Circulations of a pedestrian cyclist – Nothing to fear but LOOKOUT! CAR DOOR!

This summer I have made an effort to cycle to work as much as possible, including purchasing a new bicycle. Even as the nature of my job has changed and continues to change, I still want to keep up the cycling and as a result, most days I find myself on my bike in rush hour. As I’ve commuted to and from work, I’ve been keeping a mental list of things that for lack of a better term, are fears that would serve to keep me from biking that I have to overcome on order to continue with my commitment to cycling to work. You may find some of these a bit silly, a couple of these sound, and even others to be shallow and not worth worrying about. However, I want to put them all down for the benefit of others who are considering cycling to work but haven’t yet due to some reason or another. If you are one of those individuals, perhaps you will find your particular barrier or barriers in my list.

Fear of holding up traffic

Christ, I hate doing this when I’m driving. Imagine how I feel somethings when I don’t have the protective covering of an automobile. I really do not like inconveniencing other people, and it took me quite a while to understand that until such time as a dedicated bike lane appears in my daily commute, I will not inconvenience myself by taking some goofy back road route when I have a direct road to downtown. I do what I can to stay as close to the curb so vehicles have an opportunity to go around me. If I’m going too slow for you, which is most likely the case, then pass me. Just be glad I’m not a tractor. Oh, and if you don’t think I belong on the road, take a look at City bylaws and let’s all try to get along.

Fear of being clipped/crushed by vehicles passing me

This is one that’s come close a couple of times. Along 97th Street between 118th Avenue and 112th Avenue there is a long line of parked cars that I have to pass by in the morning. This reduces the amount of room I have especially when both lanes of traffic are heavy with people going downtown. Every so often there will be a vehicle that is looking to go around me – which is cool, but doesn’t necessarily wait for the other lane to be open and so tries to squeeze by me while I’m trying not to pinball between the sides of the moving and parked vehicles – not cool.

Fear of looking like a dork

Does my outfit match my bike? Is my seat at the right angle? Is my helmet dated? These were some things I used to worry about, and still do to some extent (see Circulations of a pedestrian cyclist – Hipster jeans of invincibility). I know it seems shallow, but I used to get hung up on whether I looked like a proper cyclist. Then I started to realise that my fellow cyclist don’t all look the same. There are a myriad of bikes and bike riders out there. Everyone has their own style, their own customizations, their own look. I know I look like shite in Lycra, so I just dress for comfort and if that means I don’t look like a true cyclist, oh well. I’m riding the streets, not the runway.

Fear of taking forever to get where I’m going

It doesn’t seem to matter what the weather, I always seem to be riding into the wind on my way home. Some days are worse than others and I find myself thinking, “This is taking forever!” I try to push through the resistance, but all that happens is my legs burn and I get super frustrated. There’s nothing to do but swallow my pride and gear down and keep going, even though it feels as though I’m going nowhere. This one can be difficult for me as I often feel guilty about not being home on time, but the fact of the matter is I’m in the middle of it, and there’s nothing to be done about it. Just keep going forward, no matter how slow, and you will eventually get there.

Fear of running into an open car door

This is high on my list. As I already mentioned, I travel past a long line of parked vehicles along 97th Street in the morning. More than being side-swiped by a moving vehicle, I fear having a door suddenly open in front of me, stopping me dead in my tracks. When I was young I ran into a parked car while riding my bike, so I guess that has something to do about it.

Fear of arriving to work a sweaty mess

So, this is not so much a fear as a fact. I often arrive to work as a sweaty mess. Fortunately, my workplace now has staff shower facilities, but for a while they were not available as they were being renovated (and now that they are I must say I am quite impressed). However, what if you don’t have access to a shower at your workplace? I suggest packing your work clothes with you. Allow yourself enough time so you can cool down before you change – you don’t want to get all dressed and then promptly drench yourself from the inside out. Pack deodorant with you so you can do a quick reapplication, depending on you assessment of your condition. Splash some water on your face to refresh yourself and you’re goodish to go.

Fear of not being able to keep up with the commitment

I didn’t start off this season with a clear idea in terms of how many times I would be riding to work, only that I wanted to do it as often as I could. That being said, there’s been times where, because of circumstances I’ve not been able to ride for a few days straight. It’s easy to get down on myself, or in your case, yourself; try not to. Assure yourself that you have an open invitation to cycle, no matter how many times you may need to turn it down. Your bike is very understanding and it is always ready when you are.

Even if you’re starting late in the season, go for it! Happy cycling!

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Circulations of a pedestrian cyclist – Hipster skinny jeans of invincibility

I was walking around downtown on my lunch break the other day when I noticed something. Granted, I’ve noticed this before, but this time it caused me to want to write about it. I’ve been having a positive and, for the most part, pleasant time biking to and from work; with one exception – I need to pack a change of clothes with me. By the time I get to work, I’m a hot sweaty mess. These days it’s not as bad as the temperature in the morning has cooled down quite a bit. Nevertheless, I need to change when I get to work. It’s a pain, and it’s one more thing I need to worry about packing before I leave the house. Back to lunchtime downtown. I was waiting at a corner when I saw a cyclist gliding down the street in stylish charcoal skinny jeans, rolled up to expose his ankles; a crisp, white button down shirt, gently billowing behind him. He had a leather shoulder bag hanging from his hip, the black strap cutting across his brilliant white shirt in perfect contrast. As this living page from within a modern urban living magazine passed before me I used that moment to create a false dichotomy for the interest of self-loathing, and proclaim there are two types bicycle commuters. There are those who ride to work in their everyday clothes, whether that be hipster mod, business casual, or even full-on suit (with or without vest); and then there’s my kind, who arrive at work somewhat disheveled, breathing heavily, damp with sweat, back soaked from carrying a backpack, and mouth dry and somewhat pasty from puffing along with the traffic.

On the surface I see them as fellow travelers, these other type of cyclists. Below the surface, I kind of hate them. Deeper still, I wish to be them. A white shirt, for crying out loud! There’s no way I could wear a white shirt on my bike to work. Hell, I can’t even wear a white shirt, period! All my white shirts end up looking like a “before” on a laundry detergent commercial. Skinny pants? That’s a negative, too. Not unless you want to see my impression of the Hulk wearing Bruce Banner’s pants. I’ve got thighs; and let’s not even mention the muffin top. I wouldn’t have to worry about not being able to move, simply due to the fact that there’s no way I would even be able to put a pair on. Whilst I trudge along, bent over on my cheap, greasy mountain bike; they glide along, upright on their retro, hip, urban cruisers; and yet, there is more here than simple bike envy. The bike is just part of the overall package that symbolises my desire to be someone else. Someone else’s body; someone else’s closet; someone else’s bike – it’s like being back in high school; unhip, unstylish, and unaware of what drives popular culture. Sadly, it shows that at the wondrous age of 38, I still haven’t been able to accept myself.

Ah, but I digress as I fail to suppress these feelings of regress. Suffice to say, there are two types of bicycle commuters. I don’t know how these other ones are able to ride around in their crisp white shirts and seemingly waltz into work with no sweat, no stains, and no laboured breathing, but I’ll hazard it has something to do with the skinny jeans; which is why I will never be able to attain such a state.

Damn you and your skinny jeans of invincibility!