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If I were just starting out on a bike I can only imagine the sort of thoughts that might run through my head. Everyone seems to have a story (at least one, but often more) of an altercation with a motorist, and as a group, we talk a lot about lack of bike lanes and safe places to ride. While I do believe these conversations are necessary to begin to change public perception and the actual structure of our road systems, I find myself wondering if (at least at times) it goes too far.
I have many fond memories of riding a bike in my childhood, and I think there are a great number who share similar recollections of their youth, but we also realize that there is more motorized traffic to contend with today - regardless of how recent or long ago our childhood took place. There are also certainly more distractions for people on the road when taking into account cell phones, fast food stops, and the plethora of gadgets available in cars today. Even cyclists seem to be distracted by GPS devices, cell phones, and the like, which creates a world full of people moving down the same roads, but not using all of their focus on the task at hand.
For me, there was a gap between the time I stopped riding a bike as a kid and the time that I started again in adulthood. Really, the first influence for me to start riding again was Sam. He had always taken off to ride with friends in the mountains, and although I had little interest in mountain biking at the time, he was quite encouraging of me to get back on two wheels. It helped that within a couple of years of his influence, I started finding blogs like Let's Go Ride a Bike and Lovely Bicycle!, whose authors were sharing their personal stories of transportation riding, pleasure rides, and so on. I liked that riding seemed so normal and non-athletic, and it seemed that truly anyone could be doing this. As I recall, these stories were inspiring and/or inquisitive in nature, but I don't recall reading as many derogatory comments. But, perhaps this is just my perception or me reliving my start through rose-colored glasses, and perhaps the same commentary has been there all along.
Ultimately, I think it could be easy to allow some of these conversations to influence whether or not I ride a bike, but I choose to accept that there is an inherent risk with doing almost anything most of us do on a daily basis - however, I don't start out each ride with that sort of thought process. Riding a bike feels very normal and mainstream to me until I read something that causes me to pause and rethink that perception of reality, so I can't help but be curious in regard to the thoughts of others. If you were just starting to ride (or maybe you are just starting to ride and have some first hand experiences to share), would you be afraid or intimidated by some of what you read about cycling or riding a bike? Does using the terminology "cycling" versus "riding a bike" affect the way you feel about riding? Who or what were some of your first influences when it came to riding a bike? Were these influences encouraging as you took your first pedal strokes (whether starting again or for the first time) or were there times that the message received was more intimidating than helpful?