Easing the fear of bicycle commuting

  • bottle water bike

Ditching your car to commute by bike isn’t as onerous as you might fear, say those who have made the swap.

Many people, particularly women, are slow to take up cycling because of safety concerns. But Gary Helfrich, the executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, said the odds of a serious crash are small. He cycles daily to Santa Rosa from Camp Meeker. He likens fear of cycling to fear of flying.

“Your brain is ignoring all the statistics saying how safe this is.”

According to the California Highway Patrol, there were 178 bicycle collisions in Sonoma County in 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Of those, five were fatal and 23 resulted in severe injuries.

Helfrich suggests that if the weather is bad, you’re daunted by the distance or concerned that some legs of the journey might take you on unsafe roads with no shoulder or bike lanes, try a hybrid journey.

His trip normally takes him along Graton or Green Valley roads. But he feels less safe on Graton Road after dark.

So in the winter when the sun goes down early he may park in Graton and then cycle along the West County Trail to Sebastopol and on to Santa Rosa, on the safe and easy Joe Rodota Trail that parallels Highway 12. On foggy mornings he takes Green Valley.

“There’s nothing wrong with driving part of the way and then putting your bike on the back of the car. You’re still getting exercise,” he said.

He also recommends leaving yourself time and taking it slow and easy so the experience is relaxing as well as invigorating.

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