Easing Skittish Friends Onto Bikes
by Mary Wings

Bike with a Buddy is the theme of this year’s Bike to Work Day. Sure it sounds a little corny, but this really is an ideal time to ease a bike-skittish friend onto two wheels. Many of this month’s events are aimed at new riders. Nothing helps build someone’s confidence like being accompanied by a more experienced rider.
I recently invited two bike-skittish friends on rides, then asked about their experiences:

Skittish Friend #1
Ardy Tibby, 57. Had not ridden a bike in over 30 years. House-sitting in SF with plans to move here.What scared you before you got on the bike?? Besides the traffic? I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it physically. I’m 57, and I don’t challenge myself in bodily ways anymore! I thought I would have to bend over in one of those racing positions, and I would fall over.

What was the biggest surprise about riding? I didn’t realize that I could ride a cruiser bike and sit up, just like when I was a kid. It was really comfortable and easy, and I guess riding a bike is something you don’t forget. Plus, there wasn’t any traffic! By the time we were halfway to the flea market I felt pretty secure. I knew what I was doing and could handle it O.K.

How do you feel now? Good. Flush and successful. Being out in the air was wonderful! When I move to the city I’m going to get a bike for sure. Before you took me for the ride I don’t think I would have considered getting a bike. I do now.

Skittish Friend #2
Ginger Hellmann, 30, Urban Archaeologist, graduate student at Sonoma State University. SF resident. Her brother was killed on his bicycle by a hit and run driver when she was 13.

Hey Ginger, let’s bike to the Castro. O.K., but I don’t want to get gored by a car. They have the power of the metal shell around them. But I want to try. I want to get over my phobia. And it’s a great way to get in shape.

When did you last ride? I’m riding a bike now on the [Sonoma State] campus. My boss bought bikes for us to get around.[We arrive in the Castro via Valencia bike lanes.]

How was that? I like the bike lanes. They make me feel safe because it’s a dedicated place [for bikes].

Any other worries? I don’t want to run into pedestrians. That’s why I like the bike lane. In theory, everyone is supposed to share the road, but as a cyclist you don’t have protection.so sometimes I ride on the sidewalks. But I don’t want to hit pedestrians.

Will you bike again? Absolutely. When I get my job in San Francisco I hope to bike every day. Even though I don’t want to deal with traffic it’s such a good form of exercise and efficient. And I like noticing the buildings and the trees. But the traffic still scares me. It probably always will.

BY MARY WINGS