• you are cycling in pair
  • you may need to travel through tunnels (lenght can vary from few hundreds meter to about 7 kilometers)
  • your travelmate is claustrophobic, therefore tunnels are a challenge for him
  • avoiding the tunnel is not always a practical option (it may need a 50 km detour)

Under these conditions, which would be the best approach to prevent as much as possible issues like panic attack, irrational behaviours etc.?

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    I'm guessing either many lights or none - many to light up the tunnel and see what's there, or fewer lights so as to not see the rock and simply "follow the red light of the rider in front. – Criggie Jan 19 '17 at 8:43
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    This is rather medical, not bicycle question. – krzyski Jan 19 '17 at 8:44
  • Another guess - riding in the middle of a large bunch of cyclists may help. Definitely not at the very front of back of the group. Doing this as a pair would be a challenge – Criggie Jan 19 '17 at 8:44
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    Given the circumstances, a 50 km detour starts to sound more and more practical... – rclocher3 Jan 19 '17 at 17:04
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    Just out of curiosity, where do you have 7 km tunnels you are allowed to ride a bike in? – ojs Jan 19 '17 at 19:05

This is how we did it, for all tunnels longer than 150 meters (ranging from 200 meters to 4 km):

  • before the entrance of the tunnel, the leader slows down or even stop, allowing the follower to get closer
  • after entering the tunnel with lights on, regardless if there is a cyclable sidewalk or not, every once in a while the leader ring once his bell
  • if the follower feels ok with the leader's distance/pace, he rings back once. Else, he rings back twice. The follower can also ring twice whenever he feels he should get closer.

The benefit we got:

  • no need for the leader to turn his head and look back
  • the follower feels actually in control and not left alone

I know someone who suffers panic attack on bridges so it would be a similar situation. A good workaround is to push really hard physically in these times, e.g. do a sprint race in tunnels (or bridges). The rush of adrenaline annihilates the panic and shift the focus to the body effort instead of the environment. Worth a try?

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    it also has the benefit of shortening the stay in the tunnel... – L.Dutch Jan 23 '17 at 11:45

Avoid the longer tunnels either by taking the detour or using some form of public transport. The extra way on the detours might just compensate for the time and mileage saved when taking, for example, the bus.

While I am not claustrophobic, the thought of cycling through a 7km long tunnel is quite unpleasant. On top of this might come health and safety concerns due to bad ventilation, confined road space, drivers not expecting cyclists and low light. Riding tunnels was discussed in detail in a previous question.

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    Tunnels through mountains can be long, but in Japan they are well ventilated by forced fans. The alternative is to go around the mountain which adds considerable distance or height -- or may be impossible. And unfortunately, I haven't seen any public buses or intercity buses with bike racks in Japan. They also won't take bikes as luggage that aren't in cases/bags. – RoboKaren Jan 25 '17 at 21:03
  • Also, Japanese tunnels (the longer ones) tend to be well-lit with (horrible) sodium arc lights. – RoboKaren Jan 25 '17 at 22:25
  • That might very well be. I think that avoiding the tunnels altogether ought to be there as an alternative answer. (And with all lighting and ventialtion, there's no way around that tunnels are not the most pleasant place to cycle.) I am very aware of the limitations of my suggestion, would you provide suggestions how to improve it, ie by thinking of alternative means of transport? Uber comes to mind. Allegedly it is present in much of Japan's countryside. – gschenk Jan 25 '17 at 22:45
  • brainstorming, transport: Uber: bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-23/… Asking hotels or ryokan for help, a lift, ferrying. Asking tourist information, local mayors for help. On the last two points: Based on my limited experience in Japan, it might be that people in (rural) Japan would go great lengths to help. – gschenk Jan 25 '17 at 22:53

Have you thought of riding a tandem and having the claustrophobic person serve as the stoker (the rear)? That way they can close their eyes and simply pedal, without having to worry about steering or braking.

A recumbent tandem trike would be ideal for this. Or a sociable.

I belong to an adaptive cycling club and we ride with blind individuals (amongst others) using tandems and sociables (as well as regular bicycles, etc.).

Update: With tandems ruled out, another option used by low-vision cyclists is to have the buddy, lead- (sighted) cyclist wear distinctive bright clothing, have a flag on the bicycle, or a steady red light (not flashing, which can cause seizures) on the back of their bicycle. This allows the vision-impaired cyclist to focus on the lead cyclist as they pedal behind. With people with anxiety, focusing on a non-stimulus helps shutout the other triggering stimuli, so it may help considerably.

  • Tandem is nice idea, but not applicable to my case (we already have our bikes, we are not going to buy a tandem just for this trip) – L.Dutch Jan 23 '17 at 11:45

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