Every day there are a few more former riders. These men and women lose interest, fall on hard times, give in to pressure from well-meaning (but misguided) family members, or - worst of all - let the fear get them.
I met a gentleman a while back who was a new rider. He bought a brand new Yamaha R6 as his first bike. The R6, for those of you who don't know, is a high performance bike. It's got a powerful motor, and powerful brakes to match. To ride it "reasonably" in normal traffic requires a light touch. I'm sure a newbie with tremendous self-control can learn to ride on a bike like the R6, but it's likely to be a frustrating, and sometimes terrifying, experience for most.
This particular fellow applied maximum braking at a stoplight one day, and locked up his rear wheel. At some point the rear wheel regained traction, causing the front and rear wheels to realign themselves.
If you've had this happen (and stayed on the bike), you know it's not a pleasant experience. I had it happen while merging on to the freeway once.
The difference is that when it happened to me, and I didn't fall off, I continued riding. Apart from analyzing what I did wrong (never let off the back brake when skidding), I didn't give it a second thought. It was a learning experience.
My pal, on the other hand, rode home shaken, parked the bike in his garage, and never took it out again. He eventually sold it, and someone got a hell of a good deal on a barely ridden R6.
Another gentleman I know rode gnarly old bikes exclusively for quite a while (likely because he could afford them). He claims he had fun crashing those bikes. Indeed, he says that crashing a bike into a 8 foot snow drift is an absolute blast. He thoroughly enjoyed finding the absolute limits of his bikes, and when he crashed, he got up, brushed himself off, and rode on.
Personally, I prefer to avoid crashes. I've done it, and it's not fun. On the other hand, most of the time it's not the worst thing in the world. The last time I crashed a motorcycle was when I was a teenager. After I picked myself and the bike up, my only concern was "what if I'm not allowed to ride it anymore?"
As such, I came up with the thoroughly lame story that I'd just tipped over going 5 miles an hour. Yeah. I skinned my arms from wrist to elbow, and rubbed my legs raw under my jeans going 5 miles per hour when I tipped over on grass. And my brother and all my cousins, who saw me fly off the bike, do a great Superman impression, and finally stop 20 feet or so from the bike, I'm sure they told my mom that I tipped over going 5 miles per hour too.
I doubt she bought it.
Anyway, the next day I was out riding again. I started wearing a helmet, though.
A frequent question I get from non-riders (and former riders) is "don't you get scared?" Well, of course! I don't let the fear take over, though. Yes, people have tried to change lanes into me. But people have tried to change into my lane when I'm in a cage, too. The difference is that I can easily dodge the clueless on my bike. In that way, riding is less scary - I know EXACTLY how much space my bike needs.
Some people, however, have a close call in traffic and decide that they're done. They let the fear win, and go out and buy an SUV because then they feel "safe." Personally, I'd rather feel responsible and in control of my own well-being than "safe."
It seems to me that there are two kinds of riders: the ones who brush it all off and get back up on two, and the ones who give up.
I wonder about those who give up because they got scared once. Didn't they ever fall off their bicycle? What do they do when things don't go their way in the rest of their lives? What do they do when they lose their jobs? What do they do when they screw up, or make mistakes?
It's ok to be shaken after a scary or painful experience, but letting the fear get to you, and giving up on something otherwise enjoyable decreases your quality of life, and that of those around you. Yes, your fear has an impact on others. When you tell someone "I gave up riding / flying / walking / self-employment / pizza / puppetry, it's just too scary/dangerous," that person may very well adopt your fear - even though they've never experienced what scared you first hand. They'll repeat your fear, as their own, to someone else.
Eventually, we end up with a society where everyone is afraid even though nothing bad has ever happened to them.
So don't give in to the fear. When you crash, get back up, brush yourself off, take what you can learn from the experience, and finish your ride.