Paul has been an enthusiastic cyclist for many years. Born and raised in the UK, he now lives (and cycles) in Florida.
As a seasoned cyclist, I am fully aware that there are many advantages of cycling compared to driving a car - for example, it's good for your health, a relatively inexpensive mode of transport, as well as being environmentally friendly. However, in this article I thought that it would be useful to look at the main negatives of riding a bike. These include: vulnerabilities when it comes to dangerous drivers and hazards in the road, as well as some of the limitations of a bicycle compared to a car.
Below are my 10 disadvantages of cycling.
The 10 Main Downsides of Cycling
- Exposure to the Elements
- Unexpected Expenses
- Dangerous Drivers
- Road Hazards
- Poor Lights
- Lack of Cycle Lanes and Trails
- Lack of Storage
- Limited Travel Distance
- No Passengers
- Bike Theft
I discuss each of the above points in more detail below.
1. Exposure to the Elements
Unlike when driving a car, there is nothing to protect you from the weather when you cycle. When I lived in England, it was generally the rain and the cold that caused me most problems; now that I live in Florida, it is the heat and humidity that provides me with discomfort (not to mention the regular thunderstorms that occur in the hotter months). For sure, you can dress in climate-appropriate clothing when you ride your bike, but you are never going to get the protection and comfort that you have from being inside a vehicle.
2. Unexpected Expenses
To be a cyclist, all you essentially need is a bike. But to ride safely, you will also need a bicycle helmet, lights, high visibility clothing. a bell or horn, as well as a lock to deter thieves. You may also find if you use your bike regularly that riding a cheap model gets pretty old, and end up paying out more money to buy a better bike. Cycles also need regular adjustments, alterations and repairs, which can be surprisingly expensive.
3. Dangerous Drivers
Dangerous drivers are a cyclist's worst enemy. Even if you ride responsibly and behave cautiously, there is little that you can do to completely avoid the risk of someone running a red light, being drunk behind the wheel of a vehicle, or not paying attention to the road because they are distracted by a cell phone. For sure, dangerous drivers pose a threat to all road users, but they pose a particular threat to cyclists, who are much more vulnerable than car or truck drivers. What would be a minor bump for a car can be a fatal accident for a cyclist.
4. Road Hazards
Minor obstacles in the road that a car driver would barely notice can be disastrous for for a cyclist. Fallen tree branches, stones, gravel, mud, puddles, cracks, oil spills, or holes in the road can all bring a cyclist off his or her bike. The problem is particularly bad at nighttime, as bike lights tend to be relatively weak, especially when compared with those of a road vehicle. Weather hazards such as ice, snow, strong winds, or heavy rain can also be more treacherous for a cyclists.
5. Poor Lights
Bicycle lights have improved considerably in the time that I have been riding, but they still don't compare with having the power of two headlights, like a car or a truck. The weaker lights mean that it's harder to be seen by other vehicles when riding a bike, and there is less illumination of the road ahead when cycling at night. The other problem is that the batteries, which run out of power regularly if you ride regularly in the evenings or early morning. It's not uncommon to suddenly find yourself without a front or rear light.
6. Lack of Cycle Lanes and Trails
I am lucky to live in a relatively bicycle-friendly city where there are increasing provisions for cyclists, many American towns and cities are less accommodating. Riding on the open road can feel dangerous and many car and truck drivers see you as an irritation that doesn't belong there, rather than another road user that should be respected. Having a purpose-built trail that is separate from the road is safer and more relaxing for cyclists and pacifies drivers who don't like cyclists.
7. Lack of Storage
Bicycles are great devices for getting one person from A to B, but if you want to carry more than fits into a basket, backpack, or a couple of panniers, you have a problem. It can mean making multiple trips to the store, or procuring other transport if you need to transport a bigger item like a TV or large rug. Some cyclists attach a trailer to increase storage, but there are still limitations compared to most road vehicles.
8. Limited Travel Distance
Everyone has their limits when it comes to recreational cycling. It requires physical effort and endurance. Going uphill can be especially taxing. Although the terrain is generally flat where I am in Florida, I am reluctant to travel anywhere that takes more than thirty or forty minutes, especially in the hotter months, as I end feeling overheated and sweaty. Motorized road vehicles don't have those same limitations.
9. No Passengers
Another limitation of bicycles is that you can't usually carry any passengers. Situations occur where you might want to give someone a ride, or collect someone, but you can't if you are on your bike. Also, to go anywhere as a group, everyone has to have their own individual bike. Okay, there are tandem bikes, and child trailers, but what I am saying generally holds true.
10. Bike Theft
Most city-dwelling cyclists that I know (including myself) have had at least one bike stolen. It's particularly bad in college towns, where thieves have plenty of opportunities to both steal and sell bicycles. You have to keep your bike secure, maybe insure it, or if you are like me, just not ride an expensive bike downtown for fear of having it taken.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Paul Goodman