Advice for a Gephyrophobiac Bicyclist

A gephyrophobiac bicyclist wrote Gear Prudence, the bike advice columnist at the Washington City Paper (DC) asking how to overcome his fear of riding over bridges.

The columnist suggests to “Frightened, Especially Above River” that he:

  • Find a bridge with wide sidewalks so he can ride further from the edge
  • Avoid Bridges with low edges
  • Avoid bridges with narrow paths
  • Avoid bridges that are too crowded
  • Look straight ahead and breathe
  • Put his bike on the front of a bus to get across the river

photo by Matthew Henry

Oh, Gear Prudence, I know you were sincere in trying to help him but this phobia is deeper than that.  A non-gephyrophobiac thinks creating more optimal conditions – from their point of view – will help reduce the fear.  But we don’t think like you.

Even if “Frightened” does everything you said, he’s still going to be afraid.  Why?  Because he’s still on a bridge.   

The only way he’s going to be able to ride his bike to work without fear is to avoid the bridge (which likely he can’t) or overcome his phobia. 

In the meantime, if I were intent on biking across the bridge, I’d

  • Keep my head down (avoiding other bikers and pedestrians)
  • Hold tight
  • Breathe deeply
  • Tell myself I can do this. Yell it loudly or say it quietly to myself as I ride.
  • Peddle as fast as I can to reach the other side

Good luck “Frightened,” I feel your fear.  And probably many others do too.