Insert Inspirational Title Here

believe-smI went skydiving once. It was the most exhilarating/terrifying feeling I think I’ve ever experienced. You see, I’m what’s called an adrenaline junkie. I admit it… and admitting you have a problem is the first step… but it’s true. I did it because I could, and I would do it again if I had the chance.

And honestly, I was mortified. I knew it was going to be exciting, I knew it was going to be scary, I knew it was relatively safe, and I totally wanted to do it.

When I made the decision to become a bike commuter, it wasn’t something I just naturally did, like tripping down stairs, or running into a wall… I do those things all the time without thinking. It’s natural, it just happens. Jumping out of an airplane doesn’t “just happen” (at least, not where I come from).

That’s not to say commuting by bike is difficult, any more than jumping out of a plane is difficult. You just have to be prepared. To be a bike commuter where I live, if you want good results you have to prepare. And this, the preparation phase, is where most of the trouble comes.

Now, I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of guy, so when I finally made the decision to commute, I knew it was going to be fun, I knew it was going to be exciting, and I knew it was relatively safe. But the feeling of fear still persisted, until I actually got on the bike. My mind played all kinds of tricks on me, begging me to reconsider. My family made disparaging remarks about being killed. “You have a perfectly good car,” they said. “Why would you want to ride your bike? Isn’t that hard? Isn’t it dangerous? Why would you want to do that?”

And at that point, you have to trust that yes, you can do it. Millions of people do it. You prepare, you get on the bike, and you ride. It’s not as dangerous as people think… it’s good for your physical health, it’s good for your pocketbook, and it’s good for your mental health. You realize, once you get rolling, that your fears weren’t justified. Everything seems better, even on the days when weather isn’t cooperating.

So what do you tell them when you do get hurt?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Got up at 5:00 and packed the bike with a day’s change of clothes, lunch, and ate breakfast. Headed off at 5:50AM.
Today there is little traffic, so I go into the lane, causing a car to have to slow a little to get around me, only for 50 feet or so. I then ride up Rue Loudon to cross Canal street at a “safe” intersection with a traffic signal. I wait till the light turns green for me, and when it changes, I stand and take off across the intersection.

Within the space of about 2 seconds, I got hit by a car and ended up laying in a twisted heap on the side of the road. My bike was thrown into the middle of the intersection. My left leg was pointing in the wrong direction.

Time to stop and rethink life.

The question is, if I knew I was going to end up in the hospital when I started riding my bike, would I still have done it? How much risk is acceptable… especially considering the massively potential benefits? How do we go through life mitigating risk? Should we live in fear, cowering in the dark every day of our lives? Should we give in to the people who say “I told you so”?

No. Life is meant to be lived. Pain is a part of life, in varying amounts. Joy, love, exhilaration, and happiness are also part of life, also in varying amounts. We can’t only expect comfort and pleasant sailing when we’re accomplishing difficult things. It makes me even more thankful for the happiness I do have, and the good things that have happened. A lot of people would be bitter. I am thankful. Not thankful for the pain, but thankful that I lived to tell about it, and how it allowed me to realize how much I had taken for granted. I learned from it and moved on. I’m still in better health now, after being hit, than I was before I started riding.

Don’t live life afraid. Embrace it fully, experience it deeply, and put forth your best, warts and all. Sometimes it will hurt. You just get up if you can, get back on the bike, and keep riding.

And yes, that’s the same bike I’m still riding to this day.

About Jeff Hendricks

Jeff Hendricks is a professing geek, tech whiz, musician, father, and
bike commuter. He's currently a technical writer. A proponent of the
bike lifestyle. Prefers cheap and functional over new and shiny.