Seeing the Street as a New Cyclist

de_maisonneuve.jpgThe de Maisonneuve bike path in downtown Montreal, which new cyclist Michael Shenker now avoids in favor of a different, calmer route. Photo: Carnotzet via Flickr

It’s no secret that the road looks different over handlebars than it does over the dashboard. When cycling most city streets, you see your surroundings differently: at a different speed, from a different height, more exposed to the sounds of your environment and, of course, lacking the physical protection an automobile offers.

On member blog On Two Wheels, Michael Shenker has a post up about making that mental switch; after a lifetime of driving a car, he’s now riding his bike to work through the streets of Montreal. The biggest difference for him? The focus required. Writes Shenker:

During my nearly four decades behind the wheel, I learned the importance of defensive driving – always be aware of the positions of the cars around you, anticipate everyone’s next move before they make it, and even make sure a driver who’s stopped on a cross-street is looking your way before you pass by. When I drive, especially in urban areas, I’m at a heightened sense of alert. Call it a constant state of yellow.

Never did I imagine the absolute code red required for cycling. After years in the relative quiet and safety of a car, I wasn’t prepared for the skill, the reflexes, the 360-degree sensory awareness and slaloming abilities needed to navigate my way by bike between Atwater Ave and The Gazette offices on Peel St. I was no longer simply watching out for traffic or an occasionally inattentive fellow driver. I was now embedded in a circus. Pedestrians moving at one speed, cyclists at another and cars at still another, and each of the performers moving to a different set of rules and in different directions.

Of note, Shenker decided to change his route to avoid the de Maisonneuve bike path, a two-way protected lane in downtown. Though his new path lacks the protection of a dedicated bike lane, it’s calmer and quicker. Whatever works to make riding your bike fun, safe, and speedy.  

More from around the network: Urban Velo finds a real estate agency in Boulder, Colorado that takes clients to potential properties by bike. TheWashCycle discovers a space-age two-wheeler roaming the sidewalks of D.C. And Kansas Cyclist reports on how one county, led by the opposition of its school system, nixed plans for a two-state bike path.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Cycling and the Law: Where Does Education Begin?

|
Today, in honor of bike month on the Streetsblog Network, we hear from a cyclist in Long Beach, California, who was forced into the position of (unsuccessfully) educating a police officer about the right of a bike to ride safely out of the door zone. This via the Long Beach Cyclists blog: What’s the law […]

A Cyclist by Any Other Name

|
If you are a person who rides a bicycle, how do you refer to yourself? As a cyclist? A biker? A bicyclist? Or simply as…a person? Who rides a bicycle? As riding a bicycle for transportation has become more common around the country, the question comes up more and more often. The word "cyclist," in […]

We Are the World

|
Fallout continues in the wake of last Friday’s narrow passage of the Waxman-Markey climate bill, otherwise known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act, in the House of Representatives. Paul Krugman can’t believe 212 reps voted against it, while Matthew Yglesias points to a conservative faction that has branded eight Republicans who helped pass […]