Beginner Pedal Parenting: part 3, How Portaging One's Offspring Conjures A Cyclist's Primalest Fears
Hi! For the last couple of days we've been talking about some of the ways that adding kid-hauling to my cycling lifestyle brought me back in touch with my Inner Beginner. click here for Beginner Pedal Parenting: part 1, How Hauling an Infant Returns One to Cycling Infancy
In the long run, being reminded of the concerns of a newbie has been very positive for me as a bike teacher and advocate. Especially since I am most concerned with making bicycle transportation more accessible to folks who are traditionally marginalized by bike culture and bike services. In the first few months of my career as a Pedal Parent, however, I was mostly just stunned that I needed to re-slay these particular dragons.
The concern that came back the strongest was the same one that I was most surprised by. I found myself scared of traffic again! Now, I'm not saying that I never flinch when a semi-truck passes me with only a couple of feet clearance, or that I don't find some roads nerve-wracking or others just not doable by bike without a huge posse.
taking the lane on the ballard bridge is not too doable for me alone
these folks took both lanes in a huge posse
I am just saying that I am pretty confident in my ability to asses whether or not a road or route will work for my riding style and I am pretty comfortable "handling traffic" when I ride. I hope I am not a macho, a-hole level assertive cyclist, "Bicycle Rights!" dude, but I'm not that scared of sharing or taking the lane anymore. Good for me, right?
So, I am generally an empowered cyclist. Thing is, how could I not have anticipated that I would still be nervous that some aggressive, inattentive or inexperienced driver might pass us a little too close and send us into the curb and that I might loose control of the bike and that Little Oil might get hurt by that? How could I not realize that my parent's urge to protect my offspring might overpower my vehicular cyclist's urge to prove to myself and to the world that, "We already have all the bike lanes we need. They're called the roads!"?
I can't tell ya why I was surprised to be afraid of cars again. But I was surprised. Was it ego? Probably. In the end, I came to terms with the fact that I was once again frightened of cars. And I still am, sometimes.
Maybe that's healthy. The stakes are higher for family cyclists. Even when the kid isn't on board, the consequences of me injuring myself are higher. Little Oil and Mama depend on me! I remember a few days after Baby Oil was born I was out getting supplies and my head wasn't in the game at all. I was thinking, "I have a baby!" Not, "Look out you don't get squeezed into a parking spot by a parallel parking driver and forced to leap off your bike and pull it onto the curb." That's what happened and it was a weird thing, and frightening. The first thing I shouted to the oblivious driver?
I have a baby!
What wasn't healthy was my reaction to that fear. I was returned to a stance that I thought I'd outgrown, one that I think many cyclist's go through.
To Be Continued…
Fear of traffic was a surprising and serious challenge that returned when I began my own Pedal Parenting path, but the next stage of fear can be aggression. It has been hard for me to reveal these things about myself so I've been doling them out in peices. Tune in next time when we really get into it with Haughty Indignation, and Beginner Pedal Parenting: How Toting a Toddler Brings Back Cycling Adolescence