Updated: Jun 17
The following is a blog that was originally written for Bike Denver in 2018, but today, it is more relevant than ever. As we see large-scale shifts in every area of our lives due to COVID-19, the desire to bike has emerged as a powerful, positive force in shaping this new era. From bicycle shops being recognized as an essential service, to the newly open streets solely designated for bikers and pedestrians, the amount of people riding bikes has soared, with the number of people wanting to bike being even higher.
We at Denver CALC recognize that while there is excitement and hope around biking, our communities have also been experiencing stress, overwhelm and fear because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Whether it’s been fear for the health of your loved ones, changes in habits and routines, job-related stress, or anxiety over other changes and the unknown, we encourage you to find ways that both you and your family can reduce stress, find hope, and experience peace and positivity in these times, and always. This story is about biking to overcome fear, but to read more tips on managing stress and anxiety, head on over to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
For additional help, you can visit the website for Colorado Crisis Services, listed here: https://coloradocrisisservices.org/
Wishing you and your community health and safety,
The Denver CALC Team
I’d like to engage with you in a conversation about fear and biking, and I’d like to start off by saying that I recognize your fear is valid. And I honor it. I have it too. It takes different shapes, different forms on different days, but it lives with us, always, like our kneecaps and our kidneys. It is there for a reason. It protects us. It serves a purpose. But like our kneecaps or our kidneys, it’s not the most important thing about us, and it’s certainly not the only thing about us. And yet, when it comes to decision-making in life, we often resort to handing our power over to this one aspect of Self, while the other parts of ourselves – joy, passion, creativity, and excitement, to name a few, are left waiting unceremoniously at a table where a meaningful brainstorming discussion and a plan-of-action vote was scheduled to take place.
Honestly, without me even giving examples of a time when fear has overtaken the decision-making process within ourselves, I’m certain you can think of times in your own life when you’ve experienced this. If something like this has happened to you – congratulations! You’re a human being and are totally okay. I’m not here to shame your fear, in fact, quite the opposite. I actually want to share with you a bit about the fear I had in my approach to biking and what my journey of working with this fear has looked like.
Biking in the city can be scary. The cars, the noise, the other bikers who all seem to know what they’re doing when you feel totally clueless; it’s a lot. I get it. It’s vulnerable, especially as a beginner. For me, my physical sense of safety and the fact that it fluctuated depending on the level of car traffic was a huge block. Plus, there was the fear of social embarrassment. What if I fell in front of other people? What if I accidentally ran my bike into a traffic cone? What if I got totally lost? What if I ran out of breath just going to the end of the street and little kids on Striders just breezed on by? Literally hundreds of fears ran through my head when I thought about the subject.
But while all of those fears existed, another seed had been planted within me, one of hope, curiosity, and excitement. I’d been seeing my friends riding their bikes and the joy it brought them. I had been listening to them about how it saved them time and stress, as well as a considerable amount of money. I started to tap into how real this could all be for me and started listening more to the part of me that felt inspired and optimistic about the possibilities that biking could bring.
This excitement, these possibilities, it all started to feel like a Patronus from Harry Potter to me. A Patronus is a magical charm that takes the shape of a Spirit Animal, in a sense, to dispel a Dementor, which is basically a bad-feeling-generating monster that feeds on your fears, and a Patronus is mobilized by summoning strong positive feelings from your happiest memories. In my case, however, I looked not to the past, but to the future to conjure up my personal bicycling Patronus. I imagined all of the happiest potential future bicycling scenarios I could and really honed in on the feelings that they brought up. I thought about the freedom from car payments I would have, the ease of parking downtown, the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health benefits biking would bring, the contribution to a cleaner planet, and the sheer and tremendous joy of bike riding on a beautiful day. These intangible thoughts culminated into a motivation that was stronger than my fear and thus, my Patronus was created.
So I ask you, what’s your Patronus? We all have that thing, or multiple things, inside us that beg to be brought out and released into the light of day. These things are stronger than fear. To make alternative and healthier choices in the world, we can start by cultivating a different internal relationship to the external. I implore you to give biking a try and see how it feels for you. What are all of the positive benefits biking could have on your life? Summon your Bike Patronus and go for a spin!