve recently started to wave at cars when I feel fearful that they may not see me (or see me as a human) and it seems to help most situations.

    Another tip to share: Find time and space to ride your bike away from cars. Whether singletrack or roads closed to cars, being able to let your guard down a bit and focus on the feels does a cyclist good mentally and physically!

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    • Alex Reedin December 12, 2017 at 10:43 am

      To build on “waving” – I wave and smile at people driving if they honk or yell at me, as if they’re someone I know and I think they’re just saying “Hi!” I got this from the BikePortland comment section and it does work well. It’s fun to think that it might confuse someone into thinking that they DO know me, and it lowers my blood pressure and is something I can do in return without escalating this situation.

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      • Kyle Banerjee December 12, 2017 at 12:03 pm

        I’m a huge fan of this method — have been using it for years.

        It works good and it feels good 🙂

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        • Brian December 12, 2017 at 12:40 pm

          I kindly waved at the person who cut in front of me and didn’t let me take my left turn onto the MUP today, though my words may have had a little different tone. I’m lucky I assumed she was going to do it, which prevented me from performing a tumbling exercise on her hood.

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          • Kyle Banerjee December 12, 2017 at 1:51 pm

            One would think it would have been possible to avoid such a conflict either by moving out earlier before the car was right there or alternatively by noticing how the timing was working out and pulling in behind the car instead. But I’m sure both options were impossible.

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            • Alex Reedin December 12, 2017 at 2:05 pm

              Thanks for passive-aggressively blaming the potential victim for not going above and beyond, Kyle. Do you have any other helpful suggestions for how to improve the world through individual change that doesn’t upset anyone in the comfortable, privileged classes?

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              • Kyle Banerjee December 12, 2017 at 2:39 pm

                Sure. This is a broad suggestion that applies not only to cycling, but life in general:

                Those who go out seeking battle will find it just about every time.

                If that’s what they want, then great. But people who want battle shouldn’t whine when they succeed in finding exactly what they were looking for.

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            • Brian December 12, 2017 at 2:06 pm

              I had to pull in behind her as she barely stopped for the STOP sign that I clearly had the ROW at. I was stopped as the car in front of her pulled out. Then as she passed me she pretended not to see me and kept looking forward. I waved kindly at her. It happens at this intersection all the time.

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              • BradWagon December 12, 2017 at 2:41 pm

                I as well have a few intersections where I unfortunately just expect to be cut off. I haven’t resigned to just waving yet though… haha

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              • Kyle Banerjee December 12, 2017 at 3:02 pm

                There are a few areas where the vehicles play noticeably rougher.

                I sometimes find the “aggressive/friendly” wave effective in such situations — i.e. I cut them off and then smile and give a friendly wave thanking them for letting me in. Definitely have a bail plan but odds that you’ll need it are very low.

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        • fourknees December 12, 2017 at 1:59 pm

          Me too. I like waving even when walking and hear a horn!

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          • David Hampsten December 12, 2017 at 9:12 pm

            Half the time here in Greensboro the honking driver really is trying to be friendly. I’ll often hear a few weeks later that so-and-so from city council or some government agency saw me at such-and-such location (I’m pretty distinct in this community), and honked at me in what was meant to be a friendly gesture. It’s the other drivers I’m not so certain about. I too usually give a friendly wave if I can. However, in DC, Chicago, or Portland, I always sense honking is a form of road-rage by car drivers, even when it might not be intended as such.

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        • Middle of the Road Guy December 14, 2017 at 2:32 pm

          I smile. If I’m mad, I blow them a kiss.

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      • anna December 15, 2017 at 4:51 pm

        yes to waving. sometimes air kisses.

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  • axoplasm December 12, 2017 at 10:48 am

    > “ bicycles are fun”

    Heck YEAH.

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  • soren December 12, 2017 at 10:51 am

    I enjoyed reading this piece and think it serves as a nice counterpoint to John Liu’s “expert” essays on safe cycling.

    I do have a minor quibble with this:

    “Be nice”

    I’ve never heard someone admonish people walking to “be nice”. On the other hand, the cycling “other” is often told to be nice as if the mere act of cycling is somehow provocative.

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    • Dawn December 12, 2017 at 11:02 am

      I’d like to think we could all do with a lot more “nice-ness”. I frequently remind my husband to be nice when walking because he is an aggressive pedestrian. 🙂

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      • soren December 12, 2017 at 12:53 pm

        Unless you are describing someone who intentionally bumps into or hits other pedestrians, I disagree that “aggressive walking” is possible. I strongly believe that people walking should always have right of way and that the “nice” thing to do is to yield to the best of our abilities.

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        • Dawn December 12, 2017 at 1:35 pm

          It’s kind of a joke…but he actually is pretty aggressive..Walks out into traffic without stopping (crossing Division), not necessarily at a crosswalk, slams his hand on cars if he perceives them doing something offensive, etc. We’re from Boston originally and I have to say that in my opinion (and despite the fact that I did mean this in a lighthearted way) it is possible to be an aggressive pedestrian. Have you been to New York or Boston? 😉

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          • Kyle Banerjee December 12, 2017 at 2:41 pm

            Aggression is defined by action and intent, not mode of transport.

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      • Chris I December 12, 2017 at 12:59 pm

        The world needs more aggressive pedestrians and fewer aggressive drivers.

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        • Kyle Banerjee December 13, 2017 at 9:29 am

          The world doesn’t need aggressive anyone.

          Being assertive is good because it can lead to good outcomes for everyone. It it has nothing to do with being aggressive which brings out the worst in others.

          Assertive people are open, they communicate, they participate, they consider themselves equal to others, they try to respond to differences by understanding, and they avoid hurting others.

          Aggressive people use volume to get their message across, attempt to control, think they are superior to others, only considers themselves and their demands of others, and responds to differences with anger.

          Anger is a form of aggression. So is trying to force behavior on others, bird flipping, or even more subtle body language such as certain posture or eye contact.

          There is a type of aggression where the aggressor claims a victimhood status which is then used as a cudgel against others — the current Commander in Chief and some of his supporters frequently resort to this tactic. It also occurs in this forum with far too much frequency.

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          • Middle of the Road Guy December 14, 2017 at 2:35 pm

            Well stated. Also, an aggressive person might just run into someone who does not respond in a measured or civil manner. Being aggressive might lead one to getting tee’d up or laid out.

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    • Kyle Banerjee December 12, 2017 at 11:39 am

      How is it a counterpoint? I’m not seeing contradictory advice.

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      • soren December 12, 2017 at 12:44 pm

        No special skills or advanced techniques are being advocated for and there is no helmet/hi viz shaming.

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        • Alex Reedin December 12, 2017 at 12:53 pm

          Exactly – it treats biking as a normal, safe activity – which is exactly what it is.

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        • Kyle Banerjee December 12, 2017 at 1:43 pm

          I’m surprised you’re not offended by the light shaming and the defensive skills shaming. You did call out being nice as objectionable which is appropriate for an enthusiastic bird flipper as yourself.

          BTW, I have never advocated for special skills. In fact, in a number of posts I’ve stated that the kids I see riding have better sense than the adults as a group. Possibly because they’re just having fun, using common sense, and not weighed down by chips on their shoulders.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty December 12, 2017 at 10:57 am

    This is a great article! I think fear and caution around physical injury tend to increase as one grows older. I see it more as a general change of perspective than anything specific to cycling. There was plenty I did as a child or young adult that I look back on now and wonder how I managed to live past 18.

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    • Kyle Banerjee December 12, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      I am heartened by the good reception this article is receiving as I’ve personally found everything Eva advises to be very effective and suggestions to be observant, visible, and (especially) nice usually are met with hostility here.

      However, given her discussion about how she manages it and uses it as a tool, I’m wondering if what she’s really talking about is respect for circumstances (Eva, please correct me if you’re reading this and have it wrong).

      Despite personally being all bаlls and no brains at 18, I’m not sure one develops more fear with age — I personally have considerably less. I never intentionally enter a situation that I expect to cause me to experience fear for the simple reason that fear is your spidey sense’s way of telling you that you’re in deeper water than you’re equipped to handle.

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      • Eva Frazier December 12, 2017 at 12:55 pm

        As far as fear is concerned, I’m not necessarily growing more fearful as I age, but more respectful of the ripples that my injury or death might cause. I have more responsibilities and those that depend upon me. At 18, I had myself and my parents to worry about. Now I have a wife, and a business to consider.

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        • David Hampsten December 12, 2017 at 9:30 pm

          Of course there are different types of fear. I bike comfortably every day, often in traffic, in one of the most car-friendly cities in the country (according to several rating groups), but I’ve developed an acute fear of heights as I’ve aged and I can’t drive partly because I fear I’ll kill someone. Bad old me, I once convinced a local “fearless” rider to present his opinions to city council, in front of 60-80 strangers. I helped him rehearse his 2-minute spiel beforehand, egged him on. He did it, barely audible, shaking uncontrollably afterwards, and hasn’t spoken to me in the 18 months since. Public speaking is for many people a far greater fear than dying or going to the dentist, let alone getting rear ended by a car while biking (extremely rare) or being doored (all too common, I’ve been doored with injuries twice).

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty December 13, 2017 at 2:26 am

          Perhaps fear wasn’t the right word — I really meant more of an awareness of all the bad things that can happen to a person. Even leaving aside the ripple effects, I think I have a much better understanding of the realities of being struck by a vehicle than I did when I was a teen; the danger seems much more concrete and specific now, while it was much more theoretical idea when I was younger. I think that more mature understanding of the consequences makes me, at least, a bit more cautious.

          When I cross streets like Powell, I wait until I am certain all cars are going to stop before leaving the curb. A younger me would have blithely stepped into the crosswalk the moment the walk signal turned white.

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    • rachel b December 13, 2017 at 2:16 am

      My fear and caution are directly related to the dramatically different kind of drivers we have in Portland now, as opposed to, say,10 years ago (about the time I started saying ‘ferget it’ to biking as I had). I’m not an unconfident rider and I’ve always been cautious. But the advent of the ironically named “smartphone” sealed it for me. I have little defense against someone coming up behind me, literally not looking at the road. Scares the crap outta me. Feels like suddenly 80% of the population is driving drunk.

      Good article, though–agreed!

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      • Kyle Banerjee December 13, 2017 at 12:08 pm

        Smartphones have increased the number of distracted drivers but distracted driving has always been a serious problem. Especially along highways, the number of people I see applying makeup, shaving, or reading is shocking. Vanity mirrors have been standard on the driver’s side for a very long time. I’m trying to think why a driver would legitimately need a vanity mirror….

        I believe that slowing traffic too much also increases distracted driving because people start multitasking when they don’t think they’re busy behind the wheel. In the past, part of my commute included Highway 22 between Salem and Rickreal. Despite being a high speed (typical speeds around 65mph) high crash corridor, I felt safer there than many other much slower areas for the simple reason that drivers seemed to pay attention on that section.

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        • caesar December 13, 2017 at 1:05 pm

          Yet the studies show a direct correlation between increased speeds and mortality.

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        • Kyle Banerjee December 13, 2017 at 6:49 pm

          There’s more to the equation than simple speed . There are reasons the interstate system is quite safe despite having the highest travel speeds.

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          • Middle of the Road Guy December 14, 2017 at 2:37 pm

            exactly. Predictability is a huge factor.

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          • Resopmok December 17, 2017 at 6:39 pm

            That sounds like a bold claim. My intuition is that death in a crash on the interstate is more likely than on streets with limits/actual speeds lower than 55 mph. Is your definition for relative safety based on number of accidents per volume of traffic, or the severity density of accidents that do occur?

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        • rachel b December 13, 2017 at 8:51 pm

          It’s far more prevalent, distracted driving, than ever before. I didn’t say a word about distracted driving not existing before smartphones, by the way. ??? Smartphones, and their ubiquity, have presented us with a monster where once there was a much more manageable landscape. Smartphones, the carelessness they encourage (in tandem wiht apps) and tens of thousands more cars on our streets, more people in general have made for the mess on Portland’s streets now. It’s radically different than it was.

          [Now is the time when I’ll wait for someone to explain to me why I shouldn’t have this opinion] 😉

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          • rachel b December 13, 2017 at 8:52 pm

            doh! “with.”

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          • Kyle Banerjee December 14, 2017 at 6:31 am

            And I never said distracted driving wasn’t more prevalent than before and that smartphones weren’t exacerbating the problem — I even called that out in my leadoff sentence. The greater amount of traffic is undeniable.

            The only thing I suggested that goes against the current here is that I believe the lower speeds are a contributing factor to distraction. Drivers start “multitasking” when they don’t feel like they have much to do. You don’t see so much multitasking on I-5 between Marquam Bridge and Moda in either direction when traffic is moving, but you’ll see tons of it on Naito and Interstate when it’s crawling.

            Whatever is happening, the question remains of what to do. No amount of infrastructure can avoid the problem that vehicles and bikes frequently need to cross each others’ paths. Cultural change is slow, so requiring society to be something it’s not is not a realistic prerequisite for cycling.

            The good news is that even if the landscape is getting more complicated, some of this technology can help. For example, the number of vehicles that come with pedestrian and cyclist sensing and collision prevention systems continues to grow.

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            • Middle of the Road Guy December 14, 2017 at 2:38 pm

              I think the use of smart phones has conditioned us to seek sensory input at all times.

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  • Joe December 12, 2017 at 10:59 am

    awesome thanks, I grew up in the 70’s with same vibes 🙂

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  • John Liu
    John Liu December 12, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Which will resume with a post on being visible.

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  • wsbob December 12, 2017 at 11:21 am

    On number three:

    “3. Allow yourself enough time.”

    I suggest to include in that, be as well rested as you can before going out riding, and if you do have to ride tired and fatigued, try be aware of that and ride, drive, walk, etc, accordingly. When people are tired and fatigued is one of things that have them be more inclined to make mistakes.

    You’ve written that you’re tired of people saying to you ‘ride safe’. It’s important to note that the way you wrote it, may be different than the way I think about those words. You wrote: “…I’m tired of being told to be safe/ride safe/stay safe. …”. Which suggests to me you feel those words are being delivered to you as an order or an insinuation that you somehow don’t ride safe.

    If you’re genuinely having those words delivered to you with that intent, I’m sorry you’re having that experience. I’m glad to say that’s an experience I’ve not had when people have said those words to me. It’s been in good spirits and wishes for mine and other’s safe travel that I have heard people say those words.

    Your suggestion to “Be nice”, is great advice, I think. Smile, be friendly, demonstrate patience. All those things used by people biking, can help immensely towards having courtesy extended to them by people driving. It helps a lot, when people driving, also are making efforts to be nice, and friendly, and have patience.

    Thank you for taking the time to sort out some of your thoughts and write them down. I enjoyed reading them. ….

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    • Alex Reedin December 12, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Why I’m tired of it is that it’s a reflection and perpetuation of the common belief that biking isn’t safe when, in fact, it is the safest form of transportation. I think this belief that biking isn’t safe is the #1 obstacle (among many obstacles) keeping people off their bikes. And, I think the world would be greatly improved if more people biked instead of driving, so when someone tells me to “ride safe” it feels a little bit like someone walking along accidentally kicking a puppy that they don’t see, hear or feel. And if I tell them the puppy is there, they won’t believe me because of “all those bike accidents” they see on the news (which they see mostly because bike accidents are rare enough to be newsworthy, and car accidents are so common that people are bored by them).

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  • rick December 12, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Try the cyclecross routes with stairs to carry !

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    • El Biciclero December 12, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Yep. I have a route option on my way home from work that involves a 3-flight stair climb and some 16%-grade climbing. That’s why it’s optional—but I use it sometimes in the summer…

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  • El Biciclero December 12, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    This is a great article. While it is sad that riding a bike, especially among motor vehicles, can create so much fear, learning to deal with it is very helpful. One other thing that I’ve found helps me, is to review scary situations and see whether there was anything under my control that might have made a difference. Usually there is. I’ve lowered tire pressures, slowed down in particular spots, taken the lane where I hadn’t before—all kinds of things to mitigate the conditions that caused something scary to happen. I think the knowledge that I have taken steps to prevent a fear-inducing situation in the future helps the fear to lose its grip sooner.

    Not all situations can be dealt with in this way, however. I can name about 3 very specific places in which I will likely be found if I don’t make it to work or home someday; a lot of things are just the nature of our extremely biased system.

    One other bit of imagery your post elicited in my head is that riding a bike—even for transportation—can be as exciting as running with the bulls, or as peaceful as watching snow fall. It really is an activity that is adaptable to a wide range of personality types.

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  • B. Carfree December 12, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Nice article. I have just to teeny tiny quibbles, which means it’s as close to perfect from my perspective as is humanly possible. Really a well done and well thought out piece.

    As to my quibbles, I think riders are better able to avoid conflicts and deal with the ones that arrive by not being on a bike that puts them absolutely upright. There’s just no way to achieve the necessary momentum transfers necessary for emergency maneuvering if one has all one’s mass on top of a line from saddle to cranks, plus the added height of the center of mass is problematic. It’s a small thing and is rarely necessary to employ, but since she put this in as making riding safer, I felt it warranted addressing. Note: I’m not talking about getting all the way down into time-trial mode, just a good comfortable bend forward at the waist.

    Quibble two is about taking more time and not rushing. I agree, but I suspect too many will misconstrue this to mean slower is safer. I think one should ride as fast as one is comfortable without actually rushing, and that unless there is a specific need to slow down, the faster one goes the fewer cars overtake and the smaller the speed differential is, so safety is enhanced. Of course if one insists on bombing downhill into a red traffic light on an icy morning, that’s likely to end poorly eventually.

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    • Kyle Banerjee December 12, 2017 at 2:05 pm

      I have a minor quibble with your quibble. I have found that a good bend forward at the waist throws off weight distribution and control on my recumbents — I therefore advocate a riding posture and style appropriate for the bike, rider, and conditions 😉

      I do agree that slower is not always safer. Sometimes this is also true of motor vehicles.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 12, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    (Ugh. Sooo many men on this thread arguing with each other and telling us how to ride bikes.)

    Thank you for sharing this Eva. You’re a great writer — and rider!

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    • Alex Reedin December 12, 2017 at 2:36 pm

      Ok, I’ll stop. Thanks for the gentle correction Jonathan.

      *Puts BikePortland back on the willpower-enhancing blocked sites list in my Chrome extension*

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    • joan December 12, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      Thanks for your awareness and comment, Jonathan. Cheers!

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    • catherine feta cheese December 13, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      The same bunch of dudes boringly arguing over and over is really making Bike Portland less fun to read.
      This was a terrific essay by Eva, really expressed the delight of the ride. Was just in New Orleans, saw lots of confident women using bikes (often old beat up bikes like mine) for ordinary transportation. I noticed that the car/truck drivers in that city seemed much more courteous than here. They took stopping for pedestrians very seriously, seemed to look out for them, and I never heard anyone honk the horn at another driver or a person on a bike.

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      • El Biciclero December 14, 2017 at 10:47 am

        “The same bunch of dudes boringly arguing over and over is really making Bike Portland less fun to read”

        Maybe so, but the solution to pollution is dilution—seems like the power is in your hands to offer an alternative to “dudes boringly arguing”. Maybe you could offer some suggestions on how to make the arguing more exciting.

        Perhaps we need a guest post on how “dudes” ought to conduct themselves in the comments section. Not being facetious here at all; as someone who is admittedly a “dude”, but who attempts to comment or respond to comments in a respectful way without “mansplaining” or being dismissive, it seems as though I’m still missing something about the rules of modern discourse. Except for the occasional moderation—which, by the way, I do not oppose, nor do I envy the task of walking the line between freedom and “censorship”—isn’t everyone who may decide to comment here on equal footing on level ground? If too much “dudes boringly arguing” is a problem, how do we prevent or counteract it? Just turn off comments, as soren suggests? I personally find some of the comments extremely helpful, thought-provoking, humorous, etc., and would be disappointed to lose that facet of the site. So if not that, what then?

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty December 14, 2017 at 5:04 pm

          >>> Maybe you could offer some suggestions on how to make the arguing more exciting. <<<

          Give the dudes some pointy sticks and let them fight it out. Or maybe fire. Fire makes everything more exciting.

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          • Brian December 15, 2017 at 8:45 am

            I got it. Bikeportland’s version of this….

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          • El Biciclero December 15, 2017 at 8:53 am

            “Give the dudes some pointy sticks and let them fight it out”

            Or lirpa

            buh-buh buhh buhh buhh buhh buhh buh-buh buhh buh…

            I’m so frickin’ old…

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          • Alex Reedin December 15, 2017 at 1:24 pm

            Or maybe you, me, Kyle Banerjee, Middle Of The Road Guy, Soren, Adam H., wsbob, and el Biciclero could get together for beers and have a good in-person discussion instead of cluttering up the internets with our argumentation?

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty December 16, 2017 at 3:54 pm

              Only if “I Voted For Trump” or one of his 13 alter-egos shows…

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            • Kyle Banerjee December 17, 2017 at 6:21 pm

              I could be game. Seems like a ride of some kind — even a relatively short one — would be appropriate 🙂

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            • Resopmok December 17, 2017 at 6:42 pm

              Once a week, at least, preferably.

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      • wsbob December 14, 2017 at 1:02 pm

        Catherine…you and your gal friends maybe should post your own ideas and opinions expressed on this weblog more often. That’s probably the best way to bring in new and different voices and perspectives on biking, transportation, city life and all the other things this weblog covers.

        Personally, I don’t think that Maus’s moderation principles and practices are very good. And that’s not just because I write a lot of comments, increasingly more of which seem never released from moderation, despite my consistently refraining from displaying disrespect to other people commenting here.

        I think the moderation is lacking here, because Maus allows certain people, regular in comments posted to bikeportland, to be rude, insulting and disrespectful to people whose opinions they disagree with…rather than stating the details of their different point of view in a reasonably polite manner. It’s not good moderation when the moderator allows discussions to devolve to one side’s unrestrained bullying of the other.

        I realize there are some tough women that are willing and capable of going tooth and nail against obnoxious bullies, whether they be men or women, to emphasize ideas and points of view they believe are truly important to have wide public consideration. Doesn’t surprise me though, that lots of people both men and women, aren’t willing to expend the energy necessary to hold their own or prevail against bullying on a basically local weblog like this one.

        If you ever do get a chance to read this comment, if it ever is released from moderation…I give you my hearty thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts here! Please do so more often!

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    • soren December 13, 2017 at 5:45 pm

      perhaps your site would inform and inspire better if you turned off the comments section…

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      • Kyle Banerjee December 14, 2017 at 6:04 am

        The cool thing about the interwebz is that no one is forced to read anything they don’t like — especially stuff like comments which you can’t even see until you’ve gone through the article…

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    • S December 14, 2017 at 11:22 am

      Jonathan, you’re inserting sexism into something that has nothing to do with that. People make these same comments on basically every article, but because this one was written by a woman, suddenly it’s sexist for men to talk about how to ride a bike on a bike blog. Nothing I’ve seen in these comments are blaming the author because she is a woman or claiming her riding skills are lesser because of her gender.

      Close the comments section if all you’re going to do is complain that too many members of a gender are having a discussion you don’t like. Remember, you’re the one who published a two-part series on cycling techniques written by a man. Try not to be a hypocrite for once.

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      • Carrie December 15, 2017 at 9:51 am

        “People (men) make these same comments on basically every post” is one reason why many of the women don’t comment that frequently on BP. Small cuts add up to large wounds over time. I’m glad to see Jonathan calling out this behavior and noticing that it happens.

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        • El Biciclero December 15, 2017 at 12:51 pm

          Seriously trying to understand this without making any apparently baseless claims of “men are people too”—could you provide an example of the type of “tiny cuts” that would prevent a woman from commenting on an article, but not a man?

          I’ll be presumptuous and use an example to try to illustrate my confusion; let’s assume some commenter, “jamie”, wrote:

          “Anyone who rides in the city just needs to learn to [bunny-hop/trackstand/take the lane/signal/ride with no hands/keep up with cars/etc…]—it’s not that hard and can save your bacon in lots of situations. Learn some skillz, people!”

          Would a female reader assume “jamie” was a man? If jamie were a man, would this comment be considered a “cut”? If we all knew that jamie was a woman, then would this comment be OK? Would no woman ever make such an insensitive comment? As a “dude”, if I saw this comment, I would probably offer a differing opinion that might include “…circus ‘skillz’ shouldn’t be necessary just to get from A to B on one’s bicycle.” If jamie were a man, would this response be considered “boring arguing” or “discussion”? If jamie were a woman, would my reply be a “cut”? If I were a woman would I be rolling my eyes so hard at this comment that I couldn’t reply at all?

          Is the nature of what “men” typically debate, and the way in which they do it, so fundamentally different/oppressive/scary/boring/what-have-you when compared to the nature of women’s discussions that mixed-gender dialogs that involve disagreement are just no longer possible without being offensive—even in a forum where nobody truly knows who’s a man and who isn’t?

          If the content or presentation of certain comments is off-putting in some unacceptable way, is it possible to address content and presentation without “genderizing” it? Will we never stop judging people based on corporeal feature sets and assumptions appertaining thereunto?

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          • Carrie December 16, 2017 at 6:11 am

            The thing El BIcilero is that one example is not enough. It’s the many small examples that add up over time. Anyone can brush off one example. But the weight becomes heavy after a while.

            There was a great post about Samantha Taylor earlier this year that degraded SO MANY [male] commentors telling her how if she only did X she wouldn’t face the things she faces for cycling while black. Jocelyn Quarrel was told how if she was only a better cyclist (ha!) she wouldn’t have been nearly run over on Interstate. I’ve been told if only I was a better navigator or more fearless or something the infrastructure gaps in this area wouldn’t be a barrier to cycling long distances with my kids. Anne Hathaway & Rachel used to comment frequently and I loved their contributions because they provided a cycling perspective that was so different from mine. They were true contributions to the cycling experience perspective. But most of the time it was explained to them how their opinions were wrong because they weren’t doing Z or Q correctly. I miss them.

            I don’t think any of these people were posting or commenting looking for advice. They were posting or commenting to add to the discussion about cycling. In your example, possibly the original post could have been about falling on the $%K!# tracks and how there got to be a better solution. The ‘problem’ with your example is that in all cases you’re offering advice that assumes that the person fell because they didn’t know what they were doing on a bike. That’s the fatal flaw.

            I have NO idea what it’s like to cycle while black. So I’m not about to second guess Samantha and instead I’m going to BELIEVE her experiences. And maybe/hopefully change how I act in a given situation and/or be a better advocate. Why does Eva need to be ‘argued’ with in this post? Why does she have to do better/different? Just listen to what she has to say and think about how that can frame your cycling world. FWIW, for me, that means I’m going to wear my helmet *less* around my neighborhood.

            And to tie in the sexism side of things: it’s the vast majority of the men’s voices who do the explaining and arguing instead of the contributing. And it becomes too draining to post your knowledge or experience only to be told you’re doing it wrong. Again.

            [Like Rachel I’ll now sit back and watch for the responding comment to tell me how my viewpoint isn’t real or valid or I’m somehow just not getting it because all this advice is just well meaning].

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            • soren December 16, 2017 at 10:06 am

              In my experience, Maus encourages these kind of comments.

              For example, I was put on moderation for challenging these kinds of comments:

              “That people here encourage people to not be aware of their environment and take every measure to protect their own safety is a severe disservice to all and makes cyclists a pathetic joke in the eyes of most normal people.”

              “That is exactly what people here consistently advocate. The most cluеless behavior by peds and cyclists alike is consistently justified or at best ignored. People consistently pile onto me for suggesting cyclists and peds take any responsibility for their own safety.”

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            • El Biciclero December 16, 2017 at 11:00 am

              Hey, Carrie—Thank you for this response. I totally get the “thousand cuts” thing; my favorite is when someone who never or rarely bikes talks about how going out of one’s way, or dealing with some “rare” occurrence is “no big deal”. Well, it may not be a big deal if you experience it once or twice in a year, but it is a big deal when you have to put up with such things 20 times a day, every day—and I know this happens in many different dimensions of people’s lives that have nothing to do with anything I can even pretend to understand. I think part of my issue is that I might feel caught up short by the current wave of white-men-are-evil sentiment, and want to be sure I’m not unwittingly being any more evil than our baseline human nature compels.

              I found this statement from your response interesting:

              “The ‘problem’ with your example is that in all cases you’re offering advice that assumes that the person fell because they didn’t know what they were doing on a bike. That’s the fatal flaw.”

              I agree with your assessment, here, but would this assessment change given different combinations of genders in the discussion (e.g., if a woman made such assumptions about a man)?

              And this was extremely enlightening:

              “Why does Eva need to be ‘argued’ with in this post? Why does she have to do better/different? Just listen to what she has to say and think about how that can frame your cycling world. FWIW, for me, that means I’m going to wear my helmet *less* around my neighborhood.

              And to tie in the sexism side of things: it’s the vast majority of the men’s voices who do the explaining and arguing instead of the contributing.”

              That sounds like for all but a tiny fraction of articles, the only thing that would be considered a “contribution” is an affirmation of the original content. That can’t be what you mean, can it?

              Your final bracketed statement is rather a trap that makes it difficult to continue any discussion in good faith with anything other than an abject apology for being male, but I’ll knowingly step in it to offer not a refutation of your experience or opinion, but a view from the “other side”. Many men are “fixers”; it is in our nature. If there is a problem expressed, or even hinted at, lots of “dudes” feel compelled to “fix” it—regardless of whether the person who has the “problem” is male or female. For some of those men, it is indeed nothing more than an exertion of male ego to point out what you’re doing “wrong”, but for many others, “explaining” IS “contributing”, because they genuinely want to improve the experience of someone who is apparently struggling. There are times when it almost literally hurts to see or hear of someone having a problem that I genuinely believe I could help with, but for whatever reason am unable to help. To dismiss all explaining as a non-contribution feels hurtful to me. Maybe you only mean a particular kind of explaining, and I guess that’s what I’m attempting to decipher.

              Here is another example in a BP article, which interestingly contains unsolicited advice from me, in response to a comment by you about riding with no hands…so, sorry. But the real interesting part is that I offered yet more advice in response to a question posed in the main article about how to brake one-handed while going downhill. Maybe the question posed was rhetorical, so no answer was really desired and I should have kept quiet, but I responded. Not long after, “Daniel” argued that one of my suggestions was wrong—I don’t think “he” was assuming I was a woman. I then argued back to explain more about why I had made the suggestion… Is that the kind of thing that some readers find off-putting? I later attempted to encourage “Claudia”, who was afraid of getting hurt if she tried to learn to ride as an adult. I want to believe I was trying to make a helpful contribution rather than be “mansplainy”, and that I would have responded in the same way had I assumed the people I was responding to were male—should I not have responded in any of those cases, though?

              Sorry for belaboring this issue, but blind spots, by definition, can’t be seen by the person who has them, so I’m soliciting help and advice here.

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              • La Bicicleteria December 18, 2017 at 1:55 am

                El Biciclero… you inspired some thoughts. Though I have no idea your identity, I’ve related to things you say. I haven’t read all your comments by any stretch, but on those I have, even when you argue, your comments seem sincere & illustrative, with a focus on broadening the scope of an article’s ideas rather than “winning.” Thus, you’ve expanded my thinking (& made me communicate better myself). If comment sections have goals, those’d be some of mine. There have been lots of good discussions here.

                But I agree with Carrie. I made a list of “small cuts” to give you as helpful examples. Then I deleted most of it. There are many seemingly benign cuts I’d like to draw attention to. Then I hear Michelle Obama saying “we go high.”

                I’ll be honest: I’m unsure what to do. That’s a vulnerable admission. I’m taking a risk to say it, but I hope it can be acknowledged & maybe grow into some ideas. It’s surprising to visit this bike news channel & see another person’s vulnerable expression about what it feels like to bike-commute be shut down by a commenter. For me, maybe I over-expect my experiences as a car-free person to be received as mostly relatable to others here, including men. Still, on this very article, I see at least one man-to-woman comment where a man invalidates a woman following her expression. Subtle, but a woman can experience this as a man’s aggressive attempt to dominate her. Maybe we should all agree not to communicate like that here, but instead ask more questions about each other’s experiences?

                One commenter said some people he disagreed with are considered “nuts” by “normal people.” Hard to tell if it was sloppy writing or a lucid effort to inflame. Regardless, it’s a familiar feeling & emotional trigger to those of us who bike-commute, to be told we’re not “normal.” I’ll posit it’s especially true for women. It’s fair & I’d say necessary to have a discussion about whether that’s true in Portland. I believe women have a harder time feeling acceptance as bike commuters, at work & with their friends & families, boom, I said it. From how we dress, to how safe our streets seem from a car.

                It’s that very experience of being side-eyed as “not normal” that many of us are trying to change in regard to bicycle transportation. It hurts to have our mode disrespected & deprioritized by motorists, mainstream media, lawmakers, road designers, governors. It hurts to see that attitude represented in the comments here, too.

                Before learning others are also noticing attacks of the small cut variety, I could only assume I was the only one offended by a given comment, when it went unchallenged. As you alluded to, El Biciclero, women (me included) often don’t stick around to argue. We probably went on a bike ride instead. Took an Epsom salt bath. Meditated on bicycles.

                I don’t know if any of this is very helpful advice…

                I really like having this rare setting—our own bike channel—where we can expect to find people who accept bikes as commuting vehicles. But Status Quo still wanders into these chat rooms & takes up seats on our easy chairs & couches. How do we address it? How do we respond to it when, if we ask Status Quo to please give up its seat to some women who biked here & need a place to sit & talk, it says No?

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              • El Biciclero December 18, 2017 at 11:58 am

                I’ve had a couple of thoughts over the weekend. I don’t want to make another long comment, so I’ll try to be as brief as possible without being unclear. Let’s pretend I understand about assumptions that women are less skilled/knowledgeable/etc., and unveil another level of ignorance. After hearing that women in particular feel discouraged from commenting here—and as a result just don’t do it—I was curious why women who felt dismissed or discounted by some boorish comment would just go away rather than refute it and “ladysplain” why it was hurtful or demeaning. Even in my above comment, I’m wondering whether I’m treating men and women equally in my assumptions and responses, and I realized after the fact that the thought that was going through the back of my mind vis-a-vis “equality”, was some version of “if everybody is treated equally like ‘one of the guys‘, isn’t that what we want?” You probably see the error in that right away; it took me a day or so. If we admit that being seen or treated as one of the “guys” isn’t necessarily what everyone aspires to, then we have to figure out how to understand and implement some different kind of “equality”.

                So if we have this realization that “equal” treatment doesn’t necessarily mean treating people as though they wish they could be like me, ‘cuz, after all, who wouldn’t want to be like me, right? Then how do we define it? I have a feeling that for most people, treating others who aren’t just like them exactly the same way they would treat people who are just like them sounds like the pinnacle of fair-minded wokeness—the whole “I see no color/gender/class” idea—but it seems that either that idea has been poorly carried out in real life, or it’s the wrong idea.

                So the trouble we seem to have in our comments section is that a) “dudes” (in general) appear to like to “fix”, advise, explain, and debate whose advice and explanations are best, while b) women (generally, and by my assumption) prefer to absorb and reflect, finding things that resonate with them and build on those things, rather than worry about who’s doing it wrong and how they could change. If these assumptions are correct, then it leads to c) some women, who don’t resonate at all with being told how to “fix” a situation they didn’t think needed fixing by a man who believes he is improving the world by enlightening everyone as to the proper solution to some “problem” (and who further believes he is treating everyone equally, because in his mind, this would be his response to a non-gendered alien from planet Xenon), feeling unheard, disrespected, or assumed-over (I don’t know whether “assumed-over” makes sense, but I mean it in the same sense as “talked over”).

                If any of the above is close to reality, then it truly means that one person can legitimately feel slighted by the genuinely well-meaning actions of another, as in the “ride safe” example given in this article (had to tie it to the article somehow, right?), and it remains to figure out, I guess, where to cut slack and where to push back. We all will likely have to act in ways that are outside our natural inclinations. Apparently one of my natural inclinations is to write longer comments than I intended.

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              • Carrie December 18, 2017 at 3:19 pm

                I am so very sorry, but I don’t have time for the considered response this question asks for (one of those children of mine have returned from college and I’m going to be focusing on ppl in front of me for a while :)). Anyway, La Bicicleteria had a great response and your weekend summary was also excellent. AND I’d love to meet up and discuss more in person if we can pull that off — because I remember the ‘no hands’ discussion thread and yes it WAS very offputting to me, for all the reasons that you surmized. 🙂

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            • rachel b December 21, 2017 at 9:58 pm

              Dear Carrie–let me explain something to you….



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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty December 16, 2017 at 2:36 pm

          Is it only women who suffer from the “thousand cuts”, or are there men who also don’t comment for the same reason? That is, is the sex of the listener the critical factor, or is it more a non-gendered sensitivity that is at issue?

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          • rachel b December 21, 2017 at 9:54 pm

            Maybe. Less ‘splainy men. 😉 The urge to instruct/explain/correct/inform in men is persistent, almost knee-jerk seeming. It must feel like some irresistible impulse, because it happens SO freakin’ MUCH! Maybe someone can explain to me the itchy feeling that comes over one… must!….ergh!!….’splain!… gagghh!…. NOW!!!!! gllllgghhghhhh!!!!!! 😉 I can practically feel the strain…

            I don’t get how you figure in the first place that you know more than a stranger on any given subject. I think women go in aware they may they know less (a healthy humility, I think, in this case) and proceed with appropriate caution, whereas men go in assuming they know more than whomever they’re addressing. Though, I have seen and experienced plenty of men persisting in explaining things to women, even knowing the woman is, for example, an astrophysicist. 😉


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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty December 22, 2017 at 7:28 am

              For hundreds of thousands of generations, males who have been able to resolve problems (and be seen doing it) were the ones who were able to reproduce a new generation of problem solvers. The ones that didn’t didn’t. I think that explains it all.

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            • Alex Reedin December 22, 2017 at 1:14 pm

              I can’t explain it, but I can attest that it happens for me almost as you comically illustrate in your comment. It’s a pull that’s very hard to resist, like the fudge that’s currently sitting on the communal table next to my cubicle. For me, it is, like “Hello Kitty” reframes it, about the desire to “help solve” someone’s problem or a related problem that’s out there in the world with a “simple solution” that I seem to be the only one who sees 🙂 . (Although I am still dubious of his(?) armchair evolutionary psychology.)

              Just smiling, nodding, making affirmative noises, and restating what my husband tells me about his problems to show that I understand what he’s going through is… really hard for me.

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              • rachel b December 22, 2017 at 7:41 pm

                “Just smiling, nodding, making affirmative noises, and restating what my husband tells me about his problems to show that I understand what he’s going through is… really hard for me.”

                Is that honestly how you would characterize my participation here on BikePortland (for example)?! ‘Cause that certainly doesn’t feel at all–not even remotely–like what I’ve been doing! And I think my husband would agree that–while I’m a sympathetic person–that description does not meet, er, me.

                Must the opposite of ‘splaining = some flaccid affirmative, mirroring murmuring?! This does seem to be the prevailing idea among men, and it’s cracking me up!! Can you guys honestly not imagine a robust conversation that DOESN’T involve ‘splaining, “solving,” “helping?” 🙂 It is possible! It can BE!

                I think realizing that not ‘splaining does not = boring, non-vibrant conversation would be a great first step. Debate does not have to involve a lecturing, know-it-all tone or competitive fact-hurling.

                Thanks for the comments on my comment, menfolk. I’m anthropologically entertained. 😉

                And Kitty–I’d say it’s the alpha baboon nature of man at play–that one-upmanship, competitive thing men have going, that’s at the root of it all. Even conversation is a contest.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty December 22, 2017 at 8:09 pm

                It might be that there are people who don’t conform to gender stereotypes.

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              • Alex Reedin December 22, 2017 at 8:19 pm

                Oh, I absolutely wasn’t trying to say that “restating” is representative of “feminine” discourse. Sorry for the offense!

                I was trying to say that even this most basic “mirroring” approach proposed in various self-help books as an alternative to mansplaining is hard for me to muster the will to implement when the urge to try to propose solutions to someone’s problem strikes.

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          • q December 22, 2017 at 11:15 am

            I’m not sure if it falls under the “thousand cuts” category, but it seems (i.e. my explanation is) that some of what’s going on is explaining, and some is a willingness or even enthusiasm about debating. And some guys love seeing a comment pop up that they can challenge or debate, but many other guys prefer to avoid debate and controversy.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty December 22, 2017 at 12:57 pm

              And there’s one person who will not lay off the puns!

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              • q December 22, 2017 at 1:11 pm

                You probably trying to provoke me to debate that with you, but I’m not taking debate.

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            • rachel b December 22, 2017 at 7:46 pm

              I love debating!! Isn’t it obvious by now that I love debating? Vigorous debate does not require condescension of lecturing. 😉

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              • rachel b December 22, 2017 at 7:46 pm

                DOH! “or lecturing.”

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              • q December 22, 2017 at 8:29 pm

                Yes it does.

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              • rachel b December 22, 2017 at 10:32 pm

                Alex–you didn’t offend! And good luck with the communal fudge. 🙂

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              • rachel b December 22, 2017 at 10:33 pm

                And har, Q. 🙂

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        • rachel b December 21, 2017 at 10:02 pm


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  • Alexandra Phillips December 12, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    I love the wear mittens idea! Keeps the automatic New Yorker response in me “under wraps”
    I agree with the “don’t rush” idea. When I am not in a hurry I take the time to stop and look both ways.. and then go as fast or slow as I want.

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  • Caitlin D December 12, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    “Often feel the need to give the finger? Wear mittens.”

    I love this 🙂 Thank you for sharing your perspective and tips!

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty December 13, 2017 at 2:11 am

      The problem with this advice is that if I wore mittens, people wouldn’t see that I’m giving them the finger.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy December 14, 2017 at 2:40 pm

        unless there was the pattern of a middle finger stitched on the mitten.

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      • jeff December 15, 2017 at 1:46 pm

        pretty much. I want them to see my middle finger since it doesn’t make an appearance unless they completely deserve it.

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      • rachel b December 21, 2017 at 10:02 pm

        🙂 🙂

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    • Resopmok December 17, 2017 at 6:43 pm

      Mittens keep my hands warmer than gloves this time of year anyway.

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  • joan December 12, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    I’m sure many of the women readers here are familiar with what Susan B. Anthony said about women and bicycles: “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

    It was a very different context back then, but when I ride my bike, I do indeed feel the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.

    Thanks for great piece, Eva!

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    • Kate December 12, 2017 at 4:17 pm

      Thanks for this reminder quote…am jotting it down for regular viewing now.

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  • Chris Bassett December 12, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks for the article, some very valuable tips here. As someone still getting over an ER visit from earlier this year, I found a lot to relate to. I’m still never going on that toute that took me out though!

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  • Ted G December 12, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    The leap from growing up and cycling in a “quaint small town” to cycling in a big city fails to adjust for the change in location. I am often struck by the harkening back to childhood as some bucolic happy place. Maybe it was, but unless you lived in a city, the comparison is not helpful. There are wonderfully tranquil and quaint places to live where you and your children can still pedal carefree to school or grocery store, but it won’t be in a city.

    I too am miffed by the “be safe/ride safe” statements. The one that really gets me is “stay safe.” Does this mean I need to stay in my house all day long? Safety is not a binary thing. Safety is a function of risk and so is on a continuum. Some of the fear that Eva is referring to, I believe, is related to one’s ability to assess risk. If you re unable to assess risk and so see risk everywhere you will be fearful and feel very unsafe all the time. Avoiding a situation is a way of avoiding a particular risk, whether real or imagined (like the street that sent her to the ER). The “ride safe” comments from people seems to assume that simply riding a bike is a leap of faith because danger lurks with every passing car. Those same sentiments do not often carryover to every-day driving because that is a situation with which everyone is familiar and so they feel confident assessing the risk, which leads them to considered driving around town as low risk=safe and elicits little fear. .

    The best way, I think, to become better at assessing risk, and therefore less fearful, is to ride more and pay close attention to your surroundings. Biking is a skill, and just like new drivers have shown they are more likely to get in an accident, the same, I am guessing, is true for new cyclists. Practice urban biking. Familiarize yourself with different situations and be prepared to react. I think proof of this is the feeling I have when I bike in unfamiliar places. I am more fearful/careful because I am not confident that I can assess all the risks. It also speaks to Eva reaction to the street that put her in the hospital. An accident like that can certainly undercut one’s confidence in one’s ability to assess risk in a given situation.

    One tip I would offer is that whenever you are near a car there is 1-2 second period of time where I feel completely vulnerable to an unpredictable movement by a car. 1-2 seconds before or after I feel I can either brake, swerve, or accelerate to avoid serious consequences. I am constantly assessing cars and I feel I now intuitively consider the danger zone and either brake to avoid entering the zone or keep riding and get through it as quickly possible. I would encourage everyone to be continually assessing risks and to work on the skill of biking to become a better cyclist. This, more than any infrastructure improvements, will provide the greatest benefit in decreasing your fear and increasing your enjoyment while riding a bike on city streets.

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  • Todd Boulanger December 13, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Eva, thanks for sharing your childhood bike story. Such a great bike smile you had!

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  • curly December 13, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks for writing the article Eva. As always, Safe Travels:)

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  • Anne December 13, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Excellent guest post. Thank you, Eva and Jonathan.

    Next can we do an article about riding in this clear but cold weather? People look at me askance when I arrive rosy-cheeked. But I find it so exhilarating and rad! I love it.

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    • Kyle Banerjee December 13, 2017 at 6:56 pm

      Should be rainy and cold soon enough. It’s all good 🙂

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  • X December 13, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    Leave a bit early–I definitely support that. It makes for a better interaction with almost everybody you encounter.

    I get the “ride safe” thing from all kinds of people, helmet wearers and non-helmet wearers. Maybe it’s like “go with God”, not necessarily meant to be taken literally. I mean, where is God going? Personally I like “stay dry” which is of course fully ironic because often as not I’m dripping on their briefcase at the time.

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  • Aleia December 13, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for your wonderful post!

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  • El Biciclero December 13, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    I won’t argue with this ‘cuz I’m a dude.

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    • El Biciclero December 13, 2017 at 9:07 pm

      By “this” I mean the comment by Vincent Foster.

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      • El Biciclero December 15, 2017 at 5:33 pm

        …which has subsequently been deleted.

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  • Smarty Pants December 13, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    Good article. Agree with most of it. Nice “new bike” picture.

    I don’t mind if someone tells me to be safe, ride safe, drive safe, etc. It’s kind of a “wish” for them, or a basic courtesy, no offense meant by it.

    Each of us has to decide what it means to be safe (if we actually want to be safe). I like flashy lights – they attract attention which makes me a little safer; and I like visible colors/reflective gear – same purpose.

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  • q December 15, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    I appreciate that there are several hints for being safe, but only one involves visibility, and helmets aren’t mentioned. It’s a reminder that there’s much more to safety than those two things. The focus–in safety campaigns, police reports, etc.–on those may be counterproductive, giving the impression that “safety” is a matter of checking off that you have a light, a helmet, and maybe some bright clothing. The reality is that “Don’t hurry” and “Be observant” may be as important, or more so. And they apply to drivers as much as or more than to cyclists.

    If accident reports are going to mention safety measures taken or not, it’d be interesting to see these included (“The cyclist was in a hurry, and the driver wasn’t being observant and was hogging the lane instead of being nice”…) rather than the knee-jerk, check-off “helmet/light/clothing” reports.

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  • Evan December 16, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    I love this, and especially the tip about mittens.

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  • Manville December 18, 2017 at 9:15 am

    As I was getting on my bike this morning to ride to work my wife, who was loading our 9-month-old son in her car, said: “have a safe ride”. Remembering this post, I yelled back, “I am the vulnerable one here; why don’t you have a safe drive.”

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    • rachel b December 21, 2017 at 10:04 pm

      Ah! Love.

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