I've been under the misled impression that bike riding is a pretty mild activity. My childhood was simple and happy. I'd spend my afternoons pedalling around the two couldesacs in our neighborhood, waving to friends and their parents and knowing that all cars would stop and get out of my way.
Flash forward about 10 years. I rode my bike every now and then during that time, but usually on a bike trail with my parents or down the road to Fred Meyer. Nothing too dangerous.
It turns out that bike riding is not safe. At all. There are some who embrace this challenge, like the good folks of London who race among traffic (Bumbershoot has excellent free movies). There are others who ride fixies, bomb to and from parties on their bicycles (drunk riding is very intense, I hear), and even those who form the notorious "Bike Gangs" of Bellingham. I make it sound like these wild, adrenaline-filled rides are for those who choose them. I'm sorry for misleading you. The truth is, anyone who places their feet on those pedals is begging to be initiated into the death-defying world of two wheels, mediocre breaks, unclear traffic laws, and little to no personal protection.
Take my own sad history with this transportation of terror. Two summers ago I was hit by a car while riding on the sidewalk. Fortunately, I was only flung across the hood of their car and landed on my back, which was stuffed full of towells. Today, I was innocently riding across campus to swim at the rec center, when I got stung in the throat by a hell-bent bee. Fortunately, I'm not allergic to bees, else I'd be dead right now.
So take warning, all you would-be bike riders. It is not for the light of heart. Even if you expect to take it easy, avoid risks, and stay out of the way, life-threatening situations will find you. I just hope you're lucky.